Tag Archives: Manhunt

Russia talks “Manhunt” crackdown after shootings

This image of alleged Russian mass shooter Dmitry Vinogradov may look like it’s from a video game, but that doesn’t mean games were involved in the crime.

It hasn’t taken long for Russian politicians to come out against violent video games in the days after a Russian man went on a shooting spree, killing six people in the pharmaeceutical company where he worked.

Specifically, they’re going after Manhunt, because some say the alleged shooter in last week’s Moscow rampage, 30-year-old Dmitry Vinogradov, was a fan of the ultraviolent video game. They can’t agree on what to do, exactly, but no matter:

Sergei Zheleznyak, a deputy of United Russia, said that one needed to submit an adequate inquiry to Roskomnadzor (the Federal Surveillance Service for Mass Media and Communications) to ban the game in Russia. The software was designed for adult audiences, but it is available on the Internet to all, including children, which is against the law, New Politics magazine wrote.

United Russia deputy Franz Klintsevich supported Zheleznyak’s initiative and expressed a more radical solution. According to him, access to bloody games in general should be restricted in the country, NTV reports.

First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Education Vladimir Burmatov put forward an idea to set up an interdepartmental commission to supervise the sales of computer games. According to Burmatov, playing violent games pushed the Moscow shooter towards the crime, wrote MK.ru.

How, exactly, Burmatov knows that these games had anything to do with Vinogradov’s mindstate is anyone’s guess. Is he close with the alleged shooter? Is he an expert in psychology?

According to many of the news reports, Vinogradov apparently brought a gun to work after he was dumped by a girlfriend. He also may or may not have been on a drinking binge in the days before the attack — which in itself isn’t to blame, but may be an indication of a more serious underlying psychological issue. There’s a chance that he played violent video games, or even the most notoriously gory ones, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the crimes he’s connected with.

At least Russian news outlet is already calling Vinogradov “Russia’s Breivik,” after Norwegian mass shooter Anders Breivik, a misnomer for a number of reasons. For one, Breivik killed more than 70 people. For another, Vinogradov’s violent mission seems motivated by a personal passion — lost love — and not some misguided political aim.

The main thing these men may have in common is that, even if they were fans of violent video games, those games didn’t make them kill. There was plenty else on their minds that was much more likely to kickstart their violence, and there’s no reason to take a form of entertainment away from millions of other nonviolent gamers simply because of the actions of one.

Why banning violent video games isn’t the answer

British MP Keith Vaz, who has a history of criticizing violent games, is calling for a “closer scrutiny” of first-person shooters. Photo courtesy UK Parliament.

In the wake of Norway terrorist Anders Breivik’s claims that Modern Warfare helped him train for a real-live massacre, British MP Keith Vaz says it’s time for Britain to take a closer look at violent first-person shooter video games.

Vaz’s motion says British parliament “is concerned that PEGI [Europe’s video-game rating board] as a classification system can only provide an age-rating and not restrict ultra-violent content.” Although the motion has only picked up a handful of supporters since it was introduced, he continues to push the measure, even though Britain is already planning tighten video-game rules and make illegal to supply titles to people who aren’t old enough for the age rating.

Vaz has a history with violent video games. After a 14-year-old was murdered in 2004, the victim’s parents claimed they thought Manhunt inspired the killer. Vaz called for closer scrutiny of such games. Police dismissed the claim after it was discovered the victim, not the killer, was a fan of the game. (Britain later banned Manhunt 2, the country’s first such restriction.)

Vaz is also no fan of Bully or Counter-Strike, the latter of which was associated with race-related shootings in Malmö, Sweden.

Here’s the problem with such actions, which have been attempted in the United States as well, and usually are found in violation of the First Amendment: When someone like Breivik claims that video games are partly responsible for his killing spree, he’s letting himself off the hook. It wasn’t me that did it; it was the video games. Plenty of people have trouble owning up to their transgressions, especially criminals. Taking them at their word when they blame an outside “influence” legitimizes the idea that the crime isn’t their fault. Making laws based on such statements is even worse — it tells society that lawbreakers aren’t to blame for their own actions.

Is that what we really believe? If not, why do so many people support such laws?

Congressmen revive, expand failed proposal for warning label on violent video games

A new bill proposing warning labels on almost all video games is giving at least one of us PMRC flashbacks.

Here we go again.

US Congressmen Joe Baca (D-CA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) have introduced a bill that would slap a warning label on almost all video games (except those labeled “EC” for “early childhood”) that reads:

WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.

