Friday, 9 March 2007

Rhetoric and Violence/Controversy with Rockstar North

Videogames, like any other form of media, have a degree of persuasive power that is conveyed whenever the game is played. These rhetoric facets come in a range of forms and can even be communicated through the aesthetics of a game. The most salient videogame rhetoric, within a social context, has to be that of character behavior and in particular violence.
Since their creation, videogames have come under constant scrutiny from the press and cultural conservatives alike. Senator Joseph Lieberman in 1998 stated "these games ... are part of a toxic culture of violence that is enveloping our children, that is helping to desensitize them and blur the lines between right and wrong, and encouraging some of the most vulnerable of them to commit violence". This example of excessive media attention is rather bereft of any real evidence or actual study. Although there are a number of organizations researching into the link between aggression and violent videogames, studies show that the connection between these factors is rather limited.
I conducted a personal investigation of violent rhetoric in video games using both Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (Rockstar North: 2004) and Canis Canem Edit (Rockstar Vancouver: 2006). Both games have been criticized by the press for their glamorization of violence. In GTA: San Andreas, our window and guide into the game is Carl Johnson or CJ while in Canis Canem Edit our guide is Jimmy Hopkins. Through our introduction to both games, players instantly recognize these virtual worlds are dangerous and corrupt. However, the games have a certain addiction that I believe is created through both: the games size and its ability to allow the player to act out his/her darker fantasies. The rules and boundaries within both games, as well as the ideologies of the characters within the games allow people to go around killing, selling drugs, fighting in an environment or magic circle where the rules accept this behaviour. The games provide an environment where people can perform these atrocities in safety. The player understands that within this environment it is acceptable to act in such a manor however, he/she also understands that upon terminating play these actions are unacceptable.
In conclusion, I believe that playing violent games does not make you violent, players understand that when they play games such as GTA: San Andreas or Canis Canem Edit, they are entering a world where violent behaviour is acceptable. Similarly, on finishing play they understand that the rules and ideologies of the games are terminated until they resume playing the game. However, I do believe that these games should be classified as games for adults. Adults have the ability to clearly distinguish between the two environments while young children and misguided adolescents do not. This understanding of playing games is learnt through play and with practice gamers come to understand the transference between reality and the magic circle

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