Video Games and Violence— A Truly Honest Discussion

Blake GeFellers
5 min readMar 18, 2018

Last week, President Trump met with very specific individuals to hold a meeting on video game violence on the premise that video games are glorifying violence and “creating monsters”, a sentiment he shared in 2012, but that he clearly still believes to be true today. This meeting was a distraction set up in response to the Parkland shooting, to put it plainly.

In attendance were several individuals selected by Trump against the industry including Melissa Henson, and Lt. Col Dave Grossman (who, interestingly, provides military training to police officers, and wrote a book based wholly on lies about video games.). Representing the gaming industry was Strauss Zelnick (the CEO of Rockstar Games), Robert Altman (the CEO of ZeniMax), and Mike Gallagher of the Entertainment Software Association (The ESA).

Without even reading any further, or having read any other article on this subject, you can imagine how incredibly one-sided this “discussion” was, despite the representation we had. But, the industry is not to be bullied, and made sure to remind everyone present that gaming is protected by the First Amendment, and that there are no connections at all to be made between violent behavior and video games.

The Government, yet again, instead of taking appropriate actions, and taking responsibility, is taking several steps backward.

Way back.

Like to the 90’s.

The scapegoat of yet another shooting is video games.

I won’t belabor the point that video games don’t cause violence, or violent behavior. Because, they don’t, and I believe most people are aware of this, and there have been multiple studies done to support this.

What I want to talk about is something Trump said. We’re going to have that honest talk everyone wants to have.

Trump, in his infinite wisdom, said last week that there should be a rating system for video games.

People immediately let him know that that very system has been in place for many years; It must be something else.

The ESRB was established on September 16, 1994, after hearings earlier in 1992 that blamed video games for the “corruption” of society at large, not just the youth of America. Because, society was so peaceful before video games, right? Is this sounding familiar?

The ESRB is by no means perfect. But what is? What rating system do we have that is perfect? There isn’t one.

Ultimately, the ESRB is no different than the systems used by movies and music. If anything, it is stricter, and often rates games in a more mature manner than they should be for silly things. An example: a “‘T’ for ‘Teen’” game getting marked up to an “‘M’ for ‘Mature’” because there’s a bottle of beer in a scene or a woman has a low-cut shirt on. Careful, that one will get you the “sexual themes” mark on your box.

Parents, when your kid listens to a song you don’t think is suitable for them to be listening to, say a rap song or something, you shut it down. More probable, even, is that you have already listened to whatever it is they have downloaded, and already passed judgment on it.

If you have taken them to see a movie, chances are you have already viewed the trailer with or before them to see what the content of the movie is and the rating. At the very least you have looked at the poster, seen the rating, and decided whether you’d take them to see it at all.

Tell me then, why on Earth would you not check out a game your kid wants prior to purchasing it? Where’s the logic in that?

I’ll save you the trouble of answering that — There isn’t any.

This is much bigger than just a simple PSA about the ESRB. This is about knowing what you are buying your children. Sit down and engage with them in this activity. Learn what they’re interested in, determine what you think they can and can’t handle, or should and shouldn’t see.

Video games aren’t for kids anymore. I think that’s something that needs to be said also. If we’re having an actual honest discussion. Sure, there are games made for kids, and a ton of stuff rated “’E’ for ‘Everyone’”, but you must realize — games grew up with people my age and older.

I am 28, and the average age of a gamer is 35. We grew up playing games, and, again, these games grew up with us. Hell, some of us even help make them now! Yes, of course, there is violence in games, just as there is in movies, books, and music.

Life isn’t pretty. These art forms must explore that sometimes.

But, these things also explore how wonderful and beautiful life can be (and often is). Days after the joke of a meeting, Games for Change, an organization that seeks to demonstrate the positive role video games can have on our lives, put out their own 88-second video in response to Trump’s cherry-picked video. Trump’s video showed only a handful of clips from a handful of games depicting violence.

The video from Games for Change is the same length, but features 20 different games from 20 different developers, and shows beauty and artistry that only video games can offer. Sweeping landscapes, filled with vivid green grass, tall snowy mountains and friends embracing are found in this short montage. Please, have a look:

Many of the games in the video are rated “T” or “E”, but a handful are rated “M”. And, guess what? The few rated “M” deal with (you’ll want to take a seat for this one, Debra) mature themes. It’s almost like they were written for adults.

Holy shit. Real mind blower there, sorry.

In all seriousness though. Pay attention. I realize most people reading this are probably in agreement with me. So, I’m “preaching to the choir”, as it were. But, for those of you who are in the minority of individuals in the U.S who don’t play video games (and, yes, you are the minority), take note.

It’s worth mentioning; I had to look up a video game rating when writing this to check the rating of a game in the video from Games for Change (just to make sure it was, in fact, “M”). It took me about .5 seconds to type in the title of the game + the phrase “ESRB rating”, and press “enter”. It was super easy. And I don’t even have any kids.

If you’re reading this and haven’t done that for your kid; you are part of the problem.

If what we truly want is to have an honest discussion, let’s have it. A child’s behavior starts developing at home. If you, as a parent, are so irresponsible as to not even take a second of your time to check a rating board, you are to blame.

Take ownership. Because the problem isn’t video games, or any other form of media, for that matter. It starts at home, with you, the parent.

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Blake GeFellers

Gamer, and all things Square Enix fan. Try things for yourself and form your own opinions. You won't find reviews coming from me, just honest thoughts.