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Big brother censorship of video games took a new turn last month when parts of Canada classified Soldier of Fortune, a great FPS albeit with juicy amounts of blood and gore, as "adult material", banning it from distribution. This puts this computer game into the ranks of hardcore pornography. Yet when I plowed through the ranks of thugs in that very game, I did not recall once when any NPC stripped down and started to perform explicit sexual acts.

Not to mention that the GHOUL engine, which powers SOF's gory graphics, is far from realistic. Sure, it's about as real as you're going to get barring taped full motion video of real people getting blown to bits (which I doubt game companies are going to do, despite what the politicos say), but person (yes, even a 6 year old) can tell that it is a game, made of pixels, on a screen smaller than the TV which the same child often watches murders happen in movies.

This puts Canada in the same region of idiocy as Germany, another country that bans violent games. Duke Nukem 3D, Die by the Sword, Kingpin, Doom X, Quake X, Unreal Tournament, and now Soldiers of Fortune, gamers everywhere are deprived of quality entertainment by some queezy-stomached politicians and "awareness groups" because they are unable to seperate a game from reality.

The media vultures pounced on Columbine and immediately linked Doom, a masterpiece in gaming history, to social ills in our nation's schools. I doubt any of these journalists, analysts or politicians even played Doom. They have no right to proclaim the effects of a game on a population until they actually see it themselves. Christ, the game is so pixelated (it was good in the old days), it is obvious we're dealing with a game, far from reality. Even Quake 3, the current graphics standard in gaming, is just a game.

Not that it matters to me. If they try to ban games in the US, I've always got ISO's. Let's see them try to ban the internet.

A great way to ditch stress at the end of a long workday. At my current job we make a point of playing Tribes at 4:30 sharp. There's something very relaxing about playing a FPS with your coworkers, especially your superiors. Nothing, I mean nothing, feels quite so good as shooting your boss in the ass, seeing him crumple to the ground, and bellowing "Yeah, motherfucker! You like that hot love up your tailpipe? Eat it, bitch!" When it's just a game, you can say shit like that and it DOESN'T MATTER! I think if more people could get into FPS's and see the kind of therapy they provide they'd cut all this "corrupting the youth" shit out.

For related commentary, see Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Foreword
Too often I hear mention of Duke Nukem, Quake, and other admittedly violent video games and how children should not be allowed to play them. I wholeheartedly agree that children should not be exposed to violence on television and in music; video games are even more of a threat because they force children to participate in the violence. However, the issue that the media has failed to address is that parents, not video game manufacturers, are responsible when children play violent games. Consequently, the parents are to blame when a child reacts violently to a game he should have never played in the first place.

This is a problem that we can’t afford to ignore. Children are showing an increased interest in video games; the video game industry makes up thirty percent of the toy market. According to a recent study by the Media Analysis Laboratory in British Columbia, eighty percent of teens between the ages of eleven and eighteen play video games at least five hours a week. So-called “heavy” gamers play up to twenty hours per week. Studies do indeed show a correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior. Child psychologist Mark Genius says, “Kids learn by modeling.” Psychologists such as Dr. Craig Anderson have conducted scores of studies to support this claim. Anderson found that violent games, such as Mortal Kombat and Doom “increase aggressive thoughts and behavior in adolescents.” One third of the games cited as favorites by children under twelve carry a “Teen” or “Mature” rating. Children involved in British Columbia’s study said their parents have few rules regarding what children can play, and parents only recognized seven out of forty-nine of their children’s favorite games.

Video games are today’s babysitter for parents who have little time to spend supervising children. I understand that many times both parents work full-time jobs, but I can’t excuse parents who let their children avoid responsibility in the name of Nintendo. The B.C. study reports that a fifth of the subjects gave up homework and chores to play video games. Among other things given up were family activities. Why did these negligent parents allow their children to substitute Max Payne for a day at the park?

Don’t get me wrong; I am an avid gamer. I spent many days as a child playing Mario and the Final Fantasy series. The amount of time I could play was limited and I was not allowed to buy games depicting excessive violence and gore. Gaming was a family activity. When I got an Atari for my eighth birthday, my family played it with me. Instead of allowing the system to drive a wedge between my parents and I, we became closer as a result of it. Parents need to show interest in their children’s activities. They may not realize that the computer is not merely an educational tool; it can be used to play games gorier than many horror movies. If parents monitor what games their children are playing, they can turn gaming into a positive experience. To this day I enjoy non-gory titles, such as Final Fantasy and Microsoft Flight Simulator. These are imaginative games that build problem-solving skills. I encourage parents to buy these games for their children, play with them, and limit the time their children can spend playing.

The reason video game manufacturers place “Mature” ratings on games is to inform parents of violent content. Blaming manufacturers and retailers for selling games to children is like blaming the FCC for airing Cops. Games that carry a “Mature” rating were made for mature adults to play. The media places emphasis on sanguinary scenes from “Mature” titles and forgets that these games shouldn’t enter a child’s home. Mature adults have the freedom to choose a gory game. But, parents, let’s not forget that children do not.

We need to keep the real issue in mind when addressing a topic of this importance. Let’s not lose sight of the problem. When the minds of children are at stake, let's not turn this into an issue of corporate negligence. Parents, you control what your children do. Get them interested in productive activities like playing outdoors, reading, or biking. Play nonviolent video games with them. Whatever you do, be aware of what they are doing and show interest in their activities. Don’t let Sega watch your children for you.

Violence in video games provides a simulated experience of activities that would otherwise be "out-of-reach" to those who choose to buy and play them. It allows gamers to relate to a world that they feel is unreachable in reality, in much the same way as listening to similarly controversial music (Eminem, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath), or watching violent movies (Childs Play, Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

While the media portrays violent gaming in the same category as "bad" music and movies, there are arguments for and against whether those who use violent video games develop violent tendencies.

Those who stand strong against violence in video games believe the influence such games have in developing violence in people is strong enough to justify banning such games. These people believe the games are at fault, because they are the cause. I believe this view is narrow minded.

On the flipside, others believe that the simulated violence in video games goes at least a small way in reducing real world violence. They believe that videogames provide a safe place to release aggression and satisfy curiosity. They believe the games are an outlet for such behaviours. Games help get these feelings out of your system. They are there so when you want to kick the shit out of some random bastard, the police don't have to come clean the mess up and bust your ass. There is no doubt in every peace-lover's mind that virtual violence is more favourable to the alternative.

Of course, one does not become a car-thief, or a mugger, or a rapist or a murderer just by playing violent video-games. Those who quickly rise to their feet to blame the games do not realise that they are only a contributory factor to that behaviour. Violence in games could in this sense, change a susceptible mind to incorporate violent tendencies. I believe the change happens depending on whether, consciously or otherwise, gamers find entertainment or education within violent video games.

In the gaming world today, age restrictions are placed on the most gore-filled adventures and this is done with good reason. Young minds are in the process of learning and are therefore more fragile and susceptible to the wrong influences. Young minds also really like video games (sometimes to the point of obsession), so the potential to damage youth by exposing them to such material is blatantly obvious.

Violent games are, at their very worst, catalysts in the minds of potentially violent people. Therefore we cannot hold such games to be solely responsible for violence in those who use them.

Finally, if you want to kick the shit out of some random bastard you should get yourself a copy of Postal 2, and enjoy the gratuitous pleasure of being able to rip someone's head off and piss down their neck, only after sticking the boot in. Just keep the violence off the streets.

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