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AlexCrafter

Violent and non-violent video game design

32 posts in this topic

First of all I'll say that I take neither side in this situation, any indication that I may be taking one side or the other is probably me playing devils advocate. The debate about violent video games having a negative effect of the mind has been argued stubbornly for years. I've been working on a project that directly confronts this issue and doing research I've found quite a few reliable sources that prove at the very least that violent video games have an immediate effect on players, however long lasting effects are only open to speculation. There is strong evidence that violent video game design at the very least makes violence feel more casual when out of the video game world. Then there is some indication that violent video games trigger more emotional, non rational responses in every day life as well. I aim to create a game that manages to be exciting but still satisfying the anti-violence people and not having a negative effect on players. To what degree does violence have an effect on people? For example, 1: A game like the Myst series most people would agree has no violent or action oriented aspects. 2: The puzzle sections of portal were exciting and had risks involved but didn't involve massive amounts of adrenaline or violence. 3:Adrenaline harnessing games like need for speed and mirror's edge minimize violence but make use of lots of adrenaline and action. 4: Games like half life and half life 2 where the gameplay is finding the best way to kill opponents and harness adrenaline. 5: Games like Fallout 3 are often referred to as the worst games in terms of adverse effects on mental state because the player is in charge of how to perform the violence and whether or not to perform it. Your thoughts?
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There is strong evidence that violent video game design at the very least makes violence feel more casual when out of the video game world.
I disagree with this and all other research on violent video games that claim some sort of correlation or connection between violent games and violence. I grew up on violent games and I don't see violence as any casual matter at all. In my opinion, violent video games only make violent people behave violently. For the vast majority of mentally stable video gamers, I don't believe the level of violence has any effect on them. I believe it only effects those who already have a predisposition to violence.
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It is alright when there is some violence but when the whole screen is red through the game like in some games less people would like to play it.I heard of a incident that a person was playing a game where you had to kill people with a knife and then he did it for real.
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I think that's a pretty good categorization of games.

I also think that the connection is bunk, but I've also seen relatively compelling evidence that it's not; at least for some subset of people.
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Original post by AlexCrafter

There is strong evidence that violent video game design at the very least makes violence feel more casual when out of the video game world. Then there is some indication that violent video games trigger more emotional, non rational responses in every day life as well.


There is no scientific evidence supporting that video games or any other entertainment media affect the human impulses, nor is any support available to that there is any affect on adults ability to distinquish fact from fiction.

Video game violence does not make real-life violence seem any more casual because it does not register as real-life violence in adults mind. It registers as fiction entertainment, something to be enjoyed.

This ofcourse affects only adults with normal mental abilities.
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I would like to make it know that Myst and Riven are two of the best games ever made. If you can emulate them, and do it well, then that is a great path to go down.

Quote:
Original post by NickGravelyn
Quote:
There is strong evidence that violent video game design at the very least makes violence feel more casual when out of the video game world.
I disagree with this and all other research on violent video games that claim some sort of correlation or connection between violent games and violence. I grew up on violent games and I don't see violence as any casual matter at all. In my opinion, violent video games only make violent people behave violently. For the vast majority of mentally stable video gamers, I don't believe the level of violence has any effect on them. I believe it only effects those who already have a predisposition to violence.


We are treading dangerously close to off-topic, but I would like to point at that saying "I have done X and look at me - now I'm Y. Therefore X does Y.", as you have done, is just the same as people who say, "I have used (for example) homeopathy and look, now I am fine. Therefore, homeopathy works." Or, to take it to the extreme, someone that says they have done cocaine and are still fine, therefore cocaine is fine. The point is, it's not a real study and it is certainly not a double blind trial (more like a no blind trial [grin]), so shouldn't have any actual weight.


However, there are smart people who have done research and agree with you.
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Original post by volodymyr
I heard of a incident that a person was playing a game where you had to kill people with a knife and then he did it for real.

I heard of a incident where a person was playing a game where you had to kill people with a shotgun, and then they did it for real.
That game was Doom and Quake. I've played those games(and numerous other games like that), and I have never felt the urge to kill my fellow students.
For every game-related killing you might find I could probably find at least ten more that is related to McDonald's, does this mean that McDonald's is to blame? Just like the vcr, the blame-game has now shifted focus to the games.
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The world is full of so many stupid people, I think it's possible to conclude anything you want to conclude, based on statistics.

I'm an empathetic person in the real world. I don't even like to hurt insects. But I've been getting my fix on violent video games since I was five. That's 24 years of cutting, ripping, shooting, and exploding organic life forms on a daily basis.
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I think the link to violence in video games converting to violence in real life has more of a link to sex than anything.

