‘Watch this:’ How ultraviolent video games and ultraviolent films differ

Fast and the Furious 6

A scene from the 2013 film “Fast and Furious 6,” Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and mayhem throughout. (Universal Pictures)

BulletstormA screenshot of the video game Bulletstorm, showing just one of the many violent ways of killing for which the game rewards players. (EA)

Defenders of the video game industry say they’re unfairly blamed for the actions of criminals, arguing that movies, books, and TV shows promote just as much violence and aberrant behavior. So what’s different about video games?

Some experts on digital addiction and psychology say games are a training ground for killing people: Their interactive nature pulls you into the gore, they argue, and reward you for being a killing machine.

Special Series

This is Part Three in a series exploring the connection between video games and violence.

Watch for Part Four Monday, which will examine the latest installment in the popular video game series “Grand Theft Auto.”

Part One: ‘Training simulation: Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games.

Part Two: ‘Frag him: With today’s ultraviolent video games, how real is too real?

Part Three: ‘Watch this:’ How ultraviolent games and films differ.

“We can’t say video games caused the Newtown shootings,” said Dr. David Greenfield, the director of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction. “But we can say [Adam Lanza’s] actions in killing those kids as well as he did was enhanced.”

Greenfield argues that games train your nervous system to be more efficient at killing. In the human brain, dopamine fires as a physical reward for accomplishing goals such as clearing a room quickly or sniping an enemy from a great distance. Movies, shows and books don’t have the same level of reward, he told FoxNews.com.

“How could you make the statement that this has no effect?” he said.

David Ryan Polgar, a noted tech ethicist, says video games rarely have a strong storyline equal to that in a book or movie. This creates a lack of empathy in the gamer for that character. He says the added realism of next-gen consoles makes this more problematic.

“The prospect of being Travis Bickle from the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ or Holden Caulfield from ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as opposed to viewing them would offer the highest level of altered perception and potential increased levels of aggression. That wouldn’t causally lead gamers to violence, but it may blur the lines between reality and the virtual world for an unstable user.”

Chris Ferguson from Stetson University, who has studied the effects of games on psychology, disagrees that playing games can cause violent behavior at all — or that movies, TV shows, or books can cause violence.

“We find no evidence for either violent video games or television having an impact on youth violence,” Ferguson told FoxNews.com, referencing a study published in April in the “Journal of Youth Adolescence.” He said the idea of a first-person shooter being a trainer for killers is absurd and moralistic.

“Your brain also releases dopamine when you read a good book, have sex, enjoy a sunset or a nice meal,” he said. “Playing a videogame is no different in this respect from eating a cupcake. It’s psychobabble to make a perfectly natural process sound much scarier than it actually is.”

‘The prospect of being Travis Bickle from ‘Taxi Driver’ as opposed to viewing him would offer the highest potential increased levels of aggression.’

– Tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar

Ferguson says connecting game use to the Newtown shooting is absurd as well. “How efficient do you need to be when using an AR-15?” he asked.

Microsoft, Ubisoft and several other gamemakers declined to comment but referred to existing research related to game violence and to the game associations.

“Scientists have found there is no connection between playing games and acting violently,” said Dan Hewitt, a spokesman for the Entertainment Software Association.

Hewitt points to reports by the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Department of Justice, findings at the Supreme Court, and other research that has determined games do not cause violence. “If you talk to folks in the military, they say games don’t teach you how to shoot a real gun,” he said. “You can play a flight simulator all you want but it doesn’t teach you how to fly a 747.”

Another expert says we need a more balanced understanding. Kevin Roberts, the author of “Cyber Junkie: Escape the Gaming and Internet Trap” and a video game addiction counselor, says he works with kids who have violent tendencies, but there is no research to suggest a videogame can cause those reactions more than any other entertainment media.

“Watching violent videos over time desensitizes people to the violence they see in videos, a fact that can literally be measured by brain scans,” he told FoxNews.com. “Playing violent video games arouses certain areas of the brain, leading to a feeling of intensity. But most people who watch violent movies or play violent video games will never turn to violence. However, people at risk for violence might be further induced down this path by both forms of media.”

For gamers thinking of storming the castle in October, there is no clear answer. No current research compares the effects of playing games to the effects of watching other media. What’s clear is that more violence is coming.

