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What Game Violence Can Teach 62

An anonymous reader writes "Julian Murdoch from GamersWithJobs asks the question 'Can game violence be good?' in a provocative article entitled The Red Suit. After a week playing Introversion Software's Wargames-inspired nuke game Defcon, his answer is that it can be, if not good, then at least informative. 'I admit that in a rousing teamspeak game of Defcon I am not drawn into bouts of real-time reflection. But on closing down the game for the night, I find myself oddly thoughtful: sad, reflective, a bit fragile. But not upset, and not wanting to wipe the game off my hard drive. Violence in games can teach us things. It can reach us in ways beyond mere titillation. It's all about context.'"
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What Game Violence Can Teach

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  • Many people know what MAD means. However they can't quite graps WHAT it means. Defcon can kind of show you that. When it announces a"winner" it almost feel sarcastic to me. Then you look at your casualties.
    • by vertinox ( 846076 ) on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @01:36PM (#16294251)
      Many people know what MAD means. However they can't quite graps WHAT it means. Defcon can kind of show you that. When it announces a"winner" it almost feel sarcastic to me. Then you look at your casualties.

      I'm addicted to Defcon and realized I have started to think like the guys at Norad. I consider having more than 50 million people left a victory.

      My goal is to simply find and destroy all silos first through conventional weaponry and save my silos for the very last moment... Which means I sacrifice a few cities in the process by not defending them.

      Often times this is sucessful and I can use subs and bombers to hit the silos before they can launch more than 5 nukes in which my missle defense units can handle.

      However, if they get 6 nukes in the air at any given target, my systems are hard pressed to get them all.

      That said, I know that 6+ nukes at any target will get through if I time it so they all fire within 10 seconds of each other. That and if the sub is close enough to the city, I don't even have to shoot more than one nuke.

      It makes me wonder if the strategists sitting in bunkers in the Rocky Mountains or in Siberia had pondered on these same issues... How many millions of people are we willing to let die in order to win? Or how many do we need to kill?

      Defcon has a neat system of genocide vs survival mode in which one game you try to kill as many wheras the other you try to take as less casualties as possible. I've been doing a few Diplomacy games, but those never work out because someone drops and everyone just hits the AI...
      • by nasch ( 598556 )
        It makes me wonder if the strategists sitting in bunkers in the Rocky Mountains or in Siberia had pondered on these same issues...
        In another sign of our times, they're closing down the NORAD facility under Cheyenne Mountain and moving it to another (cheaper) location in the Colorado Springs area. I believe it will be open for tours when they're done. Bizarre thought.
        • I've only gotten to play the demo so far, so 1v1. I near the end of defcon 2 i send fighters out and find the silos, by then my bombers tend to reach enemy land, the AA is tied up on the massive number of fighters and my bombers launch nukes so close to teh target that i can hit most of their silos with 3 nukes. The moment they lanch a nuke my subs hit thier silos, then i retreat. I might lose one or 2 cities, but usually less. If my subs survive , i lose some to fighters, they come back in around the time
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 )
        Diplomacy is an interesting versus AI mode. The best design idea they had in that mode is not letting allies see your subs without sonar. I wanted to tryout a little cold war style senario today, 2 territories: America and Europe for me; Russia and South Asia for the AI. I intended to make every possible decision towards ultimatly wiping out the AI in a massive first strike, just to kind of see what the whole Cold war scare was. Bombers in Alaska; Navy's surrounding them; subs where their navys were not; I
    • Bravo Romeo Delta [the-underdogs.info].

      I always play as the Soviets. Partly because nuking the living crap out of America is enormous fun, but also because I've no idea of Russian geography and wouldn't know what to aim at. Is Skahaterakinskograd a major city? Fuck knows, but if I nuke Chicago I know I'm going to piss someone right off.

  • Games are supposed to be a way to virtually get out frustrations that are illegal and wrong to do in real life. If you aren't capable of making the distinction between fantasy and real life, and if your fantasies involve killing people or whatever, then violent games are NOT FOR YOU!
    • Games are supposed to be a way to virtually get out frustrations that are illegal and wrong to do in real life. If you aren't capable of making the distinction between fantasy and real life, and if your fantasies involve killing people or whatever, then violent games are NOT FOR YOU!

      While this is partially/sometimes true for some people, I don't play games like GTA: San Andreas or whatever because I want to kill people but I know its illegal. I play games because they are fun, they are a bit of an escape fr
      • by HTH NE1 ( 675604 )
        Comparatively, one might argue that multiplayer games are different because the "toon" that you are mowing down or cleaving with a 2-handed sword is really another person. Well, I say the same thing to that, its a game, and I know I'm not causing actual physical harm to those people directly.

