Computer games, diddies and the breakdown of society

This morning’s episode of Radio Scotland’s Morning Extra was about videogame violence and GTA IV (yep, I was the one who called in at the end to call irresponsible parents “diddies”, heh). I know phone-ins don’t exactly attract rocket scientists – I mean, they let me on air – but even by the usual standards of jaw-dropping nonsense I was gobsmacked by one caller. He thinks violent videogames are bad. He, er, lets his eight-year-old play 18-certificate video games for hours on end. He doesn’t approve of this.

WTF?

*bangs head on desk*

17 thoughts on “Computer games, diddies and the breakdown of society

  1. Squander Two says:

    Ah, one of them. I bet he’s one of the legions of parents who think that adverts for toys should be banned, because your kids see the ads and then demand the toys and you’re left with no choice but to buy them.

  2. mupwangle says:

    You reminded me to go out and buy GTA.

    On a slightly related note, I was playing COD4 last night and got creeped out by a computer game for the first time ever. There is a big section based in Pripyat, of which I’ve seen lots of pictures, and it felt a bit *too* accurate. It made me a uncomfortable.

  3. Gary says:

    GTA really is rather good. I’m sure it would be even gooder if I weren’t so bad at driving in computer games.

    Pripyat – is that the bit near chernobyl, or am I thinking of somewhere else entirely?

  4. mupwangle says:

    And so it starts.

    Apparently a man standing in the queue for the midnight launch in Croydon stabbed another man walking past. The man who was stabbed didn’t call for help and was picked up heading home (reports say he was going home to get a knife) Daily Mail’s original story mentions this happening in front of children (removed in edit once someone pointed out that it was a midnight launch of an 18+ game) and a guy was mugged for the game in Lancashire.

    Calls for banning this evil game…..

    Obviously the game’s fault. No chance of it being gang-related. Also people don’t get mugged for high-priced, low availability consumer products.

    It struck me that were the game to blame, that all 100+ people in the queue in Croydon would’ve jumped in and the guy being mugged would’ve shot the muggers and stole their car.

    Surprised that the mail hasn’t made such a big point about the main character being an illegal immigrant.

    I loved this comment. I can imagine the air-quotes:

    “It was only a matter of time before the ‘latest version’ of this so called ‘game’ prompted yet another senseless attack. ‘How long’ must we be forced to put up with this ‘filth’ before the government finally ‘see the light’ and ‘ban’ these things?

    – Anne, London”

  5. Squander Two says:

    Those quotes are just weird. I often wonder if some people know what they mean. Does she mean that she doesn’t want the Government to really ban the game, but only pretend to? Or ban it in such a way that it’s still available? And does she know something the rest of us don’t about it not really being the latest version? There’s another, secret, version?

    Played GTA1 for about half an hour, and found it sufficiently shite to persuade me never to try any of the sequels.

  6. Squander Two says:

    > Obviously the game’s fault. No chance of it being gang-related. Also people don’t get mugged for high-priced, low availability consumer products.

    Hmm. The behaviour obviously isn’t caused directly by the game, because, as you say, most people who play it don’t stab anyone. But it also seems obvious that the sort of person who behaves like that will be drawn to this type of game. Now, that’s not the manufacturer’s fault and there’s no reason that normal people should give up their harmless entertainment just because some bastards also enjoy it. However, given that a game like this is guaranteed to attract significantly more violent scum than, say, the latest Sonic the Hedgehog title, is it responsible behaviour to gather a large group of hardcore fans together at midnight with no security?

    Football hooliganism is not the fault of the football clubs, but any of them would be hauled over the coals for this, and rightly so.

  7. mupwangle says:

    >>But it also seems obvious that the sort of person who behaves like that will be drawn to this type of game.

    I would’ve thought that people who were into stabbing people for real would be less drawn to the game than people like me. You wouldn’t get the same adrenaline rush/emotion/fear/etc from a game as you would in real life. Why would someone buy GTA when they could drive their ridiculously souped-up peugeot 106’s through the high-street and getting into knife fights?

    >>Football hooliganism is not the fault of the football clubs, but any of them would be hauled over the coals for this, and rightly so.

    It’s not the same thing at all. If someone got mugged for a football match ticket or someone in a queue for football tickets attacked a someone who was not in the queue, the club wouldn’t likely be held responsible.

