Moralizing Against "Vile Games" in U.K.

April 1, 2008 -
In the wake of the Byron Review, Telegraph columnist Jenny McCartney writes about what she sees as a lack of morality in violent video games:
Dr Byron seems a sensible woman, and no doubt she has done her best to contain the spread of some of the more obnoxious material on offer without incurring the ire of the games lobby. But one of her remarks in an interview last week struck me as particularly, and depressingly, modern. "My review is not about making any kind of moral pronouncements," she said, "although I do think that it is important to look at the desensitisation to violence."

...The word "moral" still has deeply unfashionable associations with... the "moral majority" protesting against the "tide of filth" in books and television in the US. How tame and inoffensive that tide looks now.

Yet the truth, surely, is that the majority of us would indeed recoil from the idea that our teenage son or daughter was upstairs playing Manhunt 2... It is insidiously corrupting to their view of themselves and other people... Perhaps if more people, including teenagers, were prepared to voice moral objections to this toxic stuff, it would no longer be possible to lampoon them for caring.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail asked British TV personality Anne Diamond (left) to render her opinion on some popular, violent games. Not surprisingly, Diamond issued a beatdown::
After seeing them Anne said: "Just reviewing these games, made my hair stand on end. I have never got into computer games.but my sons all love them.

"I have to guard constantly that they don't use my ignorance to play games that I wouldn't allow in the house, if only I knew their content.

"Some of the games were so mindless it would be hard to see them as a destructive influence. But others were sickening in their gratuitous use of violence and bloodthirsty imagery."

Her comments include:
Call of Duty 4: Perhaps it might be OK for older teenage boys, but only in small doses.

GP: "Older teenage boys" can join the real British Army and be shipped to Afghanistan. But it's best to limit their COD4?
Resident Evil 4: This game shouldn't be allowed to be sold, even to adults... when I played I was stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of my own blood. This kind of violence can only be bad for you.

GP: News flash, Anne. Everybody who plays this game at one time or another gets stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of their own blood. But it's virtual blood. It's a game. Are you suggesting that zombie movies be banned, as well?

GP: The link on the Jenny McCartney column was sent in by our old pal Jack Thompson, in between threats to sue us.


I remember reading this in the paper and considering it nonsense that would be passed off by normal people as sensationalist. Unfortunately my mother decided the the woman was right in her attack of games, I did try to explain the other points of view but logic no longer applies once something has been in the newspaper, as the fact it's been printed odviously means it's right.

I also recall a radio phone in about the same subject earlier that day where parents were calling in and claiming outrage over violent video games, I believe several actually said that they thought the age rating on the front was a 'skill level' for the game, and had been tricked by their children into buying it.

Once again, what is going on in the UK these days? I don't think the moral panic got nearly as intense anywhere else.

does anyone else see that the image is shopped to hell?

@ Zerodash - The truth is that what you've seen on recently are the sum total of a few isolated incidents of the mainstream print media bashing games. I'm sure that the printed press would LOVE to whip a true 'moral panic' (as that would shift more copies), but the fact of the matter is most people over the age of 40 in the UK think that videogames aren't worthy of thir attention in the same way they don't think comic books, cartoons or trading cards are worthy of their attention. This makes it very difficult for the papers to engineer any kind of moral outrage or public panic, much as they would like to, which I suppose is why they keep on trying.

The truth is, until television news (I'm thinking the BBC, ITV and Ch.4 rather than Sky) starts paying attention to videogames and broadcasts stereotyped views into people homes on a daily basis, or until The Sun/The Mirror start serious, prolonged negative coverage, this will remain and only amount to a few isolated incidents in the "Little England" right-wing media. However, so far all the FOX News-isms are confined to the papers, whose readership are all 40 + years old.

The bad Photoshop job is driving me nuts. It seriously looks like she's absorbing the violent games into her body. "Look what these games are doing to meeeeeee"

I feel that what critics like this are missing is that with ANY video game, one keeps in mind that it's fantasy; it's not real. While young kids may still be trying to develop that "line" (and while I don't think kids should play games like RE4), teenagers and adults have defined that line. I understand her role as a parent, but I see her as a "lost" parent. By "lost," I mean that she has no clue what she's talking about, especially when it comes to the ratings game.

