Should Violent War Game Videos Be Regulated Just Like Hard Core Pornography?

A new video game set in modern-day Afghanistan coming out in October simulates war. The game's multi-player format allows some gamers to be in the role of the Taliban, while others play the part of the coalition forces. Karen Meredith, whose son died in Afghanistan, told Fox News, "My son didn't get to start over when he was killed. His life is over, and I have to deal with this every's just not a game." Jim Sterling, a writer at gamer website Destructoid thinks the war game is fine, “No, war is not a game. But games about war...they are games. Nobody made Meredith's son become a soldier just like nobody will make Meredith buy Medal of Honor." Now you can blast to smithereens allied troops while news filters through on your radio or TV of another young soldier killed by a car bomb. This new Afghanistan war game raises two questions. The first, of course, is whether it's appropriate for a major corporation to be giving our children an opportunity to play the role of Taliban killing American soldiers. The second and larger issue, is whether these games of violence - which were first developed three decades ago by the US military to help train US soldiers learn to overcome the cultural prohibition against killing - should be considered as neurologically dangerous to young and developing minds as hard core pornography. Just as with pornography's influence on young people, there is conflicting science on both sides of the argument. But in the face of this uncertainty, shouldn't we regulate games that teach and show murder and violence the same way we regulate actual and even cartoon depictions of explicit sexual behavior?


gerald's picture
gerald 12 years 41 weeks ago

Personally, children need to be informed of the difference between video war games and real wars. Most wars are not fought from a military base in North Las Vegas were drones are programmed to target certain areas where people are killed. If a person becomes insensitive to real wars, the person will have a real problem.

Maxrot's picture
Maxrot 12 years 41 weeks ago

Video games are becoming more and more graphically realistic, but no virtual system is going to make the experience real. No virtual system is going to blow your leg off, spurt your buddy's blood in your face, or put your brain into such stress that it changes your personality permanently. Teenagers and pre-teens are not the only one's playing the games, though, 20, 30 & 40 + are, and yes a lot of gamers join the military as a result. These games are actually supported by the military industrial complex. Should they be regulated like pornography, I don't know, will they be regulated (other than the violence rating on the corner of the box), probably not in my lifetime or my grandchildren's, grandchildren's, grandchildren's, grandch... lifetime.

Also comparing regulation of the games to pornography regulation doesn't seem correct to me. I would compare it to the regulation of alcohol and tobacco, and should be labeled in similar fashion, such as:

"Warning, playing this game may cause unreasonable expectations of war. Players may suffer delusions of invulnerability and superiority which may result in desires to actually join the military, which may lead to causing mayhem, death, and/or dying."

That being said, I do enjoy playing the Medal of Honor WWII series of games, as well as the Call of Duty Word at War game. Especially fun to play on the Wii game system since you get to point a gun at the screen. Totally awesome, and yet I have never wanted to join the military because of these games... though I also read enough military history that I'm aware of the pain and suffering that is associated with it, enough so that I don't want any part of it. Also there is another thing that these games can make gamers aware of (because most aren't the idiots people assume they are), its nearly impossible to be on the frontlines and not get killed.


nealobus's picture
nealobus 12 years 41 weeks ago

First, I LOVE how you put both FOX NEWS and Jim Sterling in the same exact post. I think Jim Sterling is downright hilarious to listen to, but his reporting and methodology definitely shares similarities to the way Fox handles their journalism (stirring emotion over citing facts).

Personal observations aside, the question of "whether it's appropriate for a major corporation to be giving our children an opportunity to play the role of Taliban killing American soldiers." is (alliteration alert!) simply sensationalizing a story. As a father of two that has over 30 years of gaming experience through multiple verticals including games retail, games development and games evangelism, what you are proposing isn't what is happening. It is tantamount to saying that Monopoly is teaching our kids to be land-stealing, hotel-owning monsters who will step on their grandmother's throat for a chance to get Park Place. That statement is equally preposterous to what you've proposed about games.

I am a big fan of the Thom Hartmann show because he is a big-brained, well-read, world -traveled individual that speaks a lot about injustice and truth. However, when you suggest that there are valid arguments or "conflicting science" on both sides I feel that Thom may need some council from a third-party when it comes to videogames.