  8. Squander Two says:

    > If someone got mugged for a football match ticket or someone in a queue for football tickets attacked a someone who was not in the queue, the club wouldn’t likely be held responsible.

    If the club put their tickets on sale at midnight — or provided any other incentive for large numbers of fans to congregate at midnight — and provided no security, yeah, they’d be held at least partially responsible.

    > Why would someone buy GTA when they could drive their ridiculously souped-up peugeot 106’s through the high-street and getting into knife fights?

    Well, petrol’s expensive. Seriously, though, why can’t they do both?

    > I would’ve thought that people who were into stabbing people for real would be less drawn to the game than people like me.

    Why? I’m merely suggesting that (a) some violent criminals like playing computer games and (b) the kind of man who enjoys both playing computer games and stabbing strangers is likely to be in the queue to buy GTA. I hardly think either of those suggestions is far-fetched.

    Look at it this way. If the shop or the manufacturers or both had decided to provide security at these queues, few people would have said that that was insane. Whereas providing security for the launch of Viva Pinata would have been generally regarded as odd.

    > You wouldn’t get the same adrenaline rush/emotion/fear/etc from a game as you would in real life.

    Yeah, I’m sure genuinely stabbing someone is more exciting than pretending to do it in a game. But so what? Genuinely playing professional football is more exciting than playing a football simulator game, but there seem to be plenty of professional footballers who do play those games. Likewise skater dudes and Tony Hawk stuff. And, if I’d suggested that people who enjoy playing football are more likely than people who hate football to buy football games, we wouldn’t even be having this argument.

    There are lots of groups of people who are for the most part non-violent but are known to contain a violent minority: political groups, Orangemen, Scots Nationalists, football fans, the fans of certain rock bands. Those in charge of organising where and when these groups congregate in large numbers are expected to exercise some responsibility. Which I think is fair enough.

  9. mupwangle says:

    >>If the club put their tickets on sale at midnight…

    But the people getting the flak are Rockstar North and Take 2 – not Gamestation, who were the company who chose to open at midnight in Croydon.

    >>Look at it this way. If the shop or the manufacturers or both had decided to provide security at these queues, few people would have said that that was insane. Whereas providing security for the launch of Viva Pinata would have been generally regarded as odd.

    Why? Any organisation who organise an event at midnight in a town centre should be expecting trouble of some sort. If it was Viva Pinata then there should be more reason for security as there are going to be children involved. There was trouble at some of the Harry Potter book launches!

    >>And, if I’d suggested that people who enjoy playing football are more likely than people who hate football to buy football games, we wouldn’t even be having this argument.

    I don’t get you. That would just be stating the bleeding obvious. If you are comparing football games to GTA and similar, then thugs would buy GTA and people who abhor all form of violence, either real or imaginary would not buy GTA. Surely there is a middle ground in both – people who don’t like playing football buy football games and people who abhor real violence buy GTA.

    >>Those in charge of organising where and when these groups congregate in large numbers are expected to exercise some responsibility.

    I think it’s a stretch to count people who play computer games in the same sort of category as the groups that you mention. People who play games are a group in much as people who read books, watch television or eat food. Saying that there is a violent minority is true, but only in the sense that society has a violent minority. Some of them happen to play games. In any case, the groups you mentioned, the violence is part of their identity and activity with the group. If a gamer is violent it is precisely when they aren’t doing anything remotely involved with games.

  10. Squander Two says:

    > But the people getting the flak are Rockstar North and Take 2 – not Gamestation, who were the company who chose to open at midnight in Croydon.

    I didn’t say I agreed with the Mail piece. I said it’s not the manufacturer’s fault and suggested that gathering such a group at such a place and time with no security was irresponsible. Yes, I agree: that’s the shop who should be getting the flak.

    More later. Busy.

  11. Squander Two says:

    > If it was Viva Pinata then there should be more reason for security as there are going to be children involved.

    Fair point.

    > Any organisation who organise an event at midnight in a town centre should be expecting trouble of some sort.

    Sounds like a good reason not to do it. Why do we have midnight launches, anyway? People can’t wait nine more hours?

