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Violence in Media

Anyone who listens to our podcast or reads our reviews knows that I am comfortable allowing my younger kids to play games like HALO and Overwatch. I get a lot of questions from concerned parents about why I would let my kids play shooters. They hear my excitement for T rated shooters and then they do the math and remember that my sons are 10 and 7.

What gives? How do I consider myself a good parent and still let my kids play these violent games? Aren’t I concerned that they will be altered in some way? That they will be more violent? Or anti-social? Aggressive?

Nope. Not even a little.

Now. Before I go further I want to take a moment to declare that these are my thoughts and feelings on the matter. I’m not here to shame parents who are concerned and who don’t want to give their kids access to these games. I recognize the right of every parent and caregiver to make their own decisions about the media their families consume. If your family wants to abstain from any form of violent games, then I respect your right to do so. Ok? Ok. Lets roll.

Because Science

Master Chief - HALO

First and foremost, these has been no causal link proven between violence in video games and violent behavior in children. None. There have been correlations drawn. There have been some connections drawn between playing multiplayer games and aggression. But, aggression and violence aren’t the same thing. Let’s be clear… who HASN’T wanted to flip the table while playing Monopoly? Those aggressive feelings that some people get from competition don’t equate to violent actions. (We’ll be talking about these differences in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for that.)

Less Violent Than You Think


Second, while Overwatch and HALO both involve gunplay as their primary mode of conflict resolution, they are, without question, less graphically violent than other games in the genre. The reality is that firing a digital gun is not really any different than using a super soaker of a NERF gun. What makes the experience different is what happens *after*the trigger is pulled. Both of these games handle the “messy part” of digital gunplay is ways that I find acceptable for my boys.

  • In the case of HALO, the targets are usually aliens that are unambiguously evil. They really aren’t all that different than the Chitauri from the first Avengers movie in that they are comprised of a limitless army of nameless monsters that exists to be punches, shot, etc. Fighting them doesn’t hold any real emotional weight, because they aren’t really representative of anything.
  • Overwatch is different. The targets are human (or at least human-ish) and many of them are friends. It isn’t uncommon for Tracer to find herself facing off against Agent 76 or Mercy. In this case, the gameplay itself is abstract. In the story of Overwatch characters like Widowmaker and Reaper are known enemies of Overwatch, and yet they team up with them to fight… other members of Overwatch. The matches themselves are a representative of competitive situations and not actual narrative. Its like a multiplayer Danger Room that we can all play in. It doesn’t hurt that they minimize the blood either.

Talking Points

Bastion - Overwatch

Bastion – Overwatch

Third, I believe that the violence in games is something that we should lean into rather than avoid. I know that my boys are going to see violence at school, on the news, and in other media. Why shield them needlessly? Talking to them about the scenarios at play in these games is a great opportunity to talk to them about violence, its place in the world, and the importance of heroes (of all kinds).

More Than Just Guns

Overwatch Teamwork

Next, these games have more to offer than a gritty look at gun violence. They feature competitive elements and strategy as well as deep world building and a compelling narrative. Let’s face it, many of us took our kids to see the Avengers films and both of them featured scenes with a LOT of violence. But, we enjoyed them none the less because of their other properties. I don’t see video games any other way.

  • Strategy – Overwatch is a multiplayer competitive shooter. This means that success is dependent (generally) on strong team play. It also requires that you understand your role within the match and how it interacts with other people on your team. I’m not one to tell my kids that they should bust out of the confines of expectations. But, sometimes you fail unless you get in your lane and work. If you choose to play a support character in Overwatch, then players will expect you to support them and will likely make their own gameplay decisions assuming you will do so. If you go off chasing kill streaks you will undoubtedly let your team down. Learning to embrace your role within a team is a VERY valuable skill that is transferable to all sorts of real world situations like school and work.
  • Deep World Building – People stand in awe at the worlds that Tolkein and J.K Rowling have created (and they should). But, the truth is that some of the worlds inside these video games are great too and the only way to experience them is to play these games and talk about them.
  • Narrative – The story arc of the Master Chief across 5 HALO games is epic. He is a super soldier tasked with saving mankind against unspeakable odds. That’s nothing new, but as we learn more about him, his comrades, and his relationship with Cortana (his AI companion) the better it gets.

Playing With Them

Halo Teamwork

Most importantly, the violent games that I let my kids play are games that I intend to play with them. They rarely experience these games without my presence. This gives them the chance to ask questions and to see my reaction to what is happening in the game as it happens. In turn, It gives me a chance to see the same thing. I get to watch their reactions and gauge if they understand what is happening in the game with any level of maturity. The fact that I am a gamer helps heighten that because I often understand what they are playing and what they SHOULD be feeling.

Those are just a few of the reasons why I have decided to let my children play T rated games. What are your thoughts? Do you let your kids play T rated shooters? Sound off in the comments!

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, editor in chief

On January 24th of this year a group of Senators presented a bill called the “Violent Content Research Act of 2013” that, if passed, would require the National Academy of Sciences to perform further research into the potential harmful effects of video games on children. This was presented as part of a comprehensive response package after the tragic events in Sandy Hook last year.

The bill looks for a comprehensive investigation to be performed to determine if “there is a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects to children.” They want to determine if the video games cause children to act aggressively or if it causes any other “measurable harm.”