If you want a REAL understanding of games and their impact on society, please feel free to call me or drop me an email. I live in the Portland area and was the founder of the Temple of Pong store in Beaverton that talks about game history and understanding. In addition, we have worked with Starlight Starbright, Legacy and OHSU to help put games into the hands of kids who are suffering through cancer treatments. Lastly, if you want a real education, please listen to OUR podcast where we share a love of games and express the need for parental oversight/involvement when it comes to the games their kids play.

SoloPocono's picture
SoloPocono 12 years 41 weeks ago

RE: Video Games

2 months ago my family got me an iPad for my 50th birthday-basically so I could resume my passion for reading. Because of glaucoma, I'd gone from 3 books/week since about age 14, to not being able to finish a book in 8 months. The iPad, and it's "abilities" to adapt both to my visual and physical challenges-gave me back at least a piece of my life.

Well, my kids-all "grown" now, in school & working, were all excited for me-but my Son was THRILLED-he said "Mom can FINALLY learn some video games & have some "fun". He knew I wouldn't be into any violent, shootem' up games, so recommended some other pussle-type games, word games, "role-playing games", (I had to look up what RPG meant :), and some game where you build spider-webs and catch fly's-I think there's more to it, but I haven't gotten that far. These were all supposedly "VERY easy" games. I swear, I have become SO frustrated, trying for hours to either figure out what I was supposed to be doing, or to get past the "tutorial level".

Well, last week I ran into my next-door neighbors 5 year old, while I was sitting on the stairs awaiting a delivery. (groceries). The little boy got all excited when he saw my iPad-that I'd brought with me to read whilst waiting. He pointed to one of these games, and pleaded with me to let him play. The game had a ball you controlled by tipping the iPad to get it down this shute-kind of like a water slide. I hadn't been able to get past the "child" level. He and his Mom insisted he'd never even touched an iPad, yet this little boy had made it to the 5th level before my delivery came-less than 5 minutes. I watched in amazement as he played a few more games-skipping the tutorial's I'd been attempting to finish, obviously not reading ANY instructions, just glancing at the screen & playing. One of the games-doodle hop, doodle jump, something like that, my Son had wanted to "challenge" me on-I had this little boy play it-he got something like 10K points-my "high" was about 300-and to his Mom's amusement, had him put "Mom" in as the high score.

I just hope he doesn't ask me to play it again,...I think it'll just disappear? ;)

Scary huh? Oh, and this SMALL Child, wanted to know where my "gun" and "blood" games were... <sigh> :( Thank God my kids are grown.....

OglalaLakotaWicasa's picture
OglalaLakotaWicasa 12 years 41 weeks ago

Of course they have an effect on the childs mind in a violent way. The wrestling on T.V. also does also, and from some studies so does having your child read to early. I for one will support an 18 and over type law for violent content games if there is not already one. However one must consider is it society that makes the games acceptable to play or even exist or do the kids and others play the games because it is inherent to the human to want to kill for pleasure and plunder? I for one think they only mimic society. America is a violent country, where does this violence stem from? A video game or another part of society?

nealobus's picture
nealobus 12 years 41 weeks ago

I suppose based on Oglala's comment above, he/would also support a law against having a child read too early.

More laws! Bigger prisons! Personal and parental responsibility be damned!

RobThePhotog's picture
RobThePhotog 12 years 41 weeks ago

I took a Game Theory class last semester. Before I took the class I agreed with Thom about censorship of violence. However, I learned a couple things that changed my mind. I am posting links to two articles that illustrate a point of view not represented.

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Bloodandtreasure's picture
Bloodandtreasure 12 years 41 weeks ago

tl;dr ...but if you are arguing that violent video games should be free and all over teh interwebs, then yeah I think so.

TimidObserver 12 years 41 weeks ago

I know Karen Meredith's story. I know everybody's story who lost a loved one in a real life war. Bur Karen Meredith, if you do not like the game, don't buy it and SHUT THE FUCK UP. Whatever your son's name is, if his name and likeness are ever used in a game, you got a problem there. As the game stands, it deals with a FICTIONAL war with FICTIONAL characters.

Should I look at the tragic 3rd place finish, followed by murder suicide of his family of that really lousy Wheel of Fortune contestant and never buy a copy of a Wheel of Fortune video game again? Or maybe the people behind Railroad Tycoon should be blacklisted at all Best Buy and FYE locations for silently advocating mistreatment of Asians?

