A part of me sees censoring art as being very close to burning books. I may water my wine, but I'd never water my blood... in art I enjoy, that is!
You, no doubt, must have stumbled on cases/articles/people during your lifetime that have put up a case for violent videogames "enabling" youth to lash out and generally to enact things they see in violent titles. The same goes for films and music (poor heavy metal has had its fair share of controversy). I am no psychiatrist therefore I won't be "swimming" in those waters. If a person is violent or they are plagued by those tendencies then anything could set them off. A driver honking his/her horn on the road, their favourite team losing at an important game or even a fight with their spouse. We all have violent tendencies, in my book. What counts is how you control them. When was the last time you felt like blurting out something extremely expletive in the face of a person who ticked you off during a conversation? Let me guess, "VERY RECENTLY", right? But you didn't and congratulations. You have self-control.
In one sense that brings you closer to what "normal" is assumed to be. The same way you held back from making sure that the other person knows what you think of their opinion, someone else SOMEWHERE else, threw a punch instead. Unfortunately, in a different place and time the act wasn't a punch but instead it happened to be a fellow human being brandishing a gun and taking other human lives. I cannot speak for those lost souls but I can FEEL for the ones who have lost children, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. However, here is where I draw the line. This is real life and I want to talk about art.
Does life imitate art or is it vice versa? The question came up at least on two occasions during our Thumbcasts and a straight-up answer is rather difficult to come by. Perhaps a "yes and no" might cut it, MIGHT. I think a more appropriate phrase would be "Humans imitate". Art simply happens to be the catalyst in many cases. When John Travolta sang his lines in Grease he had women (some men too perhaps!) swooning and men rushing out to stores in order to purchase clothes that resemble his. And yeah, that haircut too... as for guys roaming around in packs driving their fast cars looking to show off a thing or two? Yeah, that doesn't happen any more (sarcasm). Perhaps there should be a dance number in the next Fast and Furious film and you will see that not much has changed (apart from the absence of the late Paul Walker). That says less about the involvement of art and more about what we like doing! Do people like fast cars because they saw one in a film? Heck no, fast cars are fun! But I am going off again on films! Back to my gore!
While discussing the responsibility of the artist with Andreas and Ioanna over dinner, we came to the conclusion that a writer or a game designer has to own up to his or her creation. I agree with that! If you were a game designer in one of the Manhunt titles then when you speak about it you must hold your hand up and say "Yes, I too worked on of the most violent games in the history of mankind". Same goes for authors of violent novels. Is George R. R. Martin receiving "fire" over his violent fantasy epic? Certainly not in the way game designers are and I find that to be hypocritical. Not everything is for everyone and especially the young ones, hence why there are ratings by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) on every product which should be used as a guideline. I say "guideline" because I, like many other fellow gamers, have played some gruesome titles WAY before I even reached the rating within touching distance in terms of my years. Parents are responsible for their children, 100% and that includes what they watch, listen to and experience whenever possible. Being able to "read" your fellow human is something we must all take very seriously, not just our children. But everyone around us. I am not saying that you should set up cameras in order to catch the couple next door sacrificing animals to appease the darkness, but we MUST look out for violent tendencies. Forget about the art and focus on the human being.
Whenever the world wakes up to news of another ghastly school shooting or massacre it's followed by a wave of reactions often calling for the banning of "violent" music and "violent" videogames. Why "violent" videogames? Well, the Super Smash Bros. series certainly doesn't involve any blood but you do get to smack around Mario with Link's shield and sword. It's certainly LESS violent than running a glass shard in a man's eye like Manhunt but it's STILL violent! Perhaps it can be consider a sneaky type of violence since it's bathed in happy colours and characters that MUCH younger children usually associate videogames with! You can PUNCH Princess Peach with Donkey Kong!
The point is, if I want to cry wolf then I simply. Cry. Wolf. But it doesn't mean that I SHOULD because (as I mentioned in the What don't you "fully" understand article) we must be careful when aiming our verbal gun towards the artist. If you believe that your children should not entertain themselves in this way then by all means, take the controller away from them. But stay your hands from the artists brush because that can have long-term detrimental effects on future generations. Do not dictate what should or shouldn't be released. Instead you can dictate (to people who you can!) what and what shouldn't be consumed. Namely, your children (yes, the list ends there)! It is your sole responsibility and nobody else's.
To close this up I turn to Penn & Teller's Bullshit Season 7 and the "Video Games" episode. I will only link the last 5 minutes of the show (but DO watch the whole thing, it is very interesting). Here the presenters took a 9 year-old boy (named Harrison) who is an avid first-person-shooter gamer, to a firing range in order to fire a real gun just to watch his reaction. Watch it all the way to the end...
- Frixos Masouras 2014