What is a violent video game?


There is a lot of talk about how violent video games make people violent. But what is a violent video game? Stereotypically violent video games are usually rated M for Mature or AO for Adult Only and are very graphic, meaning that they include a lot of blood and gore and can often be realistic. The following games are most often used as examples of stereotypically “violent” video games: Metal Gear (rated M, originally released in 1987), Mortal Kombat (rated M, originally released in 1992), and Grand Theft Auto (rated M, originally released in 1997). In contrast, the following games are generally considered non-violent and are all rated E10+ or lower: Little Big Planet, Super Mario, and Wii Sports. The major differences between these games and those considered violent is the graphic nature of the “violent” games. The more blood and gore included in a game, the more violent it is perceived to be.
Cartoon and Fantasy violence is allowed in games rated E10+ or lower. However, the player can manipulate the game to make it more violent. In “Little Big Planet” (rated E10+), the game is a blank canvas. Everything is up to the player’s imagination. If a toddler played it, the game would likely be about a cloth doll, dressed as Spiderman or a princess, swinging from a string. But if the player wants to incorporate blood into their game, for example after something falls or explodes, there will be blood. This is a reflection on the player, not the game. Further, several other seemingly harmless games would be considered very violent just by adding blood spatter to existing moves. For example, in “Super Mario” (rated E), if blood squirted every time you jumped up and squished an enemy’s head, the game would be a bloodbath. And, in Wii Sports (rated E), if Wii boxing left bruises on the Mii’s faces or stomachs, or allowed the Mii’s to bleed when punched, the game would likely be found to be too violent for an E rating. Based on the rating system, the violent act appears to be defined by the blood spatter and not the aggressive act itself.
The depiction of blood or realistic victims of violence is a common component of the objectionable games. However, it appears that many non-violent games use aggressive behaviors as part of regular play and, with the addition of blood spatter, would likely be considered very violent.
With this loose definition of violence, is the rating system accurate? Should we be judging and rating the games on the acts of the characters or just on the blood and gore? And is removing the blood and gore enough to bring the rating of a game down? Given that violence is a major criteria in the rating of games, this definition should be standardized before it is given weight in the rating system.

3 thoughts on “What is a violent video game?

  1. Reetu Shah

    I feel like it also has to do with the way it would affect children. Not only are you playing the game but after… how does that affect one after. I feel like some of these really violent games, yes might not be that crazy, could still affect someone who is really young in a huge way. I personally don’t think violence in a game is that big of a deal, I just see why people put the ratings that they do. I do agree with the topic of how its the kids themselves. Because kids to tend to have a greater imagination. I feel like a great way to test this out would be to have 20 kids and give 10 kids violent games, and the other kids just normal Mario games. Then observe after maybe 2 weeks on how they act, and how they view things in the world. That would be the y-variable, to see if it really corrupts these kids minds, or it barely has an effect. The x-variable would be manipulating the decision of giving some violent games vs. regular games

  2. Olivia Watkins

    There was a lot of information about the process of rating video games. This reminds me of the movie “Nightmare on Elm Street” because there was the original made in 1984 and then was remade “scarier” in 2011. The norm of what we think is scary is constantly changing. There is a game called “Dead Space” and it is one of the scariest video games I have ever seen (refused to play it). Then, the recent phenomenon of “Five Nights of Freddy’s”. THAT was horrifying. The jumpiness aspect was too high. My heart hurt. Going back to your article, violent video games have become prominent in our current culture. Technology is ever growing and with it, video games. The issue with violence is video games is that it is too realistic. A good example of this is GTA. You can mass murder people and police, die, then restart. This is not how it is in real life. This sounds very silly but you would be surprised what people are trying to reenact. I added an article to help explain the issues of too real life video games:

  3. Jordan Smith

    I think you place too much emphasis on the actual process of rating the game. I think the ratings are there t mainly inform parents buying games for their kids what content they can expect their kid to be exposed to. It all comes down to parenting for the purchase of the game, but in terms of blood and violence, times change. For example, one of the most controversial games in the 90’s was “Night Trap” it used full motion video and was criticized for being too “risque” and a lot of violence against women. however, looking at it with today’s standards it is relatively tame. Here’s an article that explains the Night Trap controversy in retrospect.

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