May 26, 2022 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Computer Game Violence and the Real McCoy:

On Wednesday, Nov. 3 the business section of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Supreme Court would review a California law that would forbid the sale of violent video games to those under age 18. Groups supporting that California ban and opposed to hi-tech violence games for kids see the games as a health hazard, which is a stronger position than most of us take when shaking our heads and sighing, “What’s next?” as children spend hours interactively engaged with detailed representations of killing, mutilation, and blowing human bodies into pieces.

One day before that article appeared in the Times, five year-old Aaron Shannon Jr. died. He had been shot in the head in his own backyard in South L.A. on Halloween because he happened to be standing near an exchange of gang gunfire in the alley behind his house, while standing in the Spiderman costume he was excited to be wearing for Halloween. In fifty pages of well-crafted text, I could never hope to establish a causal relationship between that murder and violent video games. I can merely observe that the murder of Aaron showed a callous disregard for life and a level of belief that gun violence resolves conflict, two elements that are inarguably part of what we might call the aesthetics of violent video games. Along with the “kickass” audio and visual gratifications.

In hearing the grounds for the appeal of the California ban, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts is mentioned in the Times article for citing scenes from the video game “Postal 2” in which girls are smashed in the face with a shovel and their bodies set on fire. There’s really no need to detail at length the specifics of violent video games, since unless you’ve been living off the planet you’ve had some sort of contact with these games. Inspired by the huge profitability of games such as the “Grand Theft Auto” series, it’s reasonable to assert that competitors of the company making the “Auto” product have been looking to up the ante.

Ultimately, the question of kid access to violent video games rests with parents, or what we often call “adults.” But larger questions of “Why?” uncomfortably sit with all of us. Why do we have otherwise intelligent people working in well-ventilated buildings fabricating something like what Justice Roberts described? Why is there a voracious market for this content, when you realize that you can’t sell 17 million copies of “Grand Theft Auto IV” and 20 million copies of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” without parents and adults making most of those purchases? Why are we in denial about the celebration of violence in these games, and then feigning consternation over young murder suspects involved in real gun violence such as those in the Aaron Shannon Jr. killing? Why are we not pausing to consider that even if there isn’t provable connectivity between video violence and real violence, we should at least be concerned with how these games reduce our children to brutish simpletons during their use?

That’s about as far as I can go, since it’s all painfully obvious and you don’t need me to put these pieces together. And yet for now, we’re not asking deeper questions about ourselves. We’re only wrestling with whether or not the Supreme Court or any branch of government should be acting to restrain the banal stupidity of violent video games and children’s access to it.

This column has taken some heat in the past for suggesting that certain things are irrefutably dumb and that we need to embrace them as such in order to have forward-moving dialogues. But this time, I’m leaving the door open: I’m challenging any reader to submit to opinion@smmirror.com any view that there is some or any value whatsoever intrinsic to violent video games. Write me and explain in what ways video games such as “Postal 2” and “Grand Theft Auto” are good. Good in any conceivable way. Make any argument that you think works and I will happily include those arguments, without prejudicial preamble of any kind, in a follow-up column next week.

It is here that I should mention that my own generation’s embrace of realistic violence in such films as “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas” unquestionably lighted the hallway we’re walking down right now. The violence in “Taxi Driver” was electrifying the first time I viewed that film, and I own a DVD copy of it. I watch that film, but I don’t “play” a “Taxi Driver” video game in which I interactively rack up a big score for killing people. Psychologists may feel this is a very fine splitting of hairs, or even that there’s no difference between the two activities.

Pop culture has a tendency to create loops, with each successive pass turning the volume up louder. Last Sunday night I watched “The Walking Dead”, a new zombie TV series on AMC. In one scene, which was preceded by a viewer warning, surviving humans chopped a cadaver into pieces with a fire axe. Then they rubbed their clothing with the viscera produced, so that the smell of death would protect them from being detected as humans by zombies. It’s likely that early zombie movies inspired increased graphic violence in zombie video games, and now the level of violence in the video games is inspiring new and lovelier violence in zombie TV shows. “The Walking Dead” may have something on its mind about society or even our basic humanity, but right now it’s succeeding on its graphic violence. By succeeding I mean making money for its creators and distributors. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the one “good” thing that we all know is present in the mix?

in Opinion
Related Posts

​​Doubt Removed: Oil Refiners Gouging Us

May 23, 2022

May 23, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist There was some room for doubt back in February, when gasoline prices rose precipitously: Until the...

Is the Big Housing Crunch Mostly Fiction?

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist In some parts of California, there is definitely a housing crunch: small supplies of homes for...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better & Not Necessary! – Part 2

May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022

The dream of our beachfront city is about to become a nightmare! Just imagine a tsunami of these projects washing...

Column From Santa Monica Mayor Himmelrich: We Walk the Talk

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

By Sue Himmelrich, Santa Moncia Mayor  I like the SMa.r.t. architects. I often agree with them. But in allowing Mark...

Is Gelson’s Our Future? Bigger Is Not Better!

May 12, 2022

May 12, 2022

It’s appalling to see what’s happening in our city – projects recently built or about to be approved – in...

Renting Your Second Home

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

If you are among the many Americans who own a second home that you occasionally use as a vacation getaway,...

Column: Cities Fight to Maintain Distinctive Characters

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

By Tom Elias, Columnist Anyone who knows California well will realize that Palo Alto does not look much like nearby...

SMa.r.t. Column: Gelson’s, Boxed-In

May 6, 2022

May 6, 2022

This week we are re-visiting an article from 2018 regarding the Miramar project, by simply replacing the word “Miramar” with...

Column: Are You Talking Yourself Out of Saving for Retirement? Here’s How to Break the Habit

May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022

Saving for retirement can be an abstract concept. It’s something we all know we should do, but the farther away...

SMa.r.t. Column: Failure to Plan…

April 30, 2022

April 30, 2022

Over the last approximately two years your City has been busy trying to respond to new California laws that are...

Letter to Editor: Your “Standing Firm With Santa Monica” Initiative

April 25, 2022

April 25, 2022

The following is an open letter to Councilmember Sue Himmelrich from Santa Monica resident Arthur Jeon regarding a proposed transfer...

SMa.r.t. Column: Planning The Real Future

April 24, 2022

April 24, 2022

In the 1970s, renowned USC architecture professor Ralph Knowles developed a method for planning and designing cities that would dramatically...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan: The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 15, 2022

April 15, 2022

Part II: Who pays the proposed transfer tax and where does the money go? Last week, we introduced the proposed...

Column: NIMBYs Getting a Bad Rap

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

By Tom Elias Rarely has a major group of Californians suffered a less deserved rash of insults and attacks than...

SMa.r.t. Column: New City Financial Plan – The Resident Homeowner Bank

April 8, 2022

April 8, 2022

Part 1 of 2 In this two-part article, we will discuss both the proposed transfer tax ballot initiative and the...