Also, common sense alert, Ms. Diamond - if you pick up a game named "Resident Evil 4" that has a character in a bullet-proof vest holding a gun and the word "EVIL" in big letters, what do you *think* it will be about? Same for "Call of Duty 4" - guy in full-out army gear, running with a gun in hand and choppers in back.

Not all game art is that obvious, but it still makes me want to let out a loud, obnoxious "DUHHHHHHH".

They should include a special RE4 scenario just for her. In the beginning of the game, you have the choice to leave. You do so, you get the game over, the credits roll, and you get small movie of you being stipped of your job and fired, then the ending picture of Chris wearing a paper hat and asing if you would like to super size that.

RE4 was the ONLY RE game I could play, and only because I don't like horror survival. It's surprising that the game that she hated so much that she feels it should be banned (aka: "shouldn’t be allowed to be sold, even to adults"). Well, it's a good thing that here in America we have the First Amendment, along with a lawyer that obviously doean't know what it means as he supports people who are against it.

You know, in one light, he is a First Amendment Lawyer... If you think about it, both the defense and the prosecuter in a murder case could be considered homicide lawyers, it's just a case of which side they are on. For our good friend JT, it's obvious which side of the First Amendment he is on.

I'm quite surprised that GP didn't create a story about the ruling coming down on JT not being disbarred. I was prepared and everything. Now what am I going to do with these tissues and suicide booths?

Bullshit. That is all.

"GP: The link on the Jenny McCartney column was sent in by our old pal Jack Thompson, ***in between threats to sue us.***"

That right there makes this entire article worthy of reading. It's like the build-up to the world's biggest punchline. punch Anne Diamond.

Good grief, I live in this fucking country! I'm suddenly very glad of my decision to move to New Zealand. Are things as bad there? Or do people just not care? I've given up hope of a country where games are an accepted artform

@Wyvern does New Zealand share similar laws to Australia? if so expect a lot of banned games. Australia dictates that any game that is not suitable for a 15 year old is not suitable for anyone. and it is illegal to import "banned" games from other countries.

We knew this was coming. The Bryon report has made video game critics feel vindicated. While Bryon did say that there is no conclusive evidence that real life violence was connected to video games, she did say that video games raise aggression levels in the short term. And she did recommend stricter measures against games being sold to minors.

To video game haters, this is all the ammo they need to organize a new surge against gaming. Editorials and bloggers will be coming out of the woodwork to shout, "See?!? See? Video games are the devil!"

On Diamond's "reviews," I find it interesting that while she objected to graphic violence against AI opponents, she had no objections to the tamer violence of Halo3. Yet, Halo comes with multiplayer, which means that you get to shoot up player-controlled avatars. Wouldn't the more viceral action of multiplayer be more allarming than zombies with pitchforks?

(Note: I have nothing against multiplayer. I'm just boggled by the "logic" some game critics employ.)

"Yet the truth, surely, is that the majority of us would indeed recoil from the idea that our teenage son or daughter was upstairs playing Manhunt 2… "

Then maybe alittle less time spent recoiling could be put into better times such as smashing the disc of Manhunt 2 your son and or daughter bought behind your back.

The god damned problem isn't kids playing games not intended for their age. Its kids having parentally inept parents.

Also I'll admit I get scared when I play Resident Evil 4 at night so how the hell is it desenseitizing anything?

Is this an April Fool's day joke? It's so hard to tell these days, politics being what they are.

@Nova Black
I noticed the Mario Kart thing, too. Apparently it makes kids go crazy with rage.
Well, those blue shells were pretty infuriating.

Also, is it just me, or does it look like Anne is trying to throw up some bling in this picture? And why are the games being consumed by her body?

I think my favorite part of the whole thing is her retelling of RE4's story line. A chemical attack huh. I guess that pesky first 5 minutes of the game explaining about the president's daughter being kidnapped got in the way of the "zombies" stabbing you with pitchforks.

On the other hand, it's nice to know that RE4 will have a new storyline next time I play it. I'll keep my eyes open for chemical attacks and ignore the parasites, kooky religious cults, lack of zombies....nope. Chemical attacks.

She's right, Resident Evil 4 should be banned. That game made me shout so many obscenities because of the number of times I died. I think I held the record among my friends with about 63 deaths in all.