        Now if you or the other player is a cheater or griefer....
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by misleb ( 129952 )
        In short, those people are just stupid, and should be removed from the gene pool.


        Oh, the irony!

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Games are supposed to be a way to virtually get out frustrations that are illegal and wrong to do in real life.

      Actually I'd have said "games let you me fun things I'd never get to do in real life". Like being a Jedi, or flying a fighter plane, or having sex.

      None of these things are necessarily illegal, but I just don't get to do them.

      That said why aren't there more sex simulators? (checks to see if "post anonymous" is on)
    • by misleb ( 129952 )

      Games are supposed to be a way to virtually get out frustrations that are illegal and wrong to do in real life. If you aren't capable of making the distinction between fantasy and real life, and if your fantasies involve killing people or whatever, then violent games are NOT FOR YOU!

      I think it is more complicated than than. Running your brain over violent situations repeatedly will strengthen those neuropathways. Even if you do make a conscious distinction between fantasy and rea life, you still have thos

    • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
      Not necessarily. Lots of game violence is really just a medium conducting the gameplay. I could fabricate an alternate reality where the world breaks down into virtual tag games where I construct low-fire exploding laser tubes that shoot slow-light that bursts into bigger light that will tag a person and decrease their health by picking up the light on sensors covering their body. Some tubes fire instant lasers that reduce health. Also, we have flags that follow players if you walk up and touch them that yo
    • > If you aren't capable of making the distinction between fantasy and real life,

      How would you know this?
  • What? (Score:1, Troll)

    by pupstah ( 78267 )
    Where can I get in on the "write absolutely anything about video games and violence and get paid" gig? :(
  • That freaking soundtrack in DEFCON is incredible, but always puts me into a rather meloncholy mood. Reminds me of highly emotive version of what some of the Fallout themes were.
  • ...that the already low standards for becoming an attorney can be lowered even more by the right dingleberry objecting to it [wikipedia.org].
  • Rather than the question, "Can violence be good?" the more interesting point of the article to me is the difference between real, personal violence as opposed to abstract, wipe-out-billions-with-one-blow violence. The author finds that playing the part of an attacker in a rape prevention class is both draining and emotionally disturbing, as might be expected. Then he compares that to virtually blowing away an entire country, which he finds disquieting in an abstract way, but not particulary emotionally to
    • This demonstrates one of the dangers of discussing violence in videogames: there is no way we can experience the same visceral reaction to videogame violence that we do to real violence. Trying to compare real world violence to videogame violence is like reading about climbing about Mount Everest and actually doing it; a superficial similarity, but not the same thing.

      Um, why do we have to experience the same reaction to violence in order to be able to discuss it in videogames? How is this "dangerous"? Wha
      • by misleb ( 129952 )
        I didn't get any impression that the grand parent was trying to be the "moral arbiter" of anything. When he said it is "dangerous" to discuss violence in video games, he was saying that we need to be careful not to equate the two forms of violence (abstract and real). Not that the actual discussion is dangerous.

        You totally overreacted... probably because you play too many violent video games. ;-)

        -matthew
    • This demonstrates one of the dangers of discussing violence in videogames: there is no way we can experience the same visceral reaction to videogame violence that we do to real violence. Trying to compare real world violence to videogame violence is like reading about climbing about Mount Everest and actually doing it; a superficial similarity, but not the same thing.

      The problem with your superficial examination is that it fails to take into consideration real world experience that denies your thesis. I.E

  • Of course it can be good.
    War sims, like America's Army, can obviously be put to good use in training and preparing soldiers for urban settings, teaching them to think critically in a "big picture" sense and visualize the entire battlefield, etc...
    The more important question is does violence "teach" gamers anything in a real world sense of the issue, and I'd say the answer is a resounding no.
    Not that they're incapable of it, but rather that games today aren't developed to teach us life-long moral lesso
    • You sir must be a terrorist for disagreeing with the establishment. We will be coming to get you, right after we track down this "Moral-Laden" of which you speak... presumably he's Osama's third-cousin-twice-removed, or something. Don't suppose you could tell us where he is, by any chance?
  • I suggest people checking out Defcon. It is a lot of fun. I showed my buddy a game last night. When explaining how to tell who won, I explained that it wasn't so much about who won, but who lost least. :-) I don't get quite as much into this game, as the author does, though. It is a fun diversion, that I am surprised no one thought about doing years ago.
    • by daranz ( 914716 )

      There've been games about exchanging nukes before, but none of them were as popular as Defcon, and most of them didn't concentrate solely on nuclear exchange. I can't say if they were worse or better, since, not being a huge fan of Introversion's games, I never played Defcon.

