The Problems Video Games Cause

Johnny Apocalypse

April 1, 2007

Mario PacmanDo video games cause violence?  Does playing Grand Theft Auto and Resident Evil really drive one to mayhem and murder?  Did your son unleash an M-16 at a Star Trek convention from playing too much Halo?  Maybe you think your daughter drove that greyhound bus into a Starbucks because she spent one hour too many playing Command and Conquer?

I’m not saying yes and I’m not saying no.  Not because I don’t already have an opinion on this, but because chances are you only have your own opinion.  From what I’ve seen of the human race, if the greatest philosophers, scientists and honest politicians across the whole of history collaborated on refuting the idea that these games do/do not incite violence, and they did an incredible and irrefutable job on proving their point, chances are those on the opposing side won’t budge an inch.  So I’m not going to waste your time.

Instead, I am here today to say that video game violence is nothing new.  Ever since there have been games, pixels have been shot, beaten to death, slapped around and taunted.  The moment some guy created pong in his garage he was trying to figure out how to blow up the white lines.  If fact, if we look back at the whole of video game history, I’m certain that we’ll see that these “harmless” games from back in the day are anything but.

Furthermore, violence isn’t the only problem with video games.  They foster an detachment from reality, encourage drug use and overeating and can lead to people thinking that real life needs better graphics.

Super Mario Bros. -

That’s right, I’m claiming that Super Mario is violent.  Frankly, I don’t see how anyone can disagree.  If we handled our problems the way Mario does, we would be stomping people to death all over the place.  Do you want your kids jumping off of the couch, trying to turn their siblings into a goombah-pancake?  Or maybe throwing turtle shells at people’s shins?  Maybe they’ll even get the delusion that they can shoot fireballs from their mouth (a delusion I suffer from to this day).

Straight out of level one we encounter mind-numbing violence.  Mario takes two steps and jumps on a walking mushroom.  At the end of every fourth level he throws he throws a giant lizard into a pool of lava.  Further more, Mario is killing everything around him for money and a woman.  Sure, they dress it up in the game by saying that the woman’s a princess and the money will give them extra lives, but the lesson’s the same.  If you want to get laid and make some cash, you’ve got to jump on people’s heads to do it.  This Machiavellian nonsense hasn’t done anything to make the world a better place.

Donkey Kong

Once again that Mario punk is going on the warpath to get some booty.  In this “classic” game, our hero climbs ladders and jumps over barrels to save the princess from a deranged gorilla.  However, if you actually decide to pay attention to the story line of the video game you discover that the gorilla is Mario’s pet, and that Mr. Kong escaped and kidnapped the woman because the Italian jerk mistreated him.  Now you take on the role of the animal abusing prick!  I don’t know why PETA hasn’t protested this game yet.

Furthermore, this game shows an uncharacteristically violent gorilla.  Sure, when they get angry they really smash stuff, but they tend to be pretty laid back.  Just the other day I was at the zoo and a little kid pointed at an ape and said “Mommy, why is the big monkey just sleeping?  I thought they threw barrels around and kidnapped women.  This is boring!”

Luckily I was there to set the kid straight.  “First, gorillas are not part of the monkey family.  They’re great apes, like orangutans.  Second, they only get angry when you provoke them.  Third, I’ve never once heard of a gorilla actually kidnapping a person.”  But alas, the kid was not impressed and the mother got upset when I asked for some spare change.  Long story short, this game has warped kids enough that they want violent nonsense instead of a brief lesson in primate anthropology.

Pac-Man -

This here is a game which promotes any variety of problems, up to and not including obesity, drug abuse and seriously distorts the fine line between courage and stupidity.  Sure, it looks innocent enough, but with the right mixture if insight and paranoia you can see that it’s one of the worst creations in the history of man.

You start the game in a maze, eating little dots while avoiding ghosts.  The next level, you’re eating little dots while avoiding ghosts.  And so it goes for more levels then can be counted, thus making it so addictive.  But that’s part of the problem; by fulfilling Pac-Man’s desire to eat everything in sight we are taught that it’s okay for us to eat everything in sight.  Everyone complains about America being the most overweight nation in the world, but they only blame our abundance of food and our lack of awareness of people who are starving in other parts of the world.  The sad truth is that Pac-Man is to blame for America ’s weight problem (that, and the fact that playing video games all day isn‘t going to get you ready for any marathons).

So what’s worse then a video game that causes over-eating?  A game that simultaneously promotes obesity and encourages drug use.  Next time you’re helping Mr. Pac get his fill of dots, watch what happens when he eats the big dot.  Your yellow circle starts hallucinating that the ghosts have turned blue, and he suddenly thinks he can eat them.  Plenty of drugs cause hallucinations and we’ve heard the urban legend of the baby-sitter getting stoned and eating the children, so now we see the root cause.  Four times per level you can get Pac-Man hammered and send him on a violent rampage.  Looks to me like someone’s taking an inordinate amount of PCP.  Is this what you want to teach your kids?  Because it’s certainly what I want to teach mine.

Finally, Pac-Man also shows an inappropriate amount of courage in face of danger.  There is no doubt that it’s a good thing to face our fears, but you don‘t conquer a fear of death by shooting yourself in the head.  Ghosts are scary for a reason, and that’s because they’re vicious, immortal killing machines.  I know from personal research that if you try to eat a ghost, that poltergeist is going to kick your ass.  No amount of courage and kung-fu proficiency is going to save you here.  If you want to take a bite out of a ghost, expect to live in a house of pain.

Contra -

While this is some of the most fun you’ll have playing video games, it’s also horrifically unrealistic.  You play one guy taking on an army of attacking aliens from another planet.  Not the entire United State Army, not one brigade or one platoon, one guy.  Furthermore, all of these aliens have traveled a few light years to get here, which is technologically beyond anything we can even comprehend.  So now this game is trying to convince us that one person stands a chance against a race of beings so far beyond our own remarkable advances?  Bullshit.

The sad truth is that if aliens came here to conquer the planet, we’re fucked.  We’re so fucked it’s not even funny.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s better to go down fighting, but I have no deluded optimism that the entire human race will pull a win for the home team, so I’m sure as hell not going to put all of my faith into one guy.  He’d have better luck taking on the combined armies of China and Australia then aliens.

So there you have it.  Maybe video games were the root cause of the L.A. Riots, the Crusades and Gigli, but if so then they definitely have caused many more problems as well.  Overconfidence in your species, sex as a reward for murder and greed, cruelty towards animals… you name it and there is a video game to blame.  But with the proper mindset and enough intelligence to know the difference between your real life and the adventures of the guy on your computer screen, some of these problems can be averted.  Remember: just because Pac-Man eats everything in sight doesn’t mean you have to.

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