Huh, I tried to leave a comment under Diamond's article, and it didn't show up. Are they blocking it now because of too much traffic, or is it just because I live in the US?

It seems that rather than play the game, she got someone to give her a brief description of them and made up other bits.

I read the full article and she had at least one inaccuracy in every game she 'reviewed'.

Anne Diamond, for those who haven't heard of her (and that will be everyone outside Britain), is a Morning TV Presenter. She lost a son to Cot Death(Sudden Infant Syndrome) back in the 80s and did a lot of good work to publicise measures parents could take to help prevent it. Her campaigning got credit for saving many lives. Sh ewas at the forefront od educating people to lay their children face up in bad, for example.

However, she later disappeared from the TV when she left TV-AM until she reappeared after about 20 years in a Reality TV show Celebrity Fat Camp, where she whined and moaned and eventually walked out, as she wasn't losing weight. Unfortunately, as is the case these days with the people who act up the worst in these shows, she got paid to come back to the TV, and is clearly acting out the role of grumpy old witch. Let's face it, why would someone like her be asked to play mature-rated videogames and judge them? It's for the tantrums. They aren't seriously asking her for her judgements on how good a game it is, that much is obvious. This is car crash TV, watching the slow-mo wreck of the closing of her career. (A shame, she really was the face of British morning telly, back in her day).

@ Monkeythumbs

So, the UK videogame panic is more isolated to print? That's a bit of a relief.

Sorry, that's WAS a Morning TV Presenter.

They do bring up good points. To talk about morality in videogames is a good step forward, although they kind of brushed it away in this paper. Regardless, I think if we know more about what morality stands for in a videogames, to take it from perspective, then we will be better off in understanding the content and meaning of videogames itself. Much like how cinema was initally imagined and slowly re-interperted into what it is today, morality came into question then.
We are gamers and we know the content matter so well, we represent ourself independent of the rest of society. But, because we are already biased due to our favoring of games, that our interpertation of what is morally accepted in a videogame is very different. Perhaps we need to find the middle ground, and then controversy will stop.
I am not saying in any way, however that we are to be regulated by some outside interest group.
Sorry if this was a little bit of a ramble, but the article was interesting and commentary worthy.

@Zerodash Yeah Monkeythumbs is right, this is a storm in the newspaper tea cup.

Stuff like this crops up once in a while, usually associated with some crime or other. In this case I think the tabloids are just cueing up to cash in on the Byron report; this is their best stab at being topical. As Dr. Byron's report has just come out we've a lot more newspaper stories than usual, but even on the day of its release TV had next to nothing.

Give it a day and the Daily Mail will be back to blaming foreigners for our mortgage woes and the EU for making our bananas straight. ;)


It's the 'Mary Whitehouse' mathematical theory in action

'Offence taken is inversely proportional to the ability to understand the medium'

So... You should stab someone with the pitchfork and flower petals fly out? Would it help if the pitch fork was pink or some other fruity color?

The Byron report has merit saying that these things desensitize violence, however suggesting that you remove the factors that make the violence more real ONLY causes further desensitisation of violence.

Would you rather someone see that violence has a gruesome outcome or some sort of happy-wonderfulness?

To me removing blood from a violent scene, movie or game, is the same as removing recoil from a gun. You take away the negative effect which allows you to understand what's happening is bad.

Publish Jack's threats! I'm going to a board meeting today and I need a laugh to calm the nerves!

reading a box is one of the simplest things ever
just how blinded by ignorance are they?
geez... i hate our society

Nice picture. Dead Rising, Clive Barker's Jericho, Resi 4, Call of Duty.

One army game. One zombie game based on a classic film. One game filled with sadomasochism and deformed humanoid creatures... from a guy who has written books and movies on the same subject. One game about parasitic infection which earlier in the series was a classic film-style zombie game.

In *every single one of those games* you would hope to act in the same way as the character(s) you play or else you would die. In three quarters of those games you will never find yourself in that situation in the first place, and in the remaining quarter you would only get there voluntarily and after a sheadload of training.

fffuuunnnyyy stuff....for I see a lack of morals in these moralists....

By the way, whoever did the airbrush of her holding the games did a horrible job.

