History of Violence in Video Games

There have been countless studies on video game addiction and violence during the past 4 decades. One of the earliest outcry’s against video game violence was in 1976’s title Death Race, in which players controlled cars that ran over pixelated representations of “gremlins”. The game was pulled from store shelves as a result. In the eighties as game consoles became more advanced, game designers strived to make their games more realistic. The ability to play games with graphics more life-like was a gamers dream but brought much controversy.  Games like Mortal Kombat and Doom were targeted by the media, politicians and parents for their graphic portrayal of blood and intense violence.  Mortal Kombat is a fighting game where the player had the ability to use certain combos to unlock vicious killer attributes and finishing moves where the player could rip off the opponents head as blood gushed out or even rip out their spine while the player was still alive all in a dark themed backdrop world.


In Doom, players were sent to Hell to fight off hordes of demons with giant guns and chain-saws leaving a trail of blood everywhere they went.


These games were so popular that everyone wanted to play them. And game makers faced a lot of finger pointing. Nintendo even went so far as to remove the animated blood for their Super Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat. When rival Sega kept the blood, sales for their version went through the roof. As a result, Nintendo kept the blood in the next Mortal Kombat installment.

The concern from parents and doctors were that violent video games made their children more aggressive and violent. Studies have been inconsistent and the arguments have been tossed back and forth for years. Likening video games to violence in movies and music . This was a new medium and many people still regarded video games as for children and not just entertainment in general.   One of the primary concerns with violence in video games is that gaming is not passive. In order to play and win, the player has to be the aggressor. Rather than watching violence, as he might do on television, he’s committing the violent acts. Just like 80’s Heavy Metal was blamed for teen suicide, games were now being blames for violent crime and murders because the people doing the crimes where also gamers. Long-term effects of violent video games are still uncertain and are fiercely debated.

High school shootings and other murders and criminal acts in the last 2 decade’s also blamed video games like Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto. Gaming consoles grew up graphically and gamers were able to control events and interact with culturally related material making it all seem much more real including mature themes such as sex, drugs and nudity. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is an example of a video game that caused controversy, over and above the debate surrounding the violent gameplay, for allegedly encouraging racist hate crimes. The game takes place in “Vice City”, a fictionalized Miami, in 1986, and involves a gang war between Haitians and Cuban refugees, with the player’s character getting involved and encouraging the inter-ethnic violence. For example, in a shoot-out with the Haitian gang, the player’s character uses phrases such as “kill the Haitian dickheads”, which highly incensed both Haitian and Cuban anti-defamation groups; after the Haitian-American Coalition threatened to sue, Rockstar removed the word “Haitians” from this phrase in the game’s subtitles.

Vice City

Then there is the debate of whether video games are addictive in nature. For most people, playing games on a computer, video game console, or handheld device is just a regular part of the day. Most are able to juggle between school, sports, work or chores, and family life. Gaming becomes an addiction when it starts to interfere with a person’s relationships or other goals, such as good grades.

Computer and video games, especially the massive multi-online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) such as “World of Warcraft,” allow players to behave very differently from their normal persona. A shy child can suddenly became gregarious; a passive child can become aggressive. Gamers explain that these social games actually help them become more interactive with other people who share the same interest even though they meet and communicate in the digital world versus the real one.

Because of all this the ESRB was created in in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (formerly Interactive Digital Software Association), in response to criticism of violent content found in video games such as Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Doom, and other controversial video games portraying overly violent or intense sexual situations. Although the rating system is nominally voluntary, nearly all video games are submitted for rating. Many retail stores prohibit the sale of unrated video games, and major console manufacturers will not license games for their systems unless they carry ESRB ratings.

My personal opinion about video game violence is one of an open mind. I believe that the crime depends on the person who plays video games. Some people have deep personal issues and were just not raised right. Millions of people play games and watch violent movies and they just do not go out killing people. I see gaming as entertainment just like movies and music, albeit on a more interactive hands on involved way. I believe in free speech, but as a parent I understand that certain games must be kept away from minors, as well as a lot of movies. The way I look at it, the world has grown up at a very fast rate in the last 50 years when it comes to music, movies, gaming and the Internet. All of this can be used for good and bad. Again, it depends on who is exposed to it and their mental stability at the time. A killer is and always will be a killer, a school bully will always be a school bully. Parents need to do their job and not let them play, watch or listen to anything their child wants to. They need to communicate with their child and above all give them all the love they can because when you teach a child not to harm an animal or person at a young age, and respect the elderly they remember that. We have lost our values as a society and have become de-sensitized. For this , we are paying the price.

What are your opinions and views on this subject? Do you monitor what your child sees and plays? What games are you planning on buying this holiday season for your child?

Please share your thoughts with us.