Video Games & Murder

A reader recently commented on a previous post entitled “The Goodness of Bad Day LA” as follow:

Wow, I guess school shooting and gang shootings just aren’t enought for some people. I guess there are just too many people out there making good wholesome games and you figured you had to balance the scale a bit and make a mindless killing game. Well good luck with it. When you read about the next teacher who died at the hands of a child you can sit back and say “hey, I helped do that!”

I am baffled whenever someone implies that I might derive pleasure from senseless murder simply because I am a video game designer. It makes me wonder how and why some people have such a negative view of games and their impact on society. Where do people get the idea that video games actually cause murder? How many murders were linked to video games in the US last year? To the best of my knowledge it is zero. Can someone show me otherwise?

I can find a lot of stories that talk about murderers who play video games. For instance:

Ralls nonchalantly described to police investigators his role in the deaths of five people and the robbing of at least 23 others as the Nut Cases terrorized Oakland for 10 weeks ending in their arrest in January 2003, police said.

The suspects told police they would spend their time getting high and playing the violent video game “Grand Theft Auto III” — which rewards players for committing crimes — and then would act out what they’d done when they grew bored with the game.

Full story at:

Here we have a couple of maniacs who went on a killing spree in San Francisco. The crimes they commited were senseless and horrific. The article clearly calls out the fact that they played the “violent video game” GTA3. And it points out that the game “rewards players for committing crimes”. But does this mean that GTA3 caused the crimes? Does anyone honestly believe that these guys would have led a crime-free life of public service if it weren’t for video games? Here we have maniacs who played video games. Video games did not make them maniacs.

In addition to playing games these guys also “got high”. I would imagine that as they drove around on their killing sprees they were listening to something other than Mozart – perhaps something a little more rage filled? They probably enjoyed the a few violent movies. The point is that these kids, and a lot more on top of them, are exposed to violent media day in and day out. When one person snaps why is it entertainment content that receives the blame? People have been going on killing sprees since long before the invention of digital media.

People get road rage and kill one another. We do not blame cars or traffic or poorly designed road systems. A friendly game of golf gets too competitive and someone ends up with an iron lodged in his or her brain cavity. We do not blame golf club manufacturers or the greens keeper. I could keep going, but the point here is that when someone goes nuts in those contexts we rightly blame it on the person, not the cereal he ate for breakfast or his favorite sit-com.

As for how all of this relates to Bad Day LA, I’d like to point out that far from being a “murder simulator” this is a game where the player is actively encouraged to help people in need and rescue people in distress. Killing innocent people results in the player being punished. So unlike GTA3, this is a game that “rewards people for committing acts of heroism.”


20 responses to “Video Games & Murder”

  1. Ignore him.

    That person obviously didn’t even bother to look into the game.

    Last time I checked BDLA was about someone trying to escape the city. No where does it say, that any of the characters are viscious and insane killers.

  2. Religion caused more death and destruction than games and movies ever will. And you don’t hear anyone else on that. Well, except if it’s an other religion.
    Some people simply need an easy scapegoat> And what’s better than using something that you don’t understand in the first place.

  3. On the topic of “murder simulators,” the* video game addressing Jack Thompson’s infamous “Modest Proposal” (condensed version) has been released to the public. It is titled “I’m OK!” and has been created by startup company Thompsonsoft.

    * – One of many, I presume, but this one seems to be getting some attention. It’s also free, so go get it!

  4. *Gasp* they listen to bad music. Why, next you’ll tell me they also play with the mighty deadly rubber ball.

  5. Think about what happens if they ever actually band video games, suddenly these psychotic teenagers have nothing to restrain their violent minds. What do you think happens next?

  6. Please for crying out loud, religion has nothing to do with this whole debate, I wish people would just leave religion alone when it comes to debates that it doesn’t have anything to do with. I’m Christian and I’m getting tired of my religion getting ripped off by people. Ok now for the whole video games and murder debate, this is seriously starting to get old, games is entertainment and shouldn’t get blamed, that’s about the lamest excuse possible, take responsibility for your deeds. At least it isn’t rock’n’roll anymore, :).

  7. Dawid, I have some christians friends who will tell you that peoples who were pretending to be Christian have actually caused “more death and destruction than games and movies ever will.”. It’s not actually due to the religion itself, but neither is it due to video game, is it?
    And this is a fact that that religion is quite often use to justify crimes or murder, whereas I think no-one ever say that he killed anyone else because of video game !
    I’m NOT atacking any religion. Any one who actually considers Jesus’s life as his first and last exemple could do no harm to anybody, the problem came from hypocritical peoples.