‘Frag him’: Video games ratchet up violence, blur line between fantasy and reality

call of duty 2 ghosts screen.jpg

Soldiers stalk through a ghostly, urban jungle of bombed-out buildings, approaching a pair of machine gun-toting enemies.

“Ok. I see two tangoes ahead. The closer one…take him out first,” orders a gravelly voice, as a German shepherd leaps onto one of the targets. Blood spurts from the fallen enemy, as he cries out in pain.

“Nice,” whispers the voice, as the soldier raises his machine gun to carefully sight the second of the two enemies.

The machine gun roars to life as the viewer watches the enemy mortally fall through a series of well-placed head shots.

If it all sounds like footage from an on-the-ground documentary out of the wars in Afghanistan, or Iraq, you would be wrong. The montage is just a 30-second sliver of a trailer for the soon-to-be published “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” the latest in an award-winning series of violent video games from Activison.


This is Part Two in a series exploring the connection between video games and violence.

Watch for Part Three tomorrow, which will explore how ultraviolent films differ from ultraviolent games.

Part One: ‘Training simulation: Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games

Part Two: ‘Frag him:’ With today’s ultraviolent video games, how real is too real?

Indeed, spurred by technological advances that have pushed the envelope of processor speeds, games like “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” — and their ilk — offer their legions of fans an increasingly immersive and realistic experience.

But in an era when the horrors of war are brought so vividly to anyone inclined to purchase, say, an Xbox or Playstation, the question becomes, “How real is too real?” and what are the long-term and potentially lasting effects of repeatedly – hour-after-hour-after-hour – participating in such violent simulations?

The American Psychological Association has already noted that “when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques … five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts and affect; increased physiological arousal and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.”

And according to a study published in the journal of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice in April 2013, “Violent video game playing is correlated with aggression…Based on data from a sample of institutionalized juvenile delinquents, behavioral and attitudinal measures relating to violent video game playing were associated with a composite measure of delinquency and a more specific measure of violent delinquency after controlling for the effects of screen time, years playing video games, age, sex, race, delinquency history and psychopathic personality traits. Violent video games are associated with anti-sociality.”

When it comes to video games, the industry has come a long way from Nintendo’s 1980s game “Duck Hunt,” in which players pointed a gun at screen and fired at crudely pixilated ducks flapping their way across a cloud-filled sky.

“Halo 4” was a top-selling, first-person shooter in 2012, a Microsoft-published simulation in which players stalk through a futuristic world armed with myriad weapons in a hunt for the next target on which to unleash their fantasy fury. Gameplay features a realistic lock-and-load function, where each time you fire your gun, the main character — MasterChief — jams another shell or cartridge into whatever is the current weapon of choice.

“Shrink your opponent and squash him with your foot. Freeze and shatter him. Attach explosives to his back. Roll a pipe bomb between his legs, or just frag him old-fashioned with a rocket.”

– Website for violent “Duke Nukem” videogame

In “Gears of War: Judgment,” another Microsoft game, play is reminiscent of the epic first 15 minutes of the film “Saving Private Ryan,” as armor-clad soldiers troop through a dystopic landscape on the hunt for Locust forces. Tracer fire zips and someone screams out, “Hostiles!” The screen erupts with combat, as the player alternate between a shotgun and machine gun. With each successful blast, your target explodes into a red plume.

“This is my kind of fight,” the player’s character yells after a successful kill, adding, “Take no prisoners.”

“Hyper-realistic and intense combat,” gushes the game’s description on Microsoft’s webpage. “In Gears of War, the battlefield is a lethal place [and] to foolishly stand out in the open is to invite an untimely demise.”

Consider Duke Nukem, the main character of the 2011 hit, “Duke Nukem Forever,” which the game’s maker, 2K Games, proclaims on its official site as, “the steroidal One Man Army who never fails and always gets the babes.”

“Shrink your opponent and squash him with your foot,” reads the website. “Freeze and shatter him. Attach explosives to his back. Roll a pipe bomb between his legs, or just frag him old-fashioned with a rocket.”

And many games now employ so-called “cinematics” – movie-like sequences that advance the storyline and plot.

In “Resident Evil 6,” – an installment of the popular series from Capcom – your pistol-packing character stares down a zombie. “Stay right where you are!” he commands as the zombie menacingly advances.

“Mr. President…don’t make me do this,” your character warns one final time, before unleashing a single round at point-blank range into the side of the zombie’s head. Blood and whatnot explode everywhere.

