Video games have become an important and integral part of youth culture. As a gamer myself, it is a culture that I fully and completely understand. I will discuss various video games here and the messages they send to our youth, whether I believe them to be good or bad. You may agree or not, but as a gamer I understand this medium and its content. I acknowledge that some of these games may not have been created for young people, but I am positive they play them nonetheless. I have witnessed a woman buy her 8 year old son GTA V. This game has death, sex, torture and crime riddled throughout it. Although some of these games are not made for kids, they have become a part of the youth culture.
Fallout is an incredibly successful series based in a post nuclear apocalyptic world. The hero must fight raiders, slavers, mutants, ghouls and a variety of other people and mutated creatures. The game changed after no. 2, with Fallout 3 becoming a different game based in the same world. I admit, I have not played the first 2. Regardless, Fallout 3, New Vegas and Fallout 4 are all excellent games riddled with content. But what exactly is its message?
I honestly believe analysing a game for its messages is harder than analysing a book, song or film. The content here is so vast and expansive that I barely know where to begin.
Firstly I wish to discuss the nuclear war scenario. One message I see for all for us, not just the young, is the destruction nuclear war can bring. Instead of in a film or book, the player is able to witness this destruction first hand. When you emerge into the Wasteland in no. 3 you are met with a blinding light and a destroyed world. Trees that are nothing but dead stumps, billboards half destroyed, roads almost gone, houses nothing but rubble, a town destroyed and empty. A nuclear wasteland. As much fun as this game is, it made me realise how much we need to avoid this scenario. You never truly realise how horrific a nuclear apocolypse can be until you come face to face with a ghoul. Humans so riddled with radiation they are nothing but living corpses. And just like everything else in this world, some are friendly and some are not. Fallout seems to have been rather successful in its anti-war message. Although most gamers adore this series (I myself have played it numerous times) I think it is safe to say that we can all agree that this world is not one any of us should live in. War is about survival. Or in some instances it is about power, money, destruction, human rights or protection. Fallout acknowledges that, even with an apocalyptic wasteland being shoved in everyone’s faces, even after seeing the destruction that war can and will bring. People never stop fighting.
War… war never changes.
I believe the message about war leads perfectly into consequences. Fallout is a game based largely on the decisions made by the player. There are evil and good paths, there are neutral decisions, and then there are the ones that have completely unexpected consequences. In Fallout 3, the first town you come across gives you the opportunity to make one of these decisions. Do you save a town, or blow it up? You are given the choice of either disarming a nuclear bomb planted in the middle of this town, or arm it and blow the entire town to pieces. This kills almost everyone. This is not the only decision of this kind you can make. Do you let the vampire kid stay with the other vampires? Or send him home to his friends and family? Find the orphan a home? Or leave him to die? Seriously, I have barely scratched the surface of the things you can do in this game. But for me, the most harrowing one of all is Tenpenny Tower. Here you find a group of high class people who are very very self indulged. There is a group of ghouls (walking corpses) that wish to enter the tower and live with them. They have the money, so why can’t they? You can either side with the residents and kill the ghouls, or side with the ghouls and kill the residents. I took (what I thought to be) a better approach. I convinced everyone in the tower to let the ghouls in. I thought I had overcome adversity and discrimination. I was wrong. I returned some time later to find the tower full of only ghouls. No humans, the residents were gone. Upon further investigation, I discovered the ghouls could not live with the humans and they killed them all. I was astonished. My plan was so perfect, and yet it failed so miserably. Not only did this demonstrate to me that the decisions made in this game are not black and white, but also that;
War… war never changes.
This is an incredible game that touched millions. If you plan on playing this game, don’t read this, at all. Spoilers destroy the beauty of this game. The one problem with it is, it can never be played for the first time again. It is still fun but that feeling cannot be recaptured. It is, again, the depiction of a post apocalyptic world. Here a virus has spread throughout the populace. Like a zombie virus but spores reanimate and alter people into mindless hunters out to kill. The story switches between 2 characters, Joel and his daughter figure Ellie. We begin with Joel’s story at the beginning of the outbreak, when he loses his daughter Sarah. Cut to 2 decades later and we watch as Joel fights to protect Ellie from numerous threats. I don’t feel I need to touch on the apocalyptic theme as I did whilst discussing Fallout, and they are similar in that regards. Human nature still doesn’t change. We are still so very violent. One moment even indicates that a grown man intends to rape Ellie. A horrifying look into a post apocalyptic world.
But the importance of family and loyalty shines through. Joel and Ellie become a family, with Joel becoming the father Ellie never had and Ellie filling the hole Sarah’s death left in Joel. Family not related by blood, but by loyalty.
Now onto the controversial one. Firstly, I like the GTA series, but I am not an avid fan. I merely enjoy playing them sometimes. GTA, much like Mortal Combat, has long been the focus of controversy, as the developers enjoy pushing the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. In an attempt to have you, my audience, understand just how hated this game is, I searched for a variety of articles that condemned the franchise.
I also found articles promoting GTA V and video games as essential for children and young adults. There are so many arguments. So many opinions.
Honestly, there are so many opinions, so SO many varying opinions, that people will NEVER know what the truth is. I honestly do not know myself. But I can tell you my own opinions on this matter.
I would NEVER let a child play such a violent game. Any young child, should not be playing GTA V. Violent games can be great, one article said it was even therapeutic. But GTA V has SEVERE adult themes. I am not talking about murder, we as a culture have become desensitized to murder and mayhem. I am talking about graphic sex scenes, the horrific things you can do, but mostly I am talking about the incredibly graphic torture scene.
I personally LOVED this game. Yes it is violent, yes it is graphic and yes I thought it was great. I enjoyed racing through a major city running countless people over. I have the common sense and empathy to understand they are not real. Most youth do too. But at young ages, I’m talking under 10, children probably need to grow a little more empathy before they undertake this game. Now, yes I enjoyed this game and I have enjoyed many other violent video games, but I am a good person. I am an advocate for marriage equality, gender equality and freedom. I would fight to the death against racism, misogyny (and misanthropy), domestic violence, animal abuse and Islamophobia. I am a good person, and I LOVE violent video games. Have done since I was a teenager.
This is one fight I cannot give a definitive answer for. My opinions sways, as I think very young children should not be exposed to such violence, but at the same time they kind of need to be. We need to build their immune system, the world is full of this stuff now, we can’t really protect them from it.
I honestly love video games, and would not see such strong restrictions on art. Yes they are created by adults, again, but they are a major contributor to modern youth culture. Censoring them only makes children/teens angry and resentful. The restrictions set on us as Australian ADULTS makes me resent our government. Children feel similar when such restrictions are placed on them. The job is not to hide these games, but to educate our youth about them. Make sure children understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and that it is just a game for fun. Most understand you can’t run someone over just for the LOL’s. Many people only focus on games like GTA V and Mortal Combat and how harmful they are, but they never discuss the messages conveyed through a variety of games. The anti-war and pro family ideals as discussed above. Video games are just a modern and more interactive version of book, and an educated society stopped book burning a very long time ago… you’d think…