A Short History of Game Panics


**EDIT: Oops, let me restate all the following instead as: bb editors, tidy it up, please. **

It’s hard to concentrate on the good story and writing here when spelling and layout issues keep popping up. The very first sentence omits a crucial “r” resulting in “Do you know where you child is?” – all too reminiscent of the infamous Bushism “Is our children learning?”

Trying not to be too pedantic, and mindful that all of us occasionally commit such errors, I still cling to the expectation that journalistic output should have fewer mistakes in it than a hastily drafted email. In this case specifically, a read-through before hitting “publish” should have caught these (aborted subheadings?):

Pinball panicNew York Daily News/Getty ImagesWhen video arcades started booming …

Death Raceflickr user Jim Merullo"On TV, violence is passive," a psychologist …

Mortal Kombat and DoomMortal Kombat/DoomAs the senator …

Great content and overall great article! But please throw your editor some work.



So, the idea is you should disagree with everything in Reason simply because a large source of its funding comes from people you disagree with on unrelated topics? Welcome to the genetic fallacy.


You seem confused. This is a blog, not a news site. Save your pedantry for CNN, they desperately need it.

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I didn’t hear anyone say that. It seems that you have mischaracterized someone else’s statement in order to more easily argue against it. I would tell you what fallacy that is, but I’m sure you already know.


Didn’t we just have this article or one extremely similar to it like a week ago? I remember commenting that the rare and controversial Death Race game was actually at my roller rink way back when.

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You’re right, confusion acknowledged. Thank you.

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What was the point of bringing up the Koch connection other than to discredit the article by association? Where’s the mischaracterization?

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Well, it’s good to know what interests are behind anything you’re reading - not so you can make a prejudicial judgement on the information, but so you can be aware of broader trends and patterns in media and propaganda strategy.

For example, the fact that the Koch Brothers are funding hip iconoclastic publications like Reason could suggest that they hope to recuperate anti-government sentiment in a rightward direction (i.e. promoting a pro-corporate discontent, rather than an anti-capitalist discontent). That doesn’t invalidatate the article or even American libertarianism in general, but it’s very interesting to know who’s involved in promoting it in the bigger picture.


We’re here to serve.

Them whining about video games inducing violence is much like the other team whining about guns doing the same.

Millions of guns in Canada, remarkably few of those owners seem inclined to go on murder sprees…


That money is only intended to make them cover Climate change as a horse race, not effect their video game coverage…

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Not really “Much like”

Video games have zero established relationship with violence and murder.

On the other hand, while guns don’t whisper in the ears of murderers “do it, do it” , they do enable murderers.

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Not to mention that there are occasional gun murder sprees in Canada, and the fairly loose gun control there (if stricter than in the US) probably plays a role. For example, at least in the Dawson College shooting, the shooter legally obtained his weapons.

While I haven’t seen anything that would conclusively link video game violence as the sole catalyst for real-world violent behavior, i think its very interesting that many game creators in the industry who on the one hand will vehemently deny that their games have a psychological impact on players, also when asked why they became game designers will often state that its because of the power of the medium to impact the audience. That the interactive storytelling and immersive role-playing is much more effective than traditional film/tv/written word.

It seems disingenuous that an industry that is constantly touting the impact of their product and their constant goal of blurring the lines between our real word and the virtual world, would deny that there isn’t grounds for some concern (or at least questions) around whether it can impact our underlying mental state.

I guess people are committed to a black and white stance for their own reasons. The game industry cannot even open the door to a dialog on the subject for fear of showing weakness and being overrun by their critics (or reducing their profits in what is already a high stakes gamble to create AAA games). And the parents/authorities of the world do not like to consider that our psychology is a product of cumulative inputs of which the video game industry is only one. The idea that they also need to take on other things like the fear mongering media, America’s love affair with weapons, our unprecedented access to atrocities from all over the world, is overwhelming and paralyzing. They want a whipping boy they can focus all their attention on.

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For those whose mental illness makes it difficult to differentiate between the real world and a fictional one, the “realism” of the fictional world need not be particularly sophisticated. People with terrible mental illness have been provoked to violent acts by books or ancient mythology.

I have a great deal of sympathy for anyone who suffers so, but are we going to proof our entire popular culture so as to not excite people who can’t tell fantasy from reality? Isn’t dealing with the mental illness our first responsibility? We can argue about games and guns later.

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Kind of interesting that the party affiliation of every Democratic politician who has ever spoken out against videogames is mentioned, but nowhere do you see that, for example, 67% of Republicans think that videogames are a greater menace than guns. Still putting the “R” in Reason…

If you’re a Republican you never ever say anything bad about guns. It’s rule #1. Of course videogames are a greater menace. So are kittens and breakfast cereal.


Film, TV, prose, and video games all obviously impact our mental states (in fact, that’s all any of those things actually do). It does not follow that reading violent books, watching violent movies, or playing violent video games causes people do be violent.

I’d also like to see some citations on this “blurring the lines between our real world and the virtual world” thing. For the most part, my impression is that video game designers try to make those lines sharper because video games are usually intended as a form of escapism. I don’t want to play a video game where I have to apply for health and auto insurance, get my car’s transmission fixed, or go grocery shopping. I get enough of that in real life. On the other hand, I’ve not once slain a dragon in real life.

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