The difference between video games like Manhunt 2 and violent movies

While I am no proponent of violent movies (I think the term “torture porn” that was coined not too long ago is an appropriate description of some of the more disgusting Hollywood creations of late) and believe that merely watching such films can take their toll on us spiritually, I also believe that there is an important difference between violent films and violent video games: stepping out of the role of observer and into the role of participant.

And as I have commented before, the advanced interactivity and physical mimicry of the Nintendo Wii makes that thought even more chilling. In my post of last year, “Wii Are Not Amused by Manhunt 2,” I described my opinions about why having the player physically mimic, with his very own hands, the murderous actions (stabbing, strangling, etc.) that he sees “himself” committing on screen against virtual human beings is a horrific concept of mind-numbing proportions. Who thought this was a good idea, again?

That said, earlier I was reading a completely asinine TimesOnline editorial about embryonic stem cell research and wondering how The Times felt about the apparent ignorance of moral depth or complexity among some of their editorial staff when I came across a link to an interesting Manhunt 2-related post.

It was written by David Hutchinson back on April 2, 2008, and is titled, “An emotional response to Manhunt 2.” For those who have never thought about the potential impact of such games on their players, I highly recommend reading his brief post, as it is interesting anecdotal evidence of what I believe are serious problems with such games.

It’s a quick read — check it out.

In Noah’s day, before God decided to flush civilization (literally) and start over, the scriptures say that the world had become full of violence. Given the programming of our children that is going on these days, I would say that Jesus’ warning in Matthew 24:37 probably admits of more depth than it is often given: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”

5 thoughts on “The difference between video games like Manhunt 2 and violent movies

  1. Hi Mr. Smith,

    To cite another blog of yours: welcome back from Apologetics Land! May your blessing with work not be so much that you have no room to receive it.

    Surely the difference here is one of degree, not of kind. Consider the role of thought vis-a-vis action that Jesus pointed out with regard to hatred/murder and lust/adultery, for example. There are different degrees of the same kind, especially as he noted regarding hatred/murder, and step by step our society has gone in its entertainment from thinking to watching to virtual participation and sooner or later will go to actual participation. (Of course it’s doing the same with the Seventh Commandment and really with all the others.)

    The fallacy of our society’s thinking on morality (or one of its fallacies) is that it focuses on degree, not on kind — making it very easy for society to backslide by degrees.

    יוחנן רכב

  2. fran

    that’s [expletive deleted by editor], even considering the possibility of violent games being a threat or a link between murderous tendencies and actual murder is an underestimation of people’s ability to discern between real life and fantasy.

    if someone goes out and kills people there’s no one to blame but the person who carries out such atrocities.

    when the [another expletive deleted] are people gonna stop blaming videogames and heavy metal bands for every sick [yes, another highly intelligent expletive deleted] who goes and shoots someone in the head?

    i guess it’s easier than analyzing some twisted [milder-than-the-previous-expletives expletive deleted]’s psychological pathologies.

    but do murder rates decrease when a game is banned?

    does it solve anything to blame a violent videogame for being a potential influence to murder?

    no, it just [final exemplary expletive deleted] with my potential entertainment.

    so go play manhunt, enjoy it if you can.

    and if after you have you find yourself shooting people or strangling them from behind you will proven me wrong.

  3. Greetings, fran, and thanks for your “colorfully worded” comment. I hope you do not mind my edits, but certain language isn’t appropriate for this blog.

    You dismiss the point of the article I linked to too easily, especially since the author was speaking of his personal experience with Splinter Cell — not about some theory or some hypothesized connection between videogames and reality.

    (As for whether or not murder rates decrease when a game is banned, I would say you have it backwards; you are living in an experiment that is teaching us what happens to a civilization when such games are allowed — even encouraged in numerous ways. If you think the results aren’t looking bad, then you aren’t paying attention.)

    No one is saying that violent video games turn their players into homicidal maniacs, and saying that only distracts from the real point, that point being that such games do affect their players in some ways — ways that are not for the better.

    And if you you think that your choice of entertainment does not have an impact on you, then I am afraid that it is you, my friend, who is underestimating the connection between fantasy and real life.

  4. CameronChaoss

    I’ve been playing violent video games and watching rated R movies since I was very young. I even went on a shock video binge when I was 16. I grew up in a house where my parents didn’t mind that kind of stuff. They DID however remind me that such actions were wrong.

