Lifestyle, Ludotheque

Videogames: when it’s perilous and immoral to play

 

There is no doubt that many of these electronic devices are there for fun, and even to impart certain values to the people who play them. The goal of many others, however, is to kill Jews, black people and immigrants…_

 

 

Javier Duque


Can you imagine a videogame where the objective is to eliminate Muslims (soldiers, suicide bombers, unarmed men and women) and where you have to kill, among others, Osama bin Laden, Muhammad and Allah?

Well that very videogame exists. Or at least it used to, because in 2008 a young Australian launched a game entitled “Muslim Massacre: The Game of Modern Religious Genocide”, which was based exactly on that idea. It was discontinued after a few days.

But was it an isolated case? Do videogames inculcate values? Can children separate the game from reality?

It seems that these negative trends are becoming common. According to a study in Europe carried out by the Doctor of Pedagogy of the University of León, Enríque Díez Gutiérrez, about the content and values inherent in the highest-selling videogames, 90% of commercially successful videogames are sexist, racist or violent.

The study also revealed an implicit sexism in a patriarchal culture that promotes masculinity as a model to follow. Instead of valuing feminine qualities and encouraging them in men, they are portrayed as something which needs to be fought against.

Another investigation, this time carried out by the University of Indiana, revealed that violent videogames cause long-term alternations in the brain functions of young adults.

A total of 22 young people aged between 18 and 29 were divided into two groups. One half had to spend ten hours over the course of a week playing a violent game which involved using various weapons.

After a week they were given a task that was meant to emit an emotional response. Those who had played the videogame showed much lower activity in the left frontal lobe of the brain than those who hadn’t played. This is a part of the brain that controls the expression of emotions and aggressiveness.

The controversy surrounding violent videogames has once again been revisited following declarations made during the trial of Anders Breivik- the Norwegian mass-murderer who took the lives of 77 people last summer- when he stated that he had been playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” to practice his shooting abilities.

Breivik, who admitted to having played a number of videogames, carried out his killing spree because of his opposition to multiculturalism, his hatred of Muslims and what he calls an “Islamic invasion”.Another massacre like the one that took place at Columbine High School in 1999- when two teenagers killed 13 people before committing suicide- was also investigated by experts because of the possibility that “Doom”, a first-person shoot-em-up videogame, may have had an influence on the murderers.

 

Subversive videogames

 

Unfortunately it isn’t just games like “Muslim Massacre”, “Call of Duty” or “Doom” that are reprehensible but many others that have, let’s say, more than dubious targets: immigrants, Latinos, Jews, prostitutes…

The first among them is “Border Patrol”, which was available from 2002 until 2006, when it was discontinued. The action was centred on the US-Mexico border and consisted in shooting at Mexicans who tried to enter the US illegally.

The targets that had to be eliminated included “the rabbit woman” (a Mexican woman pregnant with two children), a highly armed Mexican nationalist and “wetbacks”, immigrants that try to swim across the border through the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico from southern Texas.

Some of the controversial videogames have attracted attention just with the title. This is the case with “Ethnic Cleansing”: the player, who can choose to be a skinhead or a member of the Ku Klux Klan, roams through a black ghetto killing people including Latinos, before going to the subway to kill Jews. The target to complete the game is to kill Ariel Sharon.

The title of another game,“Bully,” gives an idea about its content, and received strong criticism for trivialising school bullying. The lead character is a 15-year-old boy who is in his first year at Bullworth Academy.

The player gets to choose between defending geeks, being an athlete or a bully, but each choice has its consequences.

One last example is from one of the highest selling sagas of all time: “Grand Theft Auto”. The game centres on different lead characters that try to improve their standing in the criminal world at all costs. The enemies in the game tend to be people who have betrayed the protagonist or the organisation, or have something that makes their progress more difficult.

One of the main criticisms of the franchise is that it is based on committing crime. The variety of criminal acts that can be carried out is very wide: stealing all kinds of vehicles, attacking passers-by, destroying shops, shooting at the police, killing prostitutes…

This last theme, the sexual, is very present and the player can use certain cheats to unblock sexual images so that they become more explicit.

What is clear, at least looking at these examples and many more, is that videogames are not an educational product.

Although there are thousands of children- and not so young people- who play every day at killing Jews, Latinos, black and immigrants- communities whose interests, in one way or another, are also harmed in other areas- has anybody stopped to think what would happen if there were a videogame called “American Massacre” and the consequences this would bring with the US government?

(Translated by Jose Stovell)

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