Does Violence Really Make Games More “FUN”?

A significant number of my 19-28 year old male college students would give a resounding “yes!” to that question. I asked an informal research question in one of my classes, asking the guys if their Xbox violent games were more “fun” when they contain more violence, more killing and more blood. They laughed out loud, nodding manly at one another and yelled, “heck yeah!”

Many NFL and NHL season ticket holders would say the same. I wonder: is there a fun-level difference between participating in the act of violence and simply watching the violence?  I agree with those who argue that people who play violent video games and watch violence in sports are participants, particularly the gamers. But, my question centers on the issue of “fun”.

Driving my son to school after a doctor appointment, the radio news confirmed that a 16 year old boy in a neighboring area died after a head on collision during his Varsity football game. Friday night, his school and community were cheering on their team. Today, their schools are closed, all sports are cancelled, and a community mourns.

I’ve never found myself an advocate for safety in sports. Honestly, I don’t believe much will change no matter how many millions the NFL has to pay out. But, will the Dad of the young man who died from a high school hit, ever again jump to his feet on a Sunday afternoon, throwing fist-punches into the air, cheering at the hit he just saw in a Dallas Cowboys game? Will he ever again view a “great hit” as fun?

A Dad on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer team last season mentioned the need for some sort of helmet in soccer. Since my son is in a highly competitive ice hockey league, and has had a concussion, I somewhat shrugged off the Dad’s comment. Ice hockey is brutal for me to watch. Seeing my daughter in soccer all these years was far less stressful.

This season, where my daughter is at a higher soccer level and my son just started playing, my view changed. Watching kids jump 3’ in the air and hit heads instead of the ball, is intense. In sports such as soccer, girls’ lacrosse, and field hockey, perhaps the question should be, “will the sport be less fun if we institute helmets?” As Mom, I say “protection keeps the “fun” in sports!”

There is the ongoing helmet debate, but the bigger issue simply lies in contact sports. Fans won’t pay if hitting is taken out of hockey and football. Players don’t feel as competitive without the physical violence. And parents promote the fierceness. I’m one of the quieter hockey Moms, but wow, have I sat next to the crazy ones, who literally scream to their boys, demanding hits on their opponent. Better yet, I had a Grandma who set me straight on the importance of hitting in hockey:

When my son was 13 and just began body-checking in hockey, he took a wicked hit when playing in Canada one afternoon. I winced and said to my daughter next to me,  “jeeze, he needs to get used to this now that they are checking. That hit was horrible!”

No kidding, a Canadian Grandma turned to me and snarkily quipped, “Maybe you Americans should get your boys hitting as Peewees like we do. Then they would be better players by now.”  Hmmm. Better players? Or better hitters? FYI: Canada recently banned U13 body-checking.

Does violence really make games more “fun”?  While I personally say no, (as I cringe in the stands), America yells, “heck yeah!” to the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

Violence in games has been a form of entertainment since before the gladiator games in Ancient Rome. We can squawk about having evolved as parents and grown more educated and sophisticated as humans, and less barbaric in our entertainment, but the truth lies in America’s family living rooms: Black Ops II day one sales made $500million, reaching $1billion in sales 15 days after its launch. This week, Grand Theft Auto V made $800million in 24 hours. Kids 5-20 years old didn’t fund that entire $800million, but they’re playing. Mom and Dad are buying.

Grand Theft Auto III gave the player ability to hire a prostitute, have sex with her, kill her, then steal her money. What must Grand Theft Auto V give the player the ability to do?

Heck, if that’s how we Americans are defining “fun”, hockey body-checking and football collisions must seem downright boring.

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