    I’m 20 now, and I haven’t killed anybody. I haven’t even been in a fight, and try to avoid physical confrontation at all costs. Despite frequent drug and alcohol references in movies and Grand Theft Auto games, I have remained straight-edge throughout my whole life, and continue that practice today.

    I’ve played Manhunt 2 on my Wii, and it’s absolutely absurd to associate a video game with someone who has the potential to kill. The game is very fun, and very scary at time, but all it is, is a thrill ride. After playing the game I have not experienced spikes in my anger levels, nor have I become more physical. It was just a game.

    Parents may try to blame video games on their children’s behavior, but the fact of the matter is, you only have the parents to blame for these actions, for they probably were not there to tell their children that it’s wrong to hurt somebody, and I’m sure they were the first people to bring their kids to get pumped full of medicine by doctors to keep their kids quiet.

    Don’t blame the games, blame lazy parents who cant find it in themselves to own up to their awful parenting. If you want to bicker at me for my against-the-grain thinking, e-mail me. I wont check this posting again. I only found it through a Google search looking for more scary games like Manhunt.

  5. Greetings, CameronChaoss, and thanks for commenting. It may be that you won’t view this posting again, but I’m still glad that you stopped by and that you left a comment. I won’t “bicker” at you and I even agree with much of what you’re saying (though not all), but I will use your comment as an opportunity to explain where you have it right and where you have it wrong. That is, I may not “bicker” but I am happy to educate.

    First, where you have it right: Yes, parents are at the heart of childrearing, and a parent who slacks off in that responsibility should not be surprised about the results. If anyone is using video games as a scapegoat to avoid good parenting or to redirect blame for the direction our society is going, they are making a mistake. Do the easy accessibility of corrupting products and influences make it more difficult to parent, versus living in a more family-supportive culture? Yes. But that doesn’t give us as parents excuses to put off blame — if anything, it should motivate us to redouble our efforts.

    Secondly: I’m glad you haven’t killed anybody. Kudos.

    However, you are wrong in many ways. For instance, you make the exact same mistake that many of the people you disagree with make. Many crimes have been committed by individuals who do play such games. If you say that, based on this, it is wrong to conclude that the games, themselves, played any role, then it would be just as wrong to agree with you that based on your “good behavior” the games have no impact at all. If you’re going to argue that the games present no corrupting influence based on your solitary experience, then you’ve got to be willing to look at the experience of others, and there is experience out there that disagrees with yours.

    And the science disagrees with you, as well. Studies show that such games do have an impact on children. If you believe you’ve escaped that impact, be thankful. Studies show that many others do not.

    I’m sorry that you believe that going around playing a game in which you can virtually experience the “thrill” of killing people is a lot of fun. Perhaps you would also enjoy a game in which you could virtually experience the “thrill” of serially raping women. Or, hey, what about a game in which you could virtually experience the “thrill” of torturing infants? Wow, what fun!

    Surely you don’t think either of those games sounds like fun. (If so, then I’m glad you aren’t planning to check this post again; feel free to do something else. Forever.) If you don’t, then why are you morally equivocating? If your parents when you were 16 wouldn’t have let you play those games, why are they worse than the ones you did play?

    Sorry, but to borrow your terminology, it’s absolutely absurd to think that we can take in any sort of entertainment we want without being affected by it in someway. It defies both conventional biblical belief and, indeed, atheistic, naturalistic, evolutionary understanding — as well as defying just plain common sense.

    So, while I am glad that you aren’t a murderer (and I hope that you are, too), I don’t see why I should ignore scientific findings, the anecdotal evidence of many, scriptural admonition, firmly established understandings of how the mind works, and just plain common sense just because you aren’t a murderer. It wouldn’t exactly be a “home run” in logic baseball, if you catch my drift.

    On the contrary, though you are not a murder (again, congratulations), I hope that you would not only examine the lack of logic in your conclusions, but also that you might re-examine yourself and consider in what other ways you may have corrupted and coarsened yourself by spending so much time digesting such junk. I suspect you’d be surprised.

    So, even if you never check this posting again, I do appreciate the chance you’ve given me to help explain the principles behind this post further. Thanks, much!

    (And by the way, when we agree with most of the rest of the world around us — such as wealthy corporate video game makers, and wealthy R-rated movie manufacturers, and wealthy musicians and music publishers — like you apparently do in many ways, it isn’t called “against-the-grain” thinking; it’s called “being-part-of-the-herd.” To go against the grain, you have to actually, you know, go against the grain. If you are really interested in doing so, you’re free to contact me.)

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