      Take Superpower [mobygames.com] for example. Besides conventional warfare, you could also enter nuclear mode in the game, and exchange some nukes with the nastier of your neighbors. If I recall correctly, the game also had a MAD-meter, which would be

      • Um, missile command [wikipedia.org] anyone?

        There've been games about exchanging nukes before, but none of them were as popular as Defcon, and most of them didn't concentrate solely on nuclear exchange. I can't say if they were worse or better, since, not being a huge fan of Introversion's games, I never played Defcon.
      • Oh, I have seen other games along these lines. I have always wanted to try the board game, Supremecy... but have been kind of intimidated by it, as well. Anyhow, what I was more referring to, was the take on the game. It is really, almost a total ripoff of Wargames. :-) That is more what I was surprised no one had done. Defcon is well executed, and enjoyable.
  • by netcrusher88 ( 743318 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (88rehsurcten)> on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:45PM (#16293389)

    The poster writes that when he comes away from a game of Defcon, he feels reflective, kind of sad, about it. I think that's exactly what Introversion Software wants. It's a great game, yeah, but when you play for a while and then notice, for the first time, distorted coughs and crying played randomly as part of the soundtrack, it kind of makes you stop and think. It's like, damn, I did that.

    I think most games are not capable of teaching the dark side of violence. I hate to keep going back to it, but GTA is convenient here. You get points for killing. Other, less controversial games, too. Most FPS's, to an extent. Even that one racing game (Burnout?) where one game mode involves causing as much damage as you possibly can. Most games depict a cartoonish, unreal, detached violence.

    Not to sound like an advertisement, but I got the same feeling of the violence making you think in Introversion's Darwinia, too. You get attached to the Darwinians, and then you have to send hordes of them to battle the virus infection. And when they do kill viruses, you have to go collect the souls of virus and Darwinian alike.

    Personally, I'd like to see more games that have a more realistic depiction of violence.
    • GTA teaches two really important lessens:

      No matter how good a driver you think you are, if you drive recklessly fast your car is going to get banged up and will probably end in a fiery crash.

      If you push the law, you can run but in the end the police are going to bust you and usually in a particularly violent manner.

    • I think most games are not capable of teaching the dark side of violence. I hate to keep going back to it, but GTA is convenient here. You get points for killing. Other, less controversial games, too. Most FPS's, to an extent. Even that one racing game (Burnout?) where one game mode involves causing as much damage as you possibly can. Most games depict a cartoonish, unreal, detached violence.

      DEFCON is that, but to an extreme [hylobatidae.org] - you are so utterly detached from the millions of people you are killing that some
      • you are so utterly detached from the millions of people you are killing that somehow the mind fills in the blanks, and makes things far worse.

        Oh, you mean like the people who actually have their fingers on buttons in nuclear silos?

        I don't know if I'm just old, or what, but back in the 80s we were all so afraid for our lives because of a nagging sensation (perhaps reinforced by "Dr. Strangelove" and "WarGames") that the people running the show didn't really care whether we died or not. In the event of a war
    • I hate to keep going back to it, but GTA is convenient here. You get points for killing.
      This sort of statement makes me wonder if you've actually played GTA at all. It's true that many of the missions require you to kill, but in general game play there is virtually no reward for killing (just an amount of cash so small it's rarely worth the time to pick it up).
  • Is it strange that I keep seeing that game being plugged everywhere?

    I mean it's cool and all, and yes, I've seen the movie "Wargames" and I've expected a game like this to ventually be made...

    But I'm seeing it everywhere on the sites I normally frequent, and in casual talk, and I expect it'll be in the news for a bit, and I'm wondering if we're unwittingly participating in some sort of "Snakes on a Plane" type of marketing scheme.
    • Is it strange that I keep seeing that game being plugged everywhere?

      Not really. It's by a miniscule British games development ... studio? Development bedroom might be more accurate - whose previous games have been lauded as both artistically interesting and retro-innovative in gameplay. The official marketing budget is probably around £2.50 (which they'll probably spend down the pub) - so in the spirit of helping the apparent underdog, everyone seems more than happy to help them out.

      And to make it all
  • by Drake42 ( 4074 ) * on Tuesday October 03, 2006 @12:57PM (#16293565) Homepage
    Who in their right mind would enter a real war scenariou after playing a few rounds of counter-strike?
    I used to be very good, top of the server for ten games streaks. Almost never did I survive every single round. If I can't survive after extensive in-game training with nerfed weapons what makes me think I'd survive a real war where people are really honest trying to make my life stop.

    GTA is a tonne of fun, but how much would I pay it if every wrecked car involved watching my character sit in the hospital for two weeks? Only a moron doesn't make that connection.