The bill’s authors seem to have predicted some of the potential criticism that they might hear. They are looking to investigate whether or not violent video games have “a disproportionate effect on children who are already prone to aggressive behavior.”

My stance on this topic is well documented. I don’t believe that there is any sort of connection. I may be opposed to the use of federal funds, but I don’t have an issue with the study being performed. There have been a number of studies performed already and many of them have found no causal link between violent video games and violent behavior in children. But, I see no reason why another one would be inappropriate so long as it is not a rehash of previous experiments with different conclusions.

I’ll keep everyone posted as this moves along in the process.

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief

Grand Theft Auto has found itself in the news again. This time it is being implicated as having helped drive an 8 yr old to murder his grandmother. No one has made a claim that the game or the developers are legally responsible (yet). BUT, the police stated that the child was playing Grand Theft Auto and then stated (falsely) that you earn points for killing people. They might not have mentioned the name of the video game at all if he were playing Mario Kart.

This has led to a number of knee jerk reactions about the video game industry and violence in media and its impact on children. It has also led to a number of people debating the nature of a video game franchise based on erroneous information. In the interest of fairness, I feel that I need to take a minute to clear the air and dispel some of the myths about this game and what it is “about.”

You might be saying to yourself, “Why is the editor of a family gaming website defending a game like GTA?” The answer is that this site isn’t here to spread, or support the spreading, of falsehoods. I think that parents need the truth about the games on the market so they can make informed decisions. That will occasionally result in me coming to an M-Rated games defense for the sake of accuracy. Believe me when I say that I am not endorsing this game for young children to play.

 Myth #1 – You earn points for killing people.

It is true that you play as criminals in these games and are given the freedom to kill other characters in the game. But, the image that there is a score being calculated on top of the screen that counts like you are playing Galaga every time you kill someone is false. In fact, there are no points in the game at all.

The reality is that the game does not encourage indiscriminate killing at all. There is a narrative that involves a criminal participating in a number of violent crimes. That is all true. But, the image of earning “points” specifically for killing little old ladies is just untrue

Myth #2 – It is different from movies about organized crime because it doesn’t have a story.


Each of the games in the series feature a narrative that follows the trails blazed by movies about organized crime like The Godfather, and Goodfellas.

Grand Theft Auto IV is the story of an Eastern European immigrant who comes to Liberty City (NYC) in an attempt to escape his violent past and finds himself thrust into the path of violence again. GTA IV explores a part of the human experience many of us would never see.

The interactive nature of video games makes the story a little difficult to follow, but it is there.

Myth # 3 – It’s just a game.

Look. I may disagree with the idea that exposure to violent media will make children more violent, but I don’t believe that all kids should be playing everything. This game highlights mature themes and story elements that would have no value to a young child.

Even if we ignore the violence there is always the problem of foul language. I know that my kids repeat everything they hear, this is not a game I want them listening to. (The looks I would get at church would be horrendous!)

We can’t just let “it’s just a game” be an excuse to be lax in our parenting. We need to be active participants in their lives. We do it with sports, homework, and school functions. Why would we ignore the games they play?

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By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor and Chief

The events in Slaughter, LA are shocking. An 8-year-old boy shot and killed his grandmother while she was watching television. He claimed it was an accident, but authorities have indicated that it was intentional. They belief that he may not have understood the consequences of his actions based on his age. Authorities also saw fit to mention that the boy was playing Grand Theft Auto IV in the police report.

This story is tragic. I find myself shaken by it all because my oldest son is almost 8, and imagining him in that situation is horrifying. It is heartbreaking to think that a little boy will have to live with these memories for the rest of his life.

The fact that the police linked Grand Theft Auto IV to the crime has set off the debate regarding violence in video games again. Look at the headlines to these articles on CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post, and Fox News. All of them mention GTA. None of them address the real concern: How was an 8-year-old boy able to gain access to a gun in the first place?

I’m not here to argue the gun control issue. Guns are a part of our culture and I don’t expect that to change (at least not based on anything I write here). I’m sure we might see a wide variety of opinions on guns themselves. But, I am pretty sure that we can ALL agree that an 8-year-old boy should not have been able to access a gun easily enough that he was able to shoot his caregiver while she was watching television. It feels like the focus has been turned onto the video game and away from that critical issue.

It is almost like we, as a society, have given up on the idea that we can keep guns out of the hands of children. It feels like we have decided that it is ok for parents to have guns in the house and not drill their children on the responsibility of gun use. The reality is that an 8-year-old boy is certainly old enough to understand that guns can hurt people and that shooting at another person is “bad.” But, they don’t automatically know those things. We need to teach them.

Right now worried parents are being encouraged to protect their kids by watching a video game release schedule as opposed to their guns. We are questioning a form of media as opposed to the people who are negligent in the care of their guns in the first place. It is just absurd.

As children develop and grow they can only learn about morally correct behavior through lessons, actions, and experiences from their primary caregivers. It is our job, as parents and caregivers, to educate our children about behaviors that are right or wrong and the consequences of their actions. It is our responsibility to teach our children, not just let their child play aimlessly.  It is this lack of care and attention to aimless play that can lead to horrific consequences.  Children need guidance and discussion to be taught the difference between fiction and reality.  They need help to become aware of the actual consequences of their behavior.  This is our job as engaged parents!

Please don’t blame the game.  Think rationally and intelligently.  We, as parents need to step up.  Let’s ENGAGE!


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