If the name Joe Baca is familiar to you, it’s because he tried this a year ago and failed. That bill, which would have placed a warning label only on “T” (teen) and “M” (mature) games, died in committee. And that was the second time Baca and Wolf introduced that bill.

It’s unclear what makes them think a new, broader bill will fly — particularly in the wake of last summer’s Supreme Court decision rejecting a California ban on the sale of violent games to minors, as well as the demise of an Oklahoma bill that would have taxed the sale of violent video games.

Here’s what Baca had to say for himself this time:

“The video game industry has a responsibility to parents, families and to consumers — to inform them of the potentially damaging content that is often found in their products. They have repeatedly failed to live up to this responsibility.”

Actually, no, they haven’t. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board has created very clear labeling for its video-game ratings. In addition, every video game has a detailed content description on the back. Buyers who want more information can find a wealth of it, including screenshots and videos, online. (A quick check with a smartphone can bring this to your fingertips, right in the store.) In addition, underage undercover shoppers have found it increasingly difficult to purchase M-rated games — much more difficult than getting into an R-rated film or buying a stickered record.

Let’s get down to the business of the warning label itself: It claims that “exposure to violent video games” (What does that mean? Does it mean glancing at one as you’re walking through the living room, or does it mean playing Manhunt like it’s a full-time job at a startup?) “has been linked to aggressive behavior.” While it’s true that a number of flawed studies have shown that subjects who play violent video games in a lab are slightly more aggressive immediately after gameplay, there’s little evidence that such behavior is lasting, or that it’s related to the violent content at all.

Here’s Wolf’s two cents’ worth:

“Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents—and children—about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior.”

The only reason there is “growing evidence” is that people keep studying the same false correlations. Adding one more flawed study to the heap does, indeed, make it grow.

But you know what else is growing? Evidence that video games are good for you. Why don’t we put that on a label? If we can claim that sugary cereal “may reduce the risk of heart disease,” surely we can put labels on violent video games claiming the much-more-proven health benefits of playing them.

Fox News Launches A “Bulletstorm”

Oh, dear. If Fox News didn’t want people playing the new game Bulletstorm, due in stores February 22, then the outlet should have kept its mouth shut. Maybe the folks at Fox aren’t aware of this, but calling something “The worst video game in the world” is a fantastic way of making a lot of people want to play it, particularly rebellious teens. (One wonders whether the game company might’ve paid Fox for the privilege. They wouldn’t, would they?)

Bulletstorm is a gory new first-person shooter in which many of the high-skill moves are given sexually suggestive (and sometimes violent) names: topless, gang bang, rear entry, etc. The game is rated “M” by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, whose page on the game includes plenty of detail about its content for anyone who wants to check it out before they spend any money.

To make matters worse, author/psychologist Carol Lieberman told Fox News that “sexual situations and acts in video games — highlighted so well in Bulletstorm — have led to real-world sexual violence. ‘The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games,’ she said.” Not only are her claims totally bogus, since there’s no evidence that gameplay leads to violent behavior, but they aren’t even statistically accurate — at least not in the United States, where reports of sexual assaults have decreased steadily since 2006, according to data collected by the United Nations (.xls spreadsheet). Yes, it’s possible that incidences have gone up while reports have gone down, but if that were the case, Lieberman better have some pretty good evidence to back herself up.

(Lieberman, it’s worth noting, is the author of “Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets” (2010) and “Bad Boys: Why We Love Them, How to Live With Them, And When To Leave Them” (1998). One wonders how Fox News selected her to comment on the video game in the first place.)

Oh, and? The the lead producer of Bulletstorm is a woman, Tanya Jessen, who said she was heavily involved with every aspect of the production and even pushed for it to be more hardcore than her male co-creators wanted. She also fought for one of the lead characters, Trischka, to be “a strong female character that wasn’t stereotypically hot.”

Lastly, one of the experts interviewed for the Fox News piece, Billy Pidgeon of M2 Research, says his quotes were taken grossly out of context. It looks like Fox was picking and choosing what it wanted to boost the sensationalistic quality of the piece (shocking, I know). Check out the link to see what kinds of questions they asked their subjects, as well as the full answers he gave.

Since Bulletstorm isn’t out yet, it’s hard to tell how popular it will actually be. It’s worth noting — and some writers already have — that ultraviolent games aren’t traditionally all that popular. Many gamers were put off by games like Postal and Manhunt, either because they were too violent, they weren’t much fun to play, or both.

What’s the most violent game you’ve ever played? Did you keep playing — why or why not? What’s the most violent game you’ve played regularly? Did it influence your mood, thoughts, or behavior? If so, how?