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SquareGo responds to videogame violence debate

Press release January 25, 2010 Culture

Leading video game review site provides its take on the latest political furore on gamers

Edinburgh, 25th January 2010

SquareGo magazine has published a response to an age old argument which has again raised its head in the Scottish Parliament. The videogame violence debate may seem old hat to gamers, but is still a hot topic in the hallowed halls of governance with MSPs Elaine Smith and Joe Fitzpatrick taking sides on the debate.

As an authority on videogaming SquareGo has published its response in an editorial published today:

Killer Instinct – A Statement on Violence and the Videogames Industry

As voices of the games industry, we are the first to admit that there are violent videogames around and that the interactive nature of this medium provides a unique opportunity to take personal responsibility in carrying out acts of decapitation, maiming and murder. Doom was a horrific slaught'-em-up back in its day, while Mortal Kombat relished in its variations on carnage and the less that can be said for Carmageddon and Postal the better. Importantly though, these games are in the minority in an industry which churns out thousands of titles a year, with around 3% (in 2007) of those being video nasties. For every game that takes ultraviolence as a means to replace gameplay, there are ten that use violence as means to illustrate moral choices (the Fable series being one example), or to show a clear separation between good and bad in a plot. This tactic has been used in all kinds of media over the decades, and if anything it promotes virtuous living and responsible choices due to the playable character always being the hero. 

Although various governing bodies have always had disputes with violent videogames, it was not until the Grand Theft Auto series that the world truly realised that they had found a scapegoat in an industry that now provides a massive amount of income, steady profits and job opportunities in a struggling economy. Why bother to question the fact that a parent has allowed a young child to play a violent game when you can ban the game itself? 

There have been many studies (search for Craig A Anderson to find a few examples, if you feel like getting a psychology fix) that have established a link between violence and videogames, but have not provided an accurate long-term description of the levels of violence caused or whether this is dependent on individual differences from child to child. More importantly, the fact that only children are being tested removes a massive demographic of games players from the argument, which is infuriating considering that those of us who are 18 and over are the legal targets for such games!

The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) classification system is in place for a reason, and targeting the industry for the individual mistakes of people who fail to follow the guidelines smacks of ignorance. 

To say however that violence in other forms of Media does not lead to aggressive behaviour in young children would be a rash judgement. If we may get a bit more psychological on you, way back in 1977 a study by Parke et al found that an increase in aggressive behaviour was found in children after they viewed violent films such as Bonnie and Clyde and The Dirty Dozen; and recent papers by Dr. Christakis and Frederick Zimmerman showed that for every hour that children watched violent programming in their pre-school years, their aggression increased threefold when they were aged 7 to 10 (which obviously peaked at a point). That's not even to mention the Music industry, with (some) Gangster Rappers and (some) heavier rock outfits proving a point of contention. As much as we are all music enthusiasts, we recognise that lyrical content and extreme behaviours exhibited by people in a position of idolisation to young folks can also be of negative influence. 

Knee-jerk reactions applied to videogame violence can lead to legislation which, taking Australia as an example, can be strict to the point of absurdity. Australia does not currently possess a R18+ game classification, which means that many videogames do not see the light of day down under. Such banning of media which is no more offensive than the average horror film has led to much public dissent regarding ratings, and a lot of the blame has landed squarely on South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson's shoulders. Thankfully he is the only force stopping an R18+ rating now, but he is also a great example of how extreme intolerance can only yield unfavourable results. 

The answer to the problem is clear: do not attempt to smear the industry with allegations but instead push the emphasis on parental responsibility in controlling which games their children can and cannot play. The PEGI system is in place for a reason and it is only when it is disobeyed that these kind of issues arise, and as much as our teenage selves may have complained about being denied access to the latest head popping frag-fest, as adults we should first and foremost consider those younger and more easily swayed 


Notes to editors:

About Square Go:
Set up in 2008 with the explicit aim of opening up games journalism to the masses, SquareGo provides succinct, readable, intelligent and jargon free video games journalism across all formats. 

Written by a group of knowledgeable writers, SquareGo strives to be the go to source for people wanting the latest video game commentary and coverage, with a focus on simple and clear reviewing - easily letting the reader know whether a title is enjoyable and engrossing.

Steering clear of many of the pitfalls of traditional tech heavy and long winded games journalism publisheing succinct reviews; clear scores; tech free, intelligent and unbiased writing: Video games reviews for the rest of us.


SquareGo, Editor-In-Chief, Phil Harris: 07973 787093, [email protected]

SquareGo, PR Officer, Donna McGrory: 07845 653193, [email protected]