Seducing the Innocent: Video Games, Comics and Violence

With the all the terrible gun violence happening in the United States, some are quick to point to video games as the source of violent behaviour. Senator Diane Feinstein, the democratic Senator from California has been a staunch critic of video games and “their role in perceived real world gun violence”.

Feinstein has been quoted as saying: “I think the really violent video game becomes a kind of simulator to practice on,” she said. “It enables the individual to become much more familiar with that depiction of death and blood. Of course it’s not the way it is in real life.”

All this talk of violence in the media is actually quite similar to the writings of Fredric Wertham in The Seduction of the Innocent. As we know, Wertham was instrumental during that time in influencing the CCA and was extremely critical of mass media, especially comic books and the violent imagery which they depicted. Comics depict death and blood, and are accessible to those same kids who play video games.

In a similar vein to Feinstein, Wertham writes that a superman comic had a “gun advertisement with four pictures of guns [that] completes the impression that even if you can’t become Superman, at least you can rise above the average by using force…The gun advertisements are elaborate and realistic” (Wertham 53).

But all this talk makes one wonder if video games and comics are truly that bad for kids, and for that matter, adults. It seems to me that video games are becoming more and more realistic looking, that’s for sure.

Recently, Science Daily, a popular science news website published an article saying that according to Iowa State researchers, there is a link between video games and youth violence and delinquency. The article stated that the “results show that both the frequency of play and affinity for violent games were strongly associated with delinquent and violent behavior. However, they also note that “just because a child plays a violent video game does not mean he or she is going to act violently. Researchers say if there is a take away for parents, it is an awareness of what their children are playing and how that may influence their behavior.”

With all the different medias coming out surrounding comics, there has been more video games depicting our favorite superheroes. Take for instance the video game that just came out today, Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Joker has a GUN!

In the game, you can play as both Superhero and Supervillain in a Mortal Combat style fighting game (NetherRealm studios, the same developer as Mortal Combat worked on the game). But the game also differs from other fighting type games as it was designed to appeal to comics fans by bringing storytelling to the fore. In the collectors edition, the game comes with both a statue, copy of Justice League Doom and the Injustice comic. The game starts where the comic ends off and each fight is embedded within the storyline. The game therefore is an extension of the comic and depicts the violence through a different medium.

While Injustice might not be bad as some others in terms of its destructiveness, it is still quite bloody and violent. While video games can be linked to violence/juvenile delinquency, I wonder if games based on comics like Injustice are really that bad. What do you think?

I skipped BSD for THIS...

I skipped BSD for THIS…

Wertham, Fredric. “Excerpt from Seduction of the Innocent.” A Comics Studies Reader. Ed. Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2009. 53-57.

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4 Responses to Seducing the Innocent: Video Games, Comics and Violence

  1. jcmah says:

    Oh wow, you actually got the Collector’s Edition, hahaha. Whoa, it’s huge! I’m not a big DC Comics or NetherRealm fan so I just settled for the regular preorder, haha (that, and I spent a bunch of my money on the LE Metal Gear Rising the other month…). It’s a pretty fun game though, I think I’m getting the hang of using Harley Quinn… XD Over-the-top attacks in a good way, not like NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat, haha…

    I once read somewhere that it might not be the violent games/comics/movies themselves that “inspire” violent behaviour, but rather the media itself. Every time a major school shooting happens, the media is all over it, trying to “delve into the mind of the killer” and running hourly long reports about them. And this says to people “Wow, so I can get lots of attention and go down in history if I do this…” That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be covering these stories, but it really makes you think. Just some food for thought. Speaking of which, movies don’t seem to get the same heat as games and comics do… They all have rating systems, and I would argue that the movie ratings are no more enforced than games and comics, but that’s another story…

    Overall, I would like to think that people are smart enough to make the proper distinctions between reality and fiction, but I agree with you that parents should be looking at what their younger children are doing. Playing mature-rated video games or reading mature-rated comics and violent behaviour cannot be factually stated to be linked together from a correlation alone. Correlation does not equal causation.

    • Sheena Manabat says:

      Yeah it is pretty big! haha. But it’s because of the statue! =) I actually really love playing as Joker; I think he’s exactly how Joker should be. To me, he’s actually ridiculous/funny (like when he’s using the dead cop’s mouth like a puppet), not dark and emo (i.e.Nolan’s psychopathic scary Joker).

      Speaking of Christopher Nolan I agree that films dont get the same heat. Batman was extremely violent but it’s alllll good, right? (Slavoj Zizek actually goes into a huge thing about this but I’m not going to get into it, you should look it up though!)

      As for the media sometimes they do blow things up and a lot of the time from we are desensitized (from violence in films, video games etc). Today I was actually listening to the CBC about the Boston bombings and they talked about how things like the bombing don’t shock us anymore because we are so used to it. Like Simon posted, I’m sure many of us do here about tragedies in the news and “simply shrug and continue on” with our lives.

  2. simonthompson says:

    I think there is something to be said for desensitization and exposure. Apparently (I wasn’t alive to experience it), Gone With the Wind had mad a massive impact on this problem by being the first movie to feature the uncensored word “damn”. That in itself doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you think about movies so violent that to some people they’re also comedic (Hobo With a Shotgun, for example) you can see there’s a problem: should we draw a line? Where?

    As far as gaming goes, it’s just another medium of artform some people don’t understand. The rating system is to (hopefully) prevent children from accessing the more violent content to at least try and allow more violent content at a later time. Are the games really that bad? Probably not, I’m sure that I’m not the only one who hears about some absolute tragedy in the news and simply shrug and continue on with my life. It’s got more to do with frequency and acceptance as opposed to the content itself.

  3. caitg says:

    I feel like movies are overlooked a lot of the time as another form of visual media that can be accessed by a great number of people, partially because they’re so…I don’t know. Socially acceptable? You can go see The Avengers in theatres seven times, but if you have some of the comics instead, somehow you’re weirder. Furthermore, I think that accusing one form of violence while ignoring another is a bit stupid.

    Although people can be influenced negatively by witnessing or participating in violence, there are many more factors than simply reading a comic book or playing a game that would account for violent tendencies. Ultimately I think it’s up to the parents of children and teens to help them understand the difference between fantasy and reality, and to make sure that everyone in the home is informed about exactly WHAT is happening in the games, comics, and movies being shown. There are plenty of parents who ignore rating systems and don’t care what their child is consuming and then are later baffled by their child’s behaviours. It’s a matter of responsible consumption more than the subject matter itself, I think.

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