Friday, May 23, 2008

Videogame Violence

My pre-teen son had bookmarked a popular site that features free videogames. Because I'm the mean dad who won't buy him a "platform" (e.g. PS3, Xbox, Wii, etc.), I tell him he's welcome to indulge in online strategy games or puzzles, provided they rely on thinking, not shooting.

Well, he outsmarted me. Among the morass of shoot-'em-up titles (Pillage the Village, Tactical Assassin 2, Age of War, Circle of Pain, Momentum Missle Mayhem), he did indeed ferret out Ignite People On Fire, whose title pretty much describes the action. A well-timed mouse click will result not in a hail of bullets, as my son quickly points out, but rather cause human targets to spontaneously combust, in shrieks of agony. Hence, not technically a shooting game. Score one for him.

No violence of any sort, I clarified, and so he found Drunk Klunk, a "strategy" game in which no one is attacked, hurt or killed: "Everyone's favorite asshole is back, just in time for New Years! In this exciting, high action game Klunk has stopped into the bar for a bit of a drink. Unfortunately, he only has 3 minutes until the bar closes, in which time he needs to get as pissed as he can!" Apparently the goal is to mouse-click as many mugs of booze as possible down the bar and into the tipsy character, who keeps swaying side-to-side and even falling off his stool.

Alcohol seems to be a common denominator of kids' strategy games, such as Drunken Masters: "Epic bartending action! Choose one of ten different bartenders and start your adventure. With fast-paced gameplay and quick-thinking action, you'll learn to mix drinks for up to 5 impatient customers at once. There are plenty of tricks and special moves that you'll need to master to keep the customers entertained. At the end of your shift, view your list of achievements, challenge other bartenders, purchase upgrades with your tips, and train to perfect your moves."

The perfect middle-school cocktail: equal parts science and psychology, and a shot of sociology. Cheers!

Aren't there any wholesome videogames, ones that can prepare kids for a career other than psychotic assassin or boisterous bartender?

How about Dark Cut 2? "Fall into the thick of the Civil War, and perform three surgeries on some of the worst wounds imaginable! This game contains extreme violence, alcohol references, and realistic medical procedures." A sigh of relief. My son, the doctor!


Dan said...

Hey Jerry,
I appreciate where you're coming from, and I think it's admirable that you're taking a pro-active stance on your son's exposure to violence.
That said, I'm bummed out that you'd group "Drunk Klunk" and "Drunken Masters" in the same category. Drunk Klunk is an immature game that glorifies alcoholism and hard-core boozing. That's really the only selling point the game has.
Drunken Masters, on the other hand, doesn't make any attempt to glorify the effects of alcohol. I realize that the title might be a bit misleading in that regard, but I'm not very good at coming up with titles. Drunken Masters focuses on the technical aspects of bartending- and could just as easily (albeit less effectively) have been set in a coffee shop or smoothie bar.
Again, I understand your concern, and I'm not saying that Drunken Masters is appropriate for minors (or that a career in bartending is something that anyone should aspire to), but it's nowhere near as sophomoric and irresponsible as "Drunk Klunk".
-Dan Hoelck

Anonymous said...