Marilyn Manson sells a ton of records without the support of you whiny fuckin' pansies every year. Mostly, to your own children. Ever wonder why that is?

Not to mention, the hardcore pornography industry mentioned in the title of this thread is a billion dollar a year industry too. Do America's porn consumers stop just because some girl kills herself after picking up a painful STD from a shoot just trying to become a star? I will admit the analogy is kind of extreme but I'm sure you get the message.

GillianB 12 years 41 weeks ago

Without a more clear definition of what is meant by "hard core" pornography, it is difficult to compare porn with the war games and videos that are so ubiquitous on the web and TV.

In general the major difference in effect is that repeated exposure to violence can inure the viewer to real-life violence. It can also induce the belief in characters who can miraculously revive after being slain This phenomenon produces a blurring of the line between fact and fantasy when carried over into real life.

Pornography on the other hand, depicts life-affirming acts between adults. It is when violence is added that porn may become injurious to young minds. Repeated exposure to bloody war can help overcome an aversion to killing. Repeated exposure to pornography and erotica would not have the same effect.

Make love, not war.

dzcomposer's picture
dzcomposer 12 years 41 weeks ago

These games are content rated by the ESRB. Yes, the ESRB is part of the ESA, the video game trade group, but if you're gonna call that a conflict of interest, the MPAA shouldn't be rating movies either.

The main difference here is that movie theaters have decided to actually enforce the MPAA's reccomended age policies for their film ratings.

Many stores that sell games do not enforce the ESRB ratings. Some of the bigger chains do, but there are plenty of places that will sell games without ID.

Sadly, the laws that have been passed to require stores to do this have all been shot down on constitutional grounds.

That said, I do not think these games should be banned. I will qualify this and say that I do play these games. I have played many in the Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, and Battlefied series. Most of these games have online multiplayer team-based gameplay. For this, you need two teams. Everyone is shocked because one of the teams in this particular title is the Taliban. This same shock wasn't as prevalent with the countless WWII titles that have come out over the years where you can play as Japanese or German and kill US and British teams. There's a game called Counter-Strike that's been around for ages (the original even pre-dates 9/11), and it is terrorist teams VS counter-terrorism teams from different western countries, the US included. I'm not too familiar with this new MoH game, but looking at its Steam page, it's description doesn't make it look much different than Counter-Strike in terms of who people can play as.

People need to understand these games aren't real, and kids really shouldn't play them, but in the end it is up to the parents I think to watch what their kids play. Don't take them to stores that don't ID. Use Parental Controls. The modern consoles have parental controls on them that you can use to block games over a certian rating from running on the system. It also isn't that hard to know what is installed on a computer, especially is you buy your games through Steam which shows every game you bought through it on a single screen.

One thing I'd like clarified. Thom mentioned on his show that todays shooters are decended from military training simulators from the 1970s. I have a decent knowledge of gaming history, and this is news to me. Anyone have a source for this? Many early games have been shooters, but they didn't have the realism of today's games largely due to technological limitations. I just don't think "Military Training Sim" when I play Doom, for instance. I will qualify this paragraph by mentioning the game America's Army, which was actually developed by the army as a recruiting tool. But this game is not something that came out in the early days of gaming.

I feel like this is the same thing that was done about Rock N' Roll and Comic Books in the 50's and Metal and TV in the 80s and 90s.

Tebo1 12 years 41 weeks ago

The closest thing to a national draft. A video game that deals with war as a current events brings the ugly reality of mass murder to your household.I think we should give the game away and awaken the masses to " take to the streets" to stop this insanity! I hope the games depict a quiet exit strategy across the desert with a fife and drum spirt of 76 wrapped in tattered mission accomplished banner!

kwikfix 12 years 41 weeks ago


denny245 12 years 40 weeks ago

Watched Huckabee tonight on Fox News. They had a guest that is a Pychologist for the miltary preventing suicide. He stated that over 100,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide, more than were killed in
in the entire war. And today in our modern wars (Afganistan, and Iraq), at least 5 soldiers a day attempt suicide. The military is trying to solve the problem. They have spent hundreds of millions on this problem. Maybe video games are an attempt to get youth use to the idea, and even love war. Maybe this is the militarys backdoor approach to solving the problem, just as other governments in history have done (ie. Imperial Rome) with different approaches, but with the same goal in mind.

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