For Great Justice
I hate the argument that violent video games lead to a violent society. It is baseless claim that flies in the face of all established fact, generally made by parents who won’t accept individual responsibility for the behavior of their children. But it’s a pretty useless argument to make with people who have already made up their minds. If someone insists that Grand Theft Auto IV is the reason why there’s so much inner city violence, disregarding the fact that there has been inner city violence since there was an inner city, then nothing will change that viewpoint. Ignorance makes for an infallible defense.
No, my argument is focused more on the lighter side of video games. Let politicians turn video game violence into a campaign issue; there are some games that simply no one can object to. These are the happy, fun video games that teach kids about sharing and love. Strangely, they also tend to be amazingly fun, to boot.
Animal Crossing: While The Sims comes under fire for sexual content, there’s nothing unwholesome in Animal Crossing (or, as my friends and I have dubbed it, ‘Zing). Your goal in this game? Well, it depends. You plant trees, catch bugs, fish, and run delivery errands for human-sized talking animals. The game itself is almost sickeningly cute, but also incredibly addictive. It’s got a Sim City aspect to it in that you get to basically build your own community, and the bizarre animals living in your town make it surprisingly fun. Violence-wise, the worst thing you can do is smack someone over the head with a butterfly net.
Dance Dance Revolution: Here’s a counter to one of the oldest arguments about video games. Many people complain that obesity is a huge problem because kids play too many video games (never mind that we as a culture encourage enormous portion sizes, unreasonably greasy food, and watching sports rather than playing them). Well, DDR beats all of those arguments into submission the way Mr. T would beat a horde of ninjas after his bling. DDR requires movement, and a lot of it. Heck, they even have a workout mode. My girlfriend Sarah has been working regularly at DDR as a way of exercising in her diet plan. End results are 123 pounds lost. Thank you, video games!
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Phoenix Wright is a translation of the first Gyakuten Saiban game that was released in Japan. You take the role of a bumbling defense lawyer who takes on clients who are basically dead men walking. While the game’s legal system is, er…off, to say the least, it’s a game that is almost entirely text-based (improve your reading skillz, natch) and that focuses on problem solving skills. You have to gather evidence, listen to testimony, and find the holes in people’s cases, all while being increasingly drawn into the wacky adventures of the spiky-haired main character. For great justice.
Trauma Center: Under the Knife: Want a game that focuses on hand-eye coordination, problem solving, brain teasers, and teaches kids a good lesson? Right here, baby! Not only do you have to solve all sorts of bizarre medical cases, but the entire game is about how wonderful it is to be a doctor. Plus, the main character is a doctor who fights terrorism. Anyone who has a problem with that moral is clearly a pinko commie and needs to be reprogrammed by our beloved watchers in Homeland Security immediately.
Table Tennis: For the X-Box 360, Table Tennis was developed by the same folks responsible for the GTA series. What’s so family friendly about it? Nothing in particular, besides the fact that it’s a game of good, wholesome pong. But since a lot of folks who bash video games grew up in a time when the only game out there was Pong, then the nostalgia alone might win them over. Plus, you can bench press your 360 for exercise in between games. It’s not quite as bulky as the original X-Box, but it’s still got some heft to it.
The five games above are really only a few examples of games that aren’t violent or disruptive in any real way. For every “bad” game out there, there’s a family-friendly one, too. A few off the top of my head include classics like Tetris and Super Mario Brothers as well as more modern games like Harvest Moon, Frequency, and Guitaroo Man. From an exercise angle, the Nintendo Wii is a godsend in terms of providing active video games, with its top-selling titles including Wii Sports Resort and Wii Fit.
I’m personally stockpiling titles of family-friendly games that I can unleash the next time someone presents me with a “video games are evil” argument. Give me titles like Dead Rising and Panty Raider, and I’ll shoot back games like Mario Party and Guitar Hero. I’m willing to bet that I can match people game for game on this matter.
Of course, the real problem isn’t that parents think that games are too violent. I honestly think that the biggest problem with older adults and video games is that, like rock and roll music, comic books, and television before it, it’s a medium of entertainment that the previous generation does not understand. Very rarely will someone look at something they don’t “get” and try to see the good in it. It’s much easier to tear things apart and label the strange new thing as evil and corruptive to society.