The more you spend killing people with knives, the less sex you have, thus from pent up sexual frustration and this exposure to knife killing, you spontaneously decide to get off on knife killing people.

That's the way I see it.
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Interesting comments but about that video, please let me play devil's advocate for a second. Their study did show that violent video games are often blamed without cause because some people just need something to blame but at the same time their study that showed that boys who don't play violent video games and girls that do are in a risk zone really doesn't make logistical sense, all it's showing is that children who don't follow the popular trends are more at risk (That being playing the games in boys and not in girls).

Can I then ask you, do you think that playing certain games can have benefits for players. For example when Myst was released there were people who said that the game helped kids learn to be more analytical and thoughtful about their environments and mirror's edge has received a warm welcome from free runners who say that it will encourage more people to be active. If not, do you think that playing different games has no different effect on you mentally? Would you then go so far as to say that all video games have no effect on you mentally?

@ Cpt Mothballs: You seem to be linking sex and violence in video games to violence in real life. So you're saying that violence in games can convert to real life violence only if sexual tension is involved? Sounds interesting but I wouldn't limit it to only sexual frustration.
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Original post by AlexCrafter
Can I then ask you, do you think that playing certain games can have benefits for players.


Yes
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Original post by AlexCrafter
@ Cpt Mothballs: You seem to be linking sex and violence in video games to violence in real life. So you're saying that violence in games can convert to real life violence only if sexual tension is involved? Sounds interesting but I wouldn't limit it to only sexual frustration.


Well they link it to other crimes, I wouldn't put it too far off.
The stimulation and all that negativity can have an adverse affect on people who are mentally unstable.
Kind of the same way games trigger seizures in some people, but not all.
The trigger has to be there.

Really there are a lot of circumstances, the sheer majority of crimes are contextual.

Most people might use it like alcohol sort of to shift the blame away from themselves.
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There's a few other types of games that would be interesting to consider.

  1. Unlike the open-ended behaviour in games like Fallout 3, there are some which only give you the option to be an anti-social, immoral and violent character. This ranges from Hitman, where you're an assassin but the violence is typical to other games on the genre, through to games like Manhunt, where the violence is severe and part of the game's shtick. Note: Manhunt was refused classification in Australia. So was Fallout 3, but it passed with a minor modification of a drug name.
  2. There are games where the player protagonist isn't violent, but is thrown into situations where the other characters are. Phantasmagoria is probably the most severe example I can think of: the player protagonist is and acts like an ordinary woman, but you witness other characters perform despicable acts (multiple gruesome murders, infanticide, sexual assult against the protagonist, horror elements). Note: Phantasmagoria was also refused classification in Australia


I don't think I've read any studies on video game violence and behaviour myself, although I have skimmed through a few of the summaries in the press. From what I've seen, I think there's a strong link between video games causing increase in adrenaline. Since violent games are often correlated with fast paced action, I think that's part of what causes the short term effects. It's why I take any non-scientific studies that plonk children in front of fighting games with a grain of salt, as an adrenaline pumped kid will act hyper and run around to blow off steam.

And while this is purely anecdotal, I've noticed if I play a game for too long it does have an affect on my actions after leaving the game. It's never as far as having violent tendencies, but if I'm playing a stealth game like Thief I'll start to feel I need to stick to the shadows. Or more dangerously, if I play a driving game for too long it starts to affect how I think when driving for real.
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One category missing - RPGs in general are extremely violent yet there is generally no adrenaline involved with the possible exception of boss fights, or individual quests which are a bit to difficult for a particular player or their current level. (Only if the game has PvP is there more adrenaline going on, and also in MMOs a lot of players feel rage toward the game's economy, other members of a forum discussing the game, and the developers.) But my point is that monster-slaughtering in MMOs is not exciting, it's usually done with a cool-headed economic or workaday attitude. Which personally kind of bugs me, reminds me of the holocaust... On the other hand combat can be a lot of lighthearted fun, so I dunno, I have mixed feelings about violence in games.
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I think gaming can influence personality traits like aggression and patience, but I don't think they influence traits like empathy or morality.

Unless we're referring to the sight of gore and visually simulated pain and death, "violent gaming" isn't something specific enough to blame for anything. Gore is there to add more flare to the events of gameplay, not to induce sadistic pleasure. For some people, it's fun to swing and shoot at stuff, and gore adds more punch to swinging and shooting at stuff. It's as simple as that. For a sensible person, playing a violent shooter doesn't influence them any more than playing a game with squirt guns.
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I think any correlation between violent video games and actual violence is only partially true. Games induce stressful situations which promotes an adrenaline response, this sort of response is a fundamental part of human nature and can happen anywhere where people have a stake in the outcome (even politics).