    > Surely there is a middle ground in both

    Of course, which is why I said “more likely”. All I’m suggesting is that this event was organised by people who probably aren’t particularly surprised by what happened. If they’re not surprised, they should have done more to avoid it. If they are surprised, they’re incompetent.

    > the groups you mentioned, the violence is part of their identity and activity with the group.

    No it’s not.

  12. Squander Two says:

    (Sorry about the multiple posts. Doing something else at the same time.)

    > If a gamer is violent it is precisely when they aren’t doing anything remotely involved with games.

    No, this is not true. GTA is a game about criminally attacking people. Tennis games are remotely involved with tennis, war games are remotely involved with war, and violent games are remotely involved with violence.

    David, you seem to be confusing me with one of those people who want to BAN THIS SICK FILTH. I’m really not, and, as I said earlier, I don’t think the manufacturers are to blame for the violence and I don’t think the violence is caused by the game. But I think you’re taking quite an extreme position here, David: that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between people who enjoy real violence and people who enjoy violent games. I’m not saying there’s one-to-one correlation and I’m not saying there’s causation, but I am saying that one could reasonably assume that there would be enough correlation that failing to take any precautions against this sort of thing happening might seem a tad irresponsible. I mean, you say there was even trouble at Harry Potter book launches. I didn’t know that. (What sort of trouble? A stabbing?) But what that means is that retailers already know to expect trouble at midnight launches, in which case they should be taking measures to avoid it, such as providing adequate security, or having the launch at 9am instead. And one might reasonably guess there’d be a tad more trouble at a GTA launch than a Harry Potter launch.

    You know, a lot of people read Mein Kampf without aspiring to uphold any of the ideals in it. Reading it doesn’t cause violence or Jew-hatred. But it is still a demonstrable fact that those areas in the world where it hits the bestseller lists are seriously unsafe places for Jews to tread. Pointing this out doesn’t mean I’m demonising readers.

  13. Gary says:

    On a tangent, there is one real-world effect of playing games. After driving (virtual) cars on the US side of the road for a bit, I get a bit confused about which side of the road I should drive my (real) car on. That, and I deliberately run over prostitutes.

  14. mupwangle says:

    >>No it’s not.

    Yes it is. :-) From the perspective of the violent person, not the group. The violence and the group are inately tied.

    >>that there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever between people who enjoy real violence and people who enjoy violent games.

    I don’t think that there is enough correlation to warrant more attention. There are people who play games that are violent people, but I think it’s lazy to assume that they wouldn’t turn up to a midnight launch of a mario game.

    >>(What sort of trouble? A stabbing?)

    No, a few minor scuffles in queues, people chucking stuff from cars and so on. That’s the thing though, that was directly related to the book launch. One example was some minor fighting and chucking things (this was in the US) due to pissed-up folk driving past the queue and shouting plot spoilers. This thing in Croydon looks like a complete coincidence. The guy in the guy happened to spot someone who he had an issue with. Because it was GTA there is an immediate rush to connect the two. If someone was queuing for the latest must-have toy and saw the person that carjacked them walking past and attacked them – nobody would even attempt to link the two. There was also assaults/muggings involving the 360, PS3 and Wii launches. There are also stories of assaults when the Next sale opens early.

    I’m not taking an extreme position, I just think that the link is insignificant. AS you pointed out earlier, the issue is not the merits of any particular game or product, it is the retailers opening at stupid times or hyping a product despite knowing that they can’t meet demand.

    Enough arguing for now. I spent about an hour last night driving about listening to the radio and playing darts. (Not at the same time!) The radio on GTA is fantastic. Most of the tracklisting is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Auto_IV_soundtrack
    But the adverts, news and talk radio are really good. (“The president has just passed the Jingoism act”,”There’s a guy sitting across from me on the train who must be a terrorist. He’s reading something foreign. It might be spanish”) I don’t know if this feed works (it doesn’t from work) http://www.rockstargames.com/IV/#?page=music&content=wktt

  15. Squander Two says:

    The things you learn from Wikipedia links. David McCallum made records? And good ones, apparently. Blimey.

    And a whole DJ set by Roy Ayers. Wow.

  16. Gary says:

    The talk radio is absolutely superb. Especially the caring, sharing stuff about socialised medicine.

    What song is the “aye aye aye” bouncy-rappy thing on Vladivostok FM? It’s been going through my head constantly.

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