As the video game action gets more realistic and more violent, evidence that it does indeed affect the behavior of players is increasing, according to Dr. Michael Brody, a University of Maryland adjunct professor who chairs the media committee for the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

“There are all kinds of studies showing the connection between video game violence and aggressive acts and thoughts and affect,” Brody told FoxNews.com. “From my point of view, most video games and especially the successful ones, other than Madden Football, have to do with how many kills you make, and it pushes this general atmosphere of violence in this country… These video games where you win by shooting and killing…it’s definitely a public health problem.”

Of the games’ realism, Brody references chats he’s had with maimed veterans at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., many of them young men steeped in the gaming culture before going off to fight in a real war.

“More than one openly volunteered how they felt when they were going to Iraq they were going into a video game,” he said. “I didn’t ask them. They volunteered the comparison. And the military uses these games for simulation of real-life experiences. The games are very realistic and that’s the difference between them and T.V. and film. In games, you are using a mouse or a joystick and you are interacting with the content and that makes it much easier to internalize the violent actions that are going on.”

Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in Boston, disputes the idea that there is a link between aggression and interaction with violent video games – no matter what the level of realism.

“People seek a stimulus level that suits their needs,” Rutledge told FoxNews.com. “Some people play these games because it affords a certain level of arousal. That isn’t always a bad thing because, as you know, people perform better on a test if there is a slight level of stress. For a lot of kids, all of those games are about points and strategy and competition. And the realism heightens the experience and the attention of the player, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it equates in their minds to killing a person.

“They’re already in the context that this is a game, and the fact that the game is realistic heightens the immersion, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a game any more than playing ‘Battleship’ does with little plastic ships.”

But today’s violent games are well beyond little plastic ships.

In “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2,” released to great acclaim last year, a player begins in an armored vehicle with the U.S. president at their side. Los Angeles is under attack, and drones and helicopters fly overhead.

Suddenly, explosions scar the highway, and the president orders: “I want troops in the streets and these drones dealt with.”

She turns to you and asks, “What’s our next move?”

A moment later, you’re behind a flak cannon, blowing drones from the sky. Then you’re on the street, machine gun in hand, firing at will. Someone yells, “Be ready to move!” and the only thing that seems certain is that more intense action lies ahead.

‘Training simulation:’ Mass killers often share obsession with violent video games


A decade after Evan Ramsey sneaked a 12-gauge shotgun into his Alaska high school, where he gunned down a fellow student and the principal and wounded two others, he described how playing video games had warped his sense of reality.

“I did not understand that if I…pull out a gun and shoot you, there’s a good chance you’re not getting back up,” Ramsey said in a 2007 interview from Spring Creek Correctional Center, in Seward, Alaska. “You shoot a guy in ‘Doom’ and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in ‘Doom’ eight or nine times before it dies.”

Since Ramsey’s 1997 rampage, several other mass killers, including Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold and Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, have been linked to violent video games. And some experts worry that as the games get more violent and more realistic, so does their power to blur the line between fantasy and reality in alienated gamers.

‘It’s quite possible that playing this script out numerous times in the game influenced his decision-making — and that is in fact what he said.’

–  Dr. Paul Weigle, child and adolescent psychiatrist

“Doom,” the computer video game Ramsey described, was all the rage in the 1990s, but primitive by today’s standards, where gamers can play first-person shooters with movie-like graphics on high definition televisions.

“More than any other media, these video games encourage active participation in violence,” said Bruce Bartholow, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, who has studied the issue. “From a psychological perspective, video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence.”

Harris and Klebold, who killed 12 fellow students and a teacher in 1999, were reportedly obsessed with “Doom.” Seung-Hui Cho, the 23-year-old who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech University in 2007, was, according to the Washington Post, a big fan of violent video games, specifically “Counterstrike.”

Three more recent killers, Aurora, Colo., movie theater gunman James Holmes, Jared Lee Loughner, who killed six and injured 13, including Rep. Gabby Giffords, in a 2011 Arizona shooting, and Breivik, who killed 77 people in Oslo, all were active video game players.

Adam Lanza, the troubled 20-year-old behind last December’s school shooting in Connecticut which left 20 children and six adults dead, was an avid player of violent video games.
In some cases, murderers appear to have been reenacting specific video game episodes when they killed in real life.