So i would say that video games have the potential to induce a state of violence, but is unlikely in all but the mentally unstable because the content doesn't have much real world relevance. Its the equivalent of covering yourself in gasoline, it only being a problem if you light a match.
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Quote:
Original post by NickGravelyn
Quote:
There is strong evidence that violent video game design at the very least makes violence feel more casual when out of the video game world.
I disagree with this and all other research on violent video games that claim some sort of correlation or connection between violent games and violence. I grew up on violent games and I don't see violence as any casual matter at all. In my opinion, violent video games only make violent people behave violently. For the vast majority of mentally stable video gamers, I don't believe the level of violence has any effect on them. I believe it only effects those who already have a predisposition to violence.


We are treading dangerously close to off-topic, but I would like to point at that saying "I have done X and look at me - now I'm Y. Therefore X does Y.", as you have done, is just the same as people who say, "I have used (for example) homeopathy and look, now I am fine. Therefore, homeopathy works." Or, to take it to the extreme, someone that says they have done cocaine and are still fine, therefore cocaine is fine. The point is, it's not a real study and it is certainly not a double blind trial (more like a no blind trial [grin]), so shouldn't have any actual weight.


Well think about it the other way. There are those who claim "If you play violent video games, you will become violent." I grew up on violent video games and am not violent. Therefore those people are wrong.

While I cannot prove that violent video games don't affect anyone, I can easily disprove that violent video games increase violence in all players. Which leads me to my conclusion that violent video games only affect those with a disposition towards violence.
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I suppose you could tackle this question from a design point of view:

Q1: How do you design a game that would convince its players to commit violent crimes?

Q2: How do you convice a person to commit a violent crime?


If you believe that Q2 is possible, it follows that Q1 is possible. But I believe that the key components of persuation is not violence, but world view, identity, and method. Anonymity would help the persuation but not required (i.e. the game not only teaches you how to commit a violent crime, but also how to do it without getting caught.)

The optimal design is one where the player is convinced and commits the violent crime believe that he is just. It might be similar to jihadist training although I don't know anything about it.

I don't think that exposure to violence is sufficient to change ones behavior. It only has a superificial association. A complete design would also need to convert the player's world view, identity, and to teach the player the method.

The player needs to be convinced that:

1) the real world is as the game presents;

2) himself is the same as a character inside the game world facing the same problem;

3) the solution in the game is the best solution to be executed in real life.


When a design has these three elements, it will be successful in breeding criminals/murderers/rapists/terrorists*.


* That is how we would call them, but not necessarily how they would call themselves.
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Original post by Wai
The player needs to be convinced that:

1) the real world is as the game presents;

2) himself is the same as a character inside the game world facing the same problem;

3) the solution in the game is the best solution to be executed in real life.

If I lived in a really rough area, with gangs toting guns, psychos tearing things up, and police that won't lift a finger, then I played a game where the hero dresses up in heavy metal armor and walks the streets blowing these types of thugs to bits, I would be convinced of all three of your items.

The answer to the third item might be questionable, but the game does show the most obvious and straight forward solution that a single person can make happen. Regardless, I still wouldn't be convinced to do it in real life. Even if I was convinced that I could make invincible armor, the real thugs are human beings, with families and painful nerve endings. Regardless of how bad they are, I don't have the right to gun them down.

Most game worlds present entirely different levels of existence. Bad guys live for the sole purpose of engaging combat with you. They don't have families, and they don't feel real pain. They're animated toy soldiers. By killing them, you're fulfilling their purpose.

Apart from some type of philosophical preaching, a video game isn't going to convince people that harmful violence is okay. It might convince them that the morally questionable violence would be a good strategy, but it won't push them to the dark side, where they would need to be to make use of it.
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Guns dont kill people, people kill people.

The way I see it, a video game is much closer to the gun, then it is a person. Its just because the games contain violence that they get noted, moreso then other things that person may have done.

I dont remember which person in particular, but one person who bombed a large city building was asked what his last request was, and it was for chocolate chip mint ice cream. In my opinion, saying video games makes people violent would be like saying "Watch out, that kid likes chocolate chip mint ice cream, he might blow us all up!".

I like fps games, tactical or simply mow-it-all-to-hell. I also like shooting beer bottles with a shotgun after a weekend of camping, and 5v5 capture the flag paintball is wicked fun. Ive also never even so much as punched a person in the face. I think I kicked my friend in the shin once in like grade 7, but thats about it for violence.

