GTA IV: Violence in video games

"Can't we all just get along?" Rodney Glen King said during the 1992 Los Angeles racial riots that sparked a lot of controversy over violent crimes and how best to deal with problems of the time that clearly involved more than just simple "cause and effect" sources.

What is it that makes us lash out, panic, or simply go "nuts"? Survival instincts are usually one the suggested causes. Encoded in our DNA are automatic functions built up from millions of years of evolution, where "survival of the fittest" is a requirement of existence. When we are faced with an imminent threat we will do what is required to mitigate that threat, regardless of the morale implications of that mitigation. In this case I'm talking about "self-defense" actions, not pre-determinant actions like rape or murder.

Sometimes these emotionally based decisions do boil down to simply going "nuts", or more properly termed as having a serious chemical imbalance episode in the brain. In this case it may still be about self-defense, but it may be much more than that.

Excluding possible self-defense situations, does committing a crime due to some element in a game making it "appear" OK or "right", with the defense stating "Grand Theft Auto made me do it!", make it so? Of course not, yet here we are with news articles such as the one below that proclaim someone in the game made them commit a crime, or some mysterious voice inside their heads shouted out "do it", an apparent reflection from some element within the game they played just the night before the crime was committed.

Nonsense, hogwash, balderdash, hooey, poppycock, tommyrot, humbuggery, bullshit... (who comes up with these words anyway?). Everyone with an EI (Emotional Intelligence) factor of higher than 60, regardless of all but the most extreme brain problems, has a mind capable of overcoming his or hers emotional instincts, with the potential exceptions that may force us into a self-defense decision faster than our rational minds have time to properly analyze (i.e. "instinctive reactions").

I do not ever see a reason for someone going out and killing another person, robbing someone at gun-point, or running over someone on a bike with a car at high speed (which will almost certainly happen to me here in China before I get a chance to leave) like you can in GTA. Unfortunately, it does happen in this sometimes cruel world. Even so, everyone should understand that this world is separate from worlds like GTA, even if our unconscious minds sometimes want to blur that line.

What we should be asking ourselves is why are we creating games with such violent potential built within them? Every single game is violent in one respect or another, as competition is by nature a violent element (whether its physical or psychological). Games like GTA, however, seem to go above and beyond the call of appeasing to our violent tendencies. It is apparently true that games ebb our real-world violent tendencies, as a recent study suggests below, but is there a valid point in promoting such an extreme level as you find in GTA?

Games as a whole are positive entertainment sources, and acting on violent impulses within games can also be positive. But so blatantly promoting murder, theft, and all sorts of other crimes in an almost purely crime focused game, whether this ultimately ebbs or inflates our violent real-world tendencies, is a concern that I am still trying to weight.

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