Was she even holding the games she whines about?

I am all for keeping these violent games away from kids, but in the sense that very violent scenes might traumatize them, not in the sense that they will be turned into killing machines.

If I had nightmares from a horror flick at age 10, the last thing on my mind would be "boy, it would be cool to be like that psycho killer".

I caught the Diamond article over at Joystiq and couldn't help but note her woeful gaming skills. Somebody should've gotten her online -- being called a "rocket whore" probably would've made her faint.

I agree with McCartney on one point, though: I would recoil at the idea of my kid playing Manhunt upstairs, because I'd rather they were in a family-oriented area so that we could talk about the game together and determine its values as compared to real-life situations. Morality starts at home, right?

Thats it, I demand an intelligence and competence test for all people who are going to be parents, be involved in any sort of news story or be heard by the mass public, why are we attacked by this constant onslaught of sensationalist BS, mixed with waves of absolute stupidity and a clear lack of any form of understanding as to the subject matter of their attackee?

And we wonder why the world needs more nitroglycerin...

Anne Diamond, or anyone else for that matter, is in NO position to tell adults what is good or bad for them as far as any entertainment is concerned.

Anyone else notice that she says older teenage "boys" should have their CoD4 time limited? So does that mean girls are okay playing it indefinitely or what?

Can we moralize agiasnt Useless governments and not entertainment? Ooh even better Corrupt Politicians.

I can't believe I missed this in my first read

"But one of her remarks in an interview last week struck me as particularly, and depressingly, modern." She's upset about comments being MODERN. Just... I can't, I can't figure out why people like living in the past. If someone wants to live in the past so badly, go live a theorcracy. You'll never modernize in a theocracy! I just can't think of an insult.

"Her comments include:

Call of Duty 4: Perhaps it might be OK for older teenage boys, but only in small doses.

Resident Evil 4: This game shouldn’t be allowed to be sold, even to adults… when I played I was stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of my own blood. This kind of violence can only be bad for you."

You're not a scientist, Ma'am. You're a columnist. You don't know what's good for every kid, let alone every person on the whole freaking planet.

"Perhaps if more people, including teenagers, were prepared to voice moral objections to this toxic stuff,"

Toxic stuff like pushing your victorian morals on others, dear?

Oh and did anybody notice that the original article gets its comments checked before making them public? Yay for constricting free speech!

Oh, and what the hell is going on with her shoulder and that game box?

@Christian Astrup:

Perhaps she's showing how dangerous violent video games can be by cutting herself with the game box?

Ummm Resident Evil 4 isnt a bad game. Ya there is blood but it is not explicit.

@ Christian

As I said earlier, a bad airbrush job on the part of the art crew. Notice the other three games in her hand are mixed in with her clothing and the tops have been chopped off.

I'm not sure she was even really holding the games up.

"Resident Evil 4: This game shouldn’t be allowed to be sold, even to adults… when I played I was stabbed to death with pitchforks amid fountains of my own blood. This kind of violence can only be bad for you."

Bite me all right you have no damn right at all to tell me a 27 year old adult what games i have the "right" to buy....F*** this anti game crap i'm sick and tired of it and i'm beyond the point now where i think we need to "protect the children" nothing says this better then a george carlin quote "F*** The children"

Damn moron go do something useful

Her expression is like "See these? Take a good look before I burn them"

Yeah, I got pissed when I got stabbed to death by all the guys in the first big area of Resident Evil 4, too. But I didn't go bitching about how nobody should ever play the game.... I just kept working at it til I started getting the feel for how the Wii remote worked in the game :P

I wonder how this woman feels about religious texts such as the Bible. That has some way worse stuff than a bunch of villagers stabbing you to death with pitchforks. It'd be hypocritical if she didn't think that should be banned as well.

to quote ms. McCartney: "but one of her remarks in an interview last week struck me as particularly, and depressingly, modern."

This is probably the single most horrible sentence in the entire article, if a person calls a scientific analysis of the available evidence "depressingly modern" you know you're in trouble, please ms. McCartney, stay with writing your columns, that fewer and fewer people read, and we'll stay with our "depressingly modern" scientific analyses and computer games.

Is it just me, or have the games in her left hand have a huge chunk missing at the top of'em?
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