“Anders Breivik said he actually used his video game ‘Call of Duty’ to train for mass murder,”  Dr. Paul Weigle, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Joshua Center, in Enfield, Conn., told FoxNews.com. “He called it training simulation. And certainly there were some reports Adam Lanza saw Breivik as a rival, and he was also engaged in shooting games and even the same one.”

Wiegel also cited the case of Devin Moore, an Alabama teen with no history of violence when he was brought in by police on a minor traffic violation. Once inside the police station, he took a gun from a police officer and shot three officers, then stole a police cruiser to make his escape.

“Life is a video game,” Moore, who said he was inspired by the game ‘Grand Theft Auto,’” told police later. “Everybody’s got to die sometime.”

“It’s quite possible that playing this script out numerous times in the game influenced his decision-making, and that is, in fact, what he said,” Wiegel said.

Advocates of victims of mass shootings have taken aim at the companies turning profits in the multibillion-dollar gaming industry. The parents of the victims killed or injured by Michael Carneal, a 14-year-old who fired upon a group of classmates at Heath High School in West Paducah, Ky., in 1997, filed suit against a host of video game manufacturers in relation to Carneal’s obsession with violent games including “Doom” and “Mortal Kombat.”

The case was dismissed in 2001, with the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that it was “simply too far a leap from shooting characters on a video screen to shooting people in a classroom.”

Several experts agree with the court decision, telling FoxNews.com that the link is either inconclusive, or that playing violent video games can at most be just one of several causes that prompts people to kill.

“I think it’s the wrong question — whether there is a link between mass shootings and violent video game play,” Dr. Doug Gentile, a research psychologist and associate professor at Iowa State University, told FoxNews.com. “I understand people want to look for a culprit, but the truth of the matter is that there is never one cause. There is a cocktail of multiple causes coming together. And so no matter what single thing we focus on, whether it be violent video games, abuse as a child, doing drugs, being in a gang — not one of them is sufficient to cause aggression. But when you start putting them together, aggression becomes pretty predictable.”

Dr. Phyllis Koch-Sheras, past president of the American Psychological Association’s Society of Media Psychology and Technology, said the link between fantasy violence on computer or television screens and real violence that leaves people injured or dead needs more study.

“We have to be very careful about saying what causes what,” Koch-Sheras said. “There is a lot of debate on the issue. But this much is certain: We need to definitely be studying this more before the violent video games run amok.”


source: FoxNews

8 yr old boy fatally shoots 90 yr old relative after playing GTA IV

Louisiana authorities say an 8-year-old boy intentionally shot and killed a 90-year-old woman who was his caregiver after watching a video game with violent themes.

East Feliciana Parish sheriff’s deputies did not provide a motive, but they said the boy was playing the video game “Grand Theft Auto IV” — a realistic game that’s been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people — just minutes before the fatal shooting. The game is rated “M” for mature audiences and recommended for ages 17 and older.

Authorities are calling the shooting a homicide.

They said it happened shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday at the Country Breeze Mobile Home Park off La. Highway 67 east of Slaughter.

Sgt. Kevin Garig told The Advocate that the identities of both the shooter and the victim are being withheld to protect the identity of the juvenile. Garig said the woman died after suffering at least one gunshot wound to the head. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

WAFB-TV reports the sheriff’s office said that although the child told investigators that he accidentally shot the woman while playing with a firearm, evidence has led investigators to believe the child intentionally shot her in the back of the head while she was watching television.

Authorities said the woman was the child’s caregiver. Garig said the shooting involved relatives.

The community is said to be in shock over the incident.

“Where did she have the gun?” neighbor Johnnie Scott asked. “Where did he see the gun, was it in his eyesight? That’s the thought that goes through my head,” Scott told Fox8live.com.

“From a behavior therapy perspective, I would say that’s practicing,” Kristopher Kaliebe, a LSU Health Sciences Center child psychologist told Fox8live.com.

“So if you have a video game where someone shoots at a target, that’s sort of practicing shooting at a target. When you havea  video game that is shooting at a human being, that is practicing shooting at a human being,” Kaliebe said.

The child was released to his parents Thursday night.

Louisiana law prohibits authorities from charging the child with a crime because of his age, the sheriff’s office said. The law states: “Those who have not reached the age of 10 years are exempt from criminal responsibility. However, nothing in this article shall affect the jurisdiction of juvenile courts as established by the constitution and statutes of this state.”

The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

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.