  8. Though this may not be from a very respectable source, the makers of Postal commented on how surgarcoated the environment children are raised in are; how shielding small children from slasher movies is all well and good and all, but when parents fail to be HONEST with their children and don’t sufficiently educate them on how subjects such as sex and violence affect everyday life.
    Bad Day LA and the GTA series not only are just meant to be fun videogames, they’re also pieces that satirize the very concepts that people believe that they’re endorsing. It really is a screwed up world, but because of all the wrong people.

  9. As a person who has gotten high and reveled in GTA I can testisfy that I’ve never killed anyone or nothin’, so game on.

    I will say this though, as designers we ought to re-evaluate our toolset of mechanics and look into social dynamics as a way of sculpting an experience. BDLA sounds like it will have at least one such dynamic with the rescue aspect, which in the LA setting, as city ripe as any for parody, should reverberate in a fairly positive, if cynical, way.

    My next project will be a game about going to middle-school and getting cajoled by the cool kids into figthing an alienated loner, effectively catalyzing that loner’s transformation into a psychotic killer. I’m using the game medium to explore the REAL reasons why these sort of things happen.

  10. Video games, violent movies, rock ‘n roll, religion, pick your skapegoat. Just don’t hold people responsible for their actions, that just wouldn’t make sense!

  11. I think games are good at teaching people to very quickly course correct, aim, prioritize, and strategize, and you can use those skills as a cop, a crook, a soldier, or a terrorist.

    It doesn’t really make news when GTA inspires someone to enter the police academy or when a couple gets closer playing Diablo together, but games can cause scary shit like that to happen, too.

    That said, I have it on authority that Bad Day LA is a horrible, rotten murder simulator, and you should keep your kids away from it.

  12. Hybrid Son Of Oxayotl, you probably have a point. I overreacted and I’m sorry for that. So-called Christians has done things that makes you understand why people hate Christianity, and it has become a joke of the day. Just look at George Bush (so-called Christian squared), :).

  13. Haha… You know, that just sounds like another parent too lazy to raise their own child. What is it with parents these days expecting the schools, media and government to make sure kids aren’t “watching uncencored television” or playing “violent video games”… Last I checked… When you became a mom or dad it became YOUR responsibility to censor your own child.

    Eh… and even if the complainers didn’t pop out kids of their own… Same thing applies, blame it on the parents, not the things parents conspicuously let the kids do.

  14. Don’t blame on the video game, some people (like me) just nature born violent… :p

  15. hi American,
    your game looks great. hope things are good in hong kong.
    i was recently retained there in the airport for having a bullit.
    no fun. check out if you have time.
    🙂 liz walsh (from ea a million years ago)

  16. So everyone is entitled to their opinion right? These days it seems most aren’t allowed to say otherwise without being attacked by the larger group of the “I am right and your wrongs”. My opinion (If it at all matters), is violence, wether it be real or simulated is still violence and violent movies and games can often promote violence just like a feel good movie can promote a better attitude. Obviously to those that can understand that a game is just a game and that life isn’t a game, well it’s easy for you to argue that we can’t blame the games or movies. I do agree, but only partially because I also know that games and movies can have powerful messages and effects on the mind. I am afraid that the soon to be “new standard” in entertainment will be live violence on stage. As if we don’t already have enough of it in real life. Soon there will be a game that trys to convey how satisfying it is for a rapist to rape a woman. I am sorry, but I believe we should be making more movies and games about helping those in need and offering those who are troubled a different view of the world. Sadly some people aren’t making this easy. Every violent movie and every violent game is getting more and more violent and contributes to a bad portrayal of our world. I understand that movies and games are an art, but what we choose to portray will have a big impact on many people and some could be easily influenced. What are we trying to say through art? Is it really all necessary? All this violence? I say “thank you” to laws and order. I say “thank you” to boundaries. We have these for a reason and if you can’t see why, then I suggest you learn how to see quickly before your world comes crashing down upon you!

  17. getting back to the subject people only care about video games when something bad has happened for instance my dad is a cop so the only drugs i take are prescribed the only time i’m agressive is when i’m playing video games yes but the ONLY agressive thing I do is swear sow you can’t blame me for swearing, my mom plays pogo games and she swears so the next time you think video games caused the problem also take the fact that every one you know can be playing a violent video game and they still have not cracked and started shooting at you

  18. You mention road rage and the friendly game of golf . . . That’s because they played Carmageddon or Leaderboard!

  19. Funny, had these reviewers actually played the game they would realize it is the polar opposite of the GTA series… GTA you are in a normal world (well almost normal) and you create chaos through murder and crime. in BDLA you are in a world of chaos and try your best to create order through healing people, putting out fires, stopping looters, and protecting people as best you can……sure you drink a couple fortys and wack to a couple porno mags….but is that really so bad.

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