    Killing thousands of zombies in Dead Rising doesn't make me think, 'hey killing people is easy' except to the extent that I think 'hey, if it's this easy for me to kill somebody, then it's that easy for someone to kill me. Shit.'

    Personally I'd like violent games to come with the insane warning stickers you see on appliances:

    WARNING: If you try this in Real Life you will LOSE LIMBS, ENTER A VEGATIVE STATE or DIE PAINFULLLY.
    WARNING: Save game technology DOES NOT EXIST in Real LIfe
    WARNING: Acceptable in-game behavior may result in getting A KNEE SLAMMED INTO YOUR CROTCH in Real Life

    • Personally I'd like violent games to come with the insane warning stickers you see on appliances

      I agreed with your post up until that point, for the simple reason that I feel you shouldn't have to. In the past, people have criticised other mediums for being violent, TV being a perfect example. There was one notorious critic here in the UK who claimed that the children's cartoon Tom and Jerry was too violent. The anti-video-game lot is just the latest incarnation of this sort of thing - as my Mum likes t

    • If I can't survive after extensive in-game training with nerfed weapons what makes me think I'd survive a real war where people are really honest trying to make my life stop.

      It's easier to kill people in a game than it is in real life, and anyone who isn't a crazed Muslim is more or less afraid to die. If real life was like CS, every SWAT or special forces operation would result in insane amounts of casualties, and the US military death toll in Iraq would be in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

    • The big difference is, a lot of the people who kill the server leaders are the ones who die in every round, because of the risks they take. If those people take that risk in real life before they have an oppurtunity to kill you, they don't come back in the next round...
  • Interesting article, reading it felt like a short story competition. I love to hear about positive violence in games, but what is positive about violence? What your fighting for could be positive...or like max payne you could be getting revenge for the death of your family...somewhat positive..? I still don't understand the difference between what is portrayed in a movie and what happens in a pixelated game. Games are entertainment, it is the entertainment industry, what is so different about pointing a
    • Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.0.1)
      game1 /gem/ noun, adjective, gamer, gamest, verb, gamed, gaming.
      -noun
      1. an amusement or pastime: children's games.

      "Useful game" is an oxymoronic idea. Yes, SOME games can teach SOME skills, but saying that a game itself, or worse yet the violence in a game, is useful is like arguing that shooting heroine is good because junkies learn about hypodermics and injections.

      Games are GAMES. There are no good games or bad games, just good and bad people.
  • ... was Chu Chu Rocket. There's nothing like putting four friends in a high pressure timed situation where your sole objective is to not only accumulate points, but to screw over the other players in the process. Chu Chu Rocket was the only game which made my taciturn friend Chris (who never says anything mean or nasty) curse like a sailor and made my friend Mike physically hit me. To this day, the words "Cat Mania!" evokes the war cry "Defend yourself, violently if necessary!" *grin*

    I'm told that Mario
    • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )
      There were a couple shareware and platform games which did this to me in my youth:

      - Counter-Strike, at LAN parties
      - Rock'n'Roll Racing on SNES or Genesis
      - Comet Blasters! - a shareware a friend downloaded from AOL back in '96 or so
      - TANKS! - the old-school DOS game
      - a game I can't recall which was similar to Comet Blasters! in that it had tanks and helocopters - kinda a vs. mode version of "Jackal" for the NES, if you remember that one.
      - Rampage! for the NES

      I should note that these were also some of my favo
  • In The Godfather, which I've been addicted to lately, you are taught that violence has consequences.

    While it is an open world game in the GTA style, consequences can be much more serious than getting chased by police. There are multiple rivals gangs, and taking back Corleone turf means taking it away from them. There are several ways to do this, but some of them require violence (it is The Godfather, after all).

    If you anger a gang enough, they'll start a mob war, and all hell breaks lose as your family an
  • I learned several things playing GTA:

    * Don't run from the cops. You'll probably get killed.
    * Don't get involved in drugs, violence, gangs, etc. You'll probably get killed.
    * If you lead 1/10th of the life of this character, you'll probably get killed about 1/10th the number of times you die in the game. Which is about 30. But in real life, you don't auto-rez at a hospital after plummeting off a cliff on a BMX or kamikaze dive-bombing a cessna into a crowded mall.

    I strongly think extreme video game violen
    • by Gulthek ( 12570 )
      But the death of a human being *didn't* occur. A collection of pixels changed status and lost the right to freely move around the game world. Even a child knows that video games aren't real before age 6.
  • Playing Day of Defeat has taught me that my life expectancy as an infantryman in combat is about three minutes. Which just so happens to coincide with real life. Generals use these life expectancy numbers to determine whether or not enough of their men will survive to hold the ground they expect to take.

    And it's also taught me that everything you ever learned about combat in movies is bullshit. But then I kinda knew that already anyway.

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