Let's face the facts: simulated violence makes video games awesome. If you're the kind of person who plays Grand Theft Auto and then decides to run over pedestrians, chances are there was something wrong with you well before you bought the game.
No one should argue that violent video games have effects on children's behavior. Of course they fucking do. Long afternoons pistol whipping undead Nazi super-soldiers or mowing down hostile alien hoards at point blank range probably gives impressionable youths a skewed idea of real-world conflict resolution.
But will it turn your doe-eyed 12-year-old into Ted Bundy? Probably not. Seeing as there are over 120 million copies of Grand Theft auto games alone sold and only a handful of morons allegedly imitating the game, chances are the game is not directly linked to delinquency (unless there were no gun crimes or carjackings before the release of the first GTA).
And, in fairness to GTA, the game does have a strong eco-friendly message even if you find the rest of it depraved: you can run over pedestrians and street lamps, but not trees.
There is a reason why most parents don't buy cigarettes and booze for their kids. That reason is because it would get too expensive to fuel their child's inevitable addiction to controlled substances, among other less important legal issues. Younger kids can't get M rated video games themselves- an older person has to. So how about parents make educated decisions as to the media their children are exposed to? Oh that's right- because then we would have no one to blame but ourselves.
Alright. Time to put away the soap box and take a closer look at...
Okay, okay... not all video games have to be violent to be good. Portal and Myst are good examples of those rare games that become popular sans explosions/gunfire/homicidal slaughter. However, for every one nonviolent game that is worth playing, there are thousands more that suck at a level almost beyond human imagination. Consider...
Back in 1995, someone thought it would be a good idea to develop Smoke and MIrrors, a collection of mini games based on Penn and Teller. You know, that magician duo with the fat ponytailed guy and the little mute guy who looks kinda like Harpo Marx. Desert Bus is one such game, in which players must drive from Tuscon to Las Vegas in realtime. That's right. Realtime. No pauses, no levels, no other cars and no scenery for 8 soul sucking hours. When you arrive to Las Vegas you earn 1 whole point and can continue the game by driving back to Tuscon for another point. A maximum of 99 points can be earned before the game ends, or before the player murders his whole family.
In fairness, each of the games was meant to be an elaborate prank. No doubt the plan fell apart when they tried to explain to the marketing department why a game displaying blatant contempt for consumers was a sound investment.
This developer brought us diabetic pachyderms...
...and asthmatic dinosaurs.
Raya Systems proved once and for all that learning is not, in fact, all that fun. The two games featured here were meant to teach kids about diabetes and asthma, respectively, with talking animals confronting other talking animals who aren't sensitive to their medical conditions. Obstacles include everything from piles of dust to low insulin levels and a lack of healthy breakfast foods. People no doubt camped out for hours waiting for these to be released...
Collect the bible verses to defeat aliens using the power of the lord. Admittedly, the idea of Jesus fighting space monsters and using his god-given powers to kick ass is totally awesome (are you listening, Rock Star Games? GTA 5: Gomorrah. Immigrant kid abandoned by his all-powerful father seeks vengeance in a city overcome by depravity. Get on that shit), this game simply has a pious astronaut in a stupid costume getting hit in the face by glowing extra-terrestrial jizz balls whenever he chooses the wrong biblical passage. This game is further proof supporting Cracked columnist Seanbaby's argument that religion doesn't mix well with anything.
Any of Ubisoft's Imagine Titles
So you want to do a series of inane chores without actually having to move away from your Nintendo DS? Well Ubisoft has great news for you: they're putting out games where you can virtually do things you don't like doing for real! Plan a social event without the pesky necessity of having friends or meaningful human contact! Babysit virtual children that you don't get paid for watching and can't shake! One can only hope that Imagine: Oral Hygiene and Imagine: Unwanted Pregnancy are in the works.
It's not just a hilariously awful pickup line to get a girl back to your apartment- it's the Jitterbug of video games. If you lack the motor skills to press buttons but are somehow still capable of rapidly hitting a box, Let's Tap is your game. The Nintendo Wii currently leads the industry in games you look like an idiot playing, and Let's Tap is a fine addition to Wii Music and Wii Sports Resort.
We all know that for every pastime a large group of people enjoy, there is another smaller group of people who think said pastime is a terrible thing. Presumably because they aren't allowed to take part in it themselves. For example: sex and the religious right, marijuana and politicians, basic human decency and the Westboro Baptist Church, etcetera.
So chances are the people who bemoan the violence in video games are overreacting a little bit. How bad can it actually be?
Well... (depending upon your place of employment, these may be NSFW)
Admittedly, the videos above are pretty intense and most of us can agree that a rating system to keep such games out of the hands of younglings is prudent. Where we run into issues is when people with an axe to grind try to prove that games modify behavior, regardless of whether or not there is strong evidence that it does. For example, in this episode of Supernanny which is too boring to embed here, a "study" is conducted to test the effects of violent games on kids. After playing either a soccer game or a war game, each boy was interviewed (with what appears to be a night vision camera in a dark room... make of that what you will). The interviewer intentionally knocks over a cup of pens and proceeds to show how the "violent gamers" don't try to help pick them up but sports gamers do, thus proving that violent video games decrease empathy.
The interviewer of course doesn't begin picking up the pens when he interviews the "violent gamers" and immediately acts concerned and cleans up the spill with the sports gamers present. What he actually proves is that a polite child will offer to pick up something you knock over if you start to pick it up, but if you act like you don't care the test subject also won't care. Good work, concerned parent groups!
How about racist video games?!
Editor's note: I'm not making this shit up.
That's right. While people were getting bent out of shape about restoring health by hiring prostitutes in GTA, white supremacy groups were making little time-wasters like these. At least most video games are composed of equal opportunity, fun and inherently fictitious violence that the average gamer in no way associates with how to act in the real world. When you combine shit like this and parental neglect/inability to read labels, now society has a problem.
It would seem a change of priorities is in order.