Meh, let them blame video games. Its not like its going to change much.

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Original post by NickGravelyn
While I cannot prove that violent video games don't affect anyone, I can easily disprove that violent video games increase violence in all players. Which leads me to my conclusion that violent video games only affect those with a disposition towards violence.

Except there's no suggestion that such a thing as "a disposition towards violence" exists, making this a convenient get-out clause. Someone plays games and murders someone? Obviously pre-disposed. Someone plays the same games and doesn't murder someone? Obviously not pre-disposed. People make the same argument for cannabis and how it only induces psychosis in those "pre-disposed" to it. Except there isn't some clear dividing line between those in one category and in the other, and even if there was, we wouldn't know how to spot it. It's a flawed argument, appealing to a link between the variable you want to dismiss and some hidden variable which hasn't been shown to exist.

To be more scientific about this, assuming the population has a normally distributed degree of 'inherent aggression', consisting of genetic, learned, and environmental factors in whatever proportion, then if video games increase aggression, you will see some proportion of the population cross the threshold into physical violence. That doesn't mean the non-violent individuals were not pre-disposed and would never be affected, or that the game had no effect on them. They might well be immune. Or perhaps they would just need to be pushed a little further. Or perhaps their environment is less stressful. etc. These factors don't free games (or films, or violent lyrics, or whatever) of any responsibility. Anything that adds up to a whole is a contributor, whether it's the part that crosses the threshold or not.

There are plenty of psychological studies that show some sort of link between violent media (games, films, etc) and factors or indicators of violence (eg. people having 'violent thoughts', children attacking their toys, people being convicted of crimes in later life). And there are plenty of studies that failed to find such a link. And there are experts who find flaws in both sets of studies. Such is the way of studying things we don't understand. And on top of that, there are studies showing that game playing may have positive benefits to the player - maybe outweighing the possible negatives. But it wouldn't be right to pretend that we are sure there are no negatives at all.
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I believe that there are far too many variables to say that violent video games create violent individuals. I love shooting heads off in Fable and kicking them around. But blood in real life makes me a little queasy.
Personally, all the violence in the video game is a welcome escape from my real life and a great stress relief. If work has me on edge, then you can bet I'm playing COD4 when I get home.
But then, I understand the fictional element of video games. Give my four and five year olds 30 minutes @ Halo 3 and they're running around shooting everyone with their invisible shotguns for weeks.

With the seemingly unlimited differences in personaty traits and dispositions, I don't think that there can be any completely unspeculative research done in this regard. In the end, will Johny Five be more prone to violent actions after hours of violent gameplay? - Your guess is as good as mine.

Xy
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Re: Kest

In general it does not happen so there is no worry. For a game that is designed to do so, the player does not see the game as entertainment, instead, the game would feel like the truth. The player is playing the game to learn about the real world and to look for a solution to a real life problem.

A game that drives people commit a violent crime would probably have a hero with the same features as the player. This could be the result of design (the designer knows the features of the target audience), or a deliberate customization done by the player (the player modeled himself in the game). The game does not need to have graphics, and thus need not have to graphical violence. What it might do instead is to get the player familiar with violent in real life a little by little. The game's role is not to satisfy the player, but to convince the player to adopt a quest in real life. It is a case where the game intentionally extends its game world into reality.

In my disposition video game can persuade/inspire/assist a major change in a person's behavior. In literature and philosophy, those are the seminal works. Games is an equivalent medium that could do the same. But games in general are not designed to be seminal works in terms of the adoption of violence. Just having more blood splash on screen won't do. But we certainly have no reason to explore how to make it work.
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Original post by Kylotan
These factors don't free games (or films, or violent lyrics, or whatever) of any responsibility. Anything that adds up to a whole is a contributor, whether it's the part that crosses the threshold or not.

Isn't that like saying certain food is responsible for people over-eating? Or certain cars are responsible for people speeding and wrecking? You have to be sensible and responsible enough to draw a line somewhere. Games are fantasy simulations, not case studies of reality.

Typical violent games might convince certain people to do harmfully violent things, but they do not convince sensible people that harmfully violent things are okay to do. There's a big difference. I think most game designers design their games with the assumption that their players are sensible enough to understand the difference between simulation and reality.

Children are another matter. I may have grown up playing pretty violent games, but todays games are a lot more nasty. I don't think I would let young kids (< 11) play games that promote senseless slaughter of human beings, like the GTA series.
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