A debate rages on, in society, around the topic of video games. Namely, "Are video games a bad influence on children?" There are many, over-protective, naïve and, frankly, idiot parents, who believe that, yes, this is the case. It is true that some video games are hugely, gratuitously violent, but no amount of head shots in Black Ops 2 can compete with the horrific violence and human behaviour, demonstrated in reality. Gaming is a way to escape from the horrors of reality and, for a short time, live in a fantasy world, which enables a player to live an alternative existence and do the things that they cannot and would not do in real life. Anyone who is unaware of the difference between real life and games is not only an idiot, but mentally ill.
As an example, allow me to discuss the subtle nuances of one of the most popular games in history, namely Grand Theft Auto IV. Now, Grand Theft Auto IV is a showcase in intricate, compelling story-telling, centred around an Eastern European immigrant, Niko Bellic, who leaves home and heads for the USA, in the hope of turning his back on his violent past. Unfortunately, things don't quite go to plan and Niko become embrioled in organised crime, in an attempt to make enough money to support himself and his idiot, gambling-addicted cousin. This, you may agree, seems like the recipe for a Hollywood blockbuster of a story and you'd be correct. It's mega. Some people, however don't see this. They, instead cannot see past the violent content of the game. For example, in Grand Theft Auto IV, it is possible to do the following, all in the name of fun and completely unrelated to the main objectives of the game:
It's sunset in Liberty City. A cloudless sky paints an awe-inspiring picture of deep oranges and subtle purples. People go about their daily business, in the hustle and bustle of the sprawling Metropolis of the City. This truly is the land of opportunity. Among the crowds, Niko Bellic strolls along the pavement, pondering his life and wondering what the evening will bring. Suddenly, it dawns on Niko that he's incredibly bored. Not only that, but he becomes acutely aware of the fact he's walking. Why is he doing this? He should be driving. At this point, a gleaming sports car drives past Niko, slowing to allow someone to cross the street. It slows for just long enough to allow Niko to pull out his pistol, shoot the driver through the skull, splattering bone fragments and brain matter across the windscreen, pull the freshly-killed corpse from the vehicle, get in, close the door, change the radio station to some Death Metal and drive away, screeching his tyres and running into the pedestrian, an old lady, who is still in the process of crossing the street. She bounces off the bonnet like a basketball bounces off the face of the class nerd in PE. Niko notices that, as she lay on the tarmac, she's still moving, so, ever the perfectionist, slams the car into reverse and drives directly over her face, ensuring she's fully dead before driving away.
As Niko weaves through traffic, on the wrong side of the road, it suddenly dawns on him that the double killing he just committed has made him incredibly horny. Fortunately, there's a cornucopia of prostitutes in Liberty City and it's not long before he sees one, advertising her horrendous wares for the dark and desperate of society. Niko pulls over, honks his horn and waits, as the lady of the night waddles to the passenger side of the car, opens the door and gets in. Now, this particular prostitute is nothing if she's not classy, and will not partake in any pleasures of the flesh, unless Niko finds a lovely, picturesque, secluded area, in which to do so. Niko is happy to oblige and pulls into a side street, populated by rats, wheelie bins, a burnt out car and a group of hobos, standing around a burning steel barrel, discussing alien invasions, the orange glow of the flames illuminating the pock-marked skin and wiry beards of the homeless mentalists. If this isn't picturesque, nothing is. Niko stops the car and, at this stage, is presented with the carnal menu for the evening. There are three options; $20, $50 and, for the extravagant connoisseur of rented orifices, a $70 option. Niko is in a middle-of-the-road kind of a mood and opts for the $50 service. To his pleasant surprise, the $50 option consists of ten seconds of indifferent and unenthusiastic fellatio. Upon completion, Niko hands over the money and the prostitute wipes her mouth and alights from the vehicle. At this point, Niko realises he doesn't agree with the idea of paying for sex and proceeds to get out of his car. He then approaches the prostitute and punches her in the back of the head, knocking her to the ground. Niko takes a knife from his pocket and then proceeds to stab her through all parts of her body, over and over and over, a total of eighty times, until the gargling ceases and the death rattle subsides. He then gathers his money and walks away from the corpse and the ever-increasing pool of blood, which gathers from under her lifeless body. Niko then realises that he hasn't quite performed enough violence upon this person, so he takes a few paces back and throws a hand grenade at her, which rolls and comes to a halt about an inch from her right arm. After five seconds, the grenade explodes, sending the dead prostitute at least thirty feet into the air. She lands on a nearby roof top and gently burns, flames gently lapping across her charred, dead flesh. It really is quite beautiful. Niko then returns to his car and drives off into the sunset, having enjoyed yet another fulfilling day.
I'm sure you'll agree that this is a beautiful story. However, some people disagree and believe that games like this are a bad influence on their children. My first answer to this is to suggest that these parents should improve their skills at both reading and parenting. This game carries with it an 18 certificate. If you buy it for little Toby's birthday, you're a moron and deserve to be on the receiving end of whatever influence little Toby takes from his gaming experience. Secondly, I implore people to look into the past and realise that video games are not a new phenomenon. I grew up in the 1980s and spent much of my childhood playing video games. As a child, my favourite game was Super Mario Brothers. This was a truly wonderful game. However, if parents are concerned about the influence of modern games, they should dissect the narrative of this seminal work, especially considering that Super Mario Brothers does not carry any age restrictions:
Super Mario is a very small, European tradesman. We know this because he wears dungarees and a hat. He also has a moustache, so he must be Italian. We have no further evidence of the fact he has a job at all, as he never, EVER goes to work. Instead, he travels a lot, to very unusual lands, where the hills have eyes and the flowers breathe fire. Mario is an unusually short man and has an exceptionally-concerning drug habit. He habitually eats magic mushrooms and seems to have some pretty graphic and invariably negative trips. They cause him to become very violent, sending him into fits of rage, manifesting in the violent and unprovoked murdering of tortoises. Not only will he murder them, but he'll then proceed to pick up their dead shells and smash them into brick walls, still in fits of rage. One might question Mario's motivation for his behaviour and wonder whether it is at least for a noble cause. Alas, no, for Mario's sole motivation is the opportunity to have sex with a member of the royal family, a very unintelligent princess who repeatedly manages to get kidnapped by a giant, S&M-obsessed tortoise, who, for some reason, lives in a castle, which has a river of lava running below it and is never more than the flick of a switch away from falling through the floor, to his death.
Don't get me wrong, I love Super Mario Brothers, but if you're going down the road of blaming games for bad behaviour in kids, look to Mario. Super Mario has been played by millions of children, children who are now old enough to have their own children.
To conclude, stop blaming your child's bad behaviour on games and simply realise that you're an awful parent and thank your lucky stars that it's not the 80s any more.