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Video Games and Violent Masculinity

For those of you who were not present in lecture today, we discussed violence against women and our societal endorsement of violence as a part of masculinity. To illustrate this point we watched a short video of a young man playing a video game (to me it appeared to be Grand Theft Auto, but I could be wrong) narrating his movements somewhat comically—theme music included—as he follows a prostitute down the street and kills her. I have embedded it below , but be warned, it is definitely not safe for work.

This young man definitely sounds young, and while I’m not all that shocked he created this video, I am sad that this sort of violence is normalized and even seen as humorous in boys. I have a 16-year-old brother who has played video games for seven years and he never plays any that are not all about killing as many people as possible (he enjoys Call of Duty, Modern Warfare, and Assassin’s Creed in particular). He is so desensitized to this violence and often makes “humorous” videos of his own with his friends. They often surround an unsuspecting, isolated player together and mock him over their headsets, purposely give away the target’s team’s position to their enemies, and then kill him to add fatal injury to the insult. My brother does this for fun. He shows me the videos expecting me to laugh; I just feel a sort of vague horror.

I have arguments frequently with my brother that these sort of games desensitize players to violence (I am not saying they make a person suddenly BECOME violent, just that they are no longer as upset about violence and don’t take it as seriously as they would otherwise) and he always become very defensive and insists that it has no impact. IT DOES. When we teach boys to associate masculinity with being the most aggressive, most violent person they can be, they act on that, whether it is through video games or in reality. My brother honestly doesn’t realize that not everyone is going to find ganging up on someone and killing them entertaining. That is just scary.

I think these video games capitalize on the tie-in of violence with masculinity by marketing their games to boys and making them as gory as possible. The games I witness in my house every day are full of big, rugged men with guns running around killing people left and right. I have yet to see a female character. I have yet to see any task that does not involve killing someone, and killing is never punished in these games (if you kill an enemy you are rewarded; if you kill a friend, mistakenly or otherwise, they can often just respawn, no harm done). This violent, masculine culture is only exacerbated through the use of video games, and I think an important step toward eliminating real-world violence would be to eliminate its glorification through mediums like these games.


5 Comments

  1. mplowden says:

    I agree with you. My parents definitely agree with you. These violent video games do desensitize their audience towards violence. My brothers weren’t allowed to play mature video games throughout their middle school and high school years. Now however that they’re over 18, they do unfortunately play these violent games.

    • meerkat93 says:

      I’m glad your parents restricted your brothers’ access to mature games. I wish my parents would do that for my brother.

  2. Stephanie Jones says:

    Watching that video, all I could feel was disgust and mild horror. I don’t understand how anyone could find this funny. But for people to say that these types of games don’t cause harm or at least desensitize us is ridiculous. We actually talked about how violent media (video games included) influence aggressive behavior in my social psych class today, and there are many studies that have been done that support this. But while it is a risk factor, playing violent video games won’t in and of itself make you go out and commit violent acts; several other risk factors would have to be added in to make someone commit extreme aggressive acts like those seen in these video games. And while I don’t think video games like those you mentioned in your post should be taken off the market entirely (largely because I disagree with the idea of censorship, not because I think these are great games) I do think parents should make more of an effort to pay attention to the ratings on games because they do glorify violence and desensitize us to it.

  3. dsielski says:

    I have played all of these violent video games growing up and even though I may have seen all of the violent acts on these games, I always knew that it was just a game. Personally, the fact that I have seen people being beaten up viciously on a video game would not even compare to seeing that in real life or make me think that it was alright.

  4. hebasha says:

    This is pretty interesting, as my brothers played this particular game and games like this in their youth. Although my parents were unaware of the significance of video game ratings, I did not participate in playing or watching them play these games. It’s important to note that, although the negative effects of playing these games may not necessarily reflect all video game users (my brothers, for one, did not suddenly turn into misogynists or gun-weilding murderers–far beyond that), but the fact that these themes, which regretfully misrepresent women, are considered okay and “humorous” is wrong. I do agree though, that female protagonists in video games (Lara Croft) are hypersexualized into a “Badass chick” that essentially has it all; the looks, the moves, and an outright wonder woman. Could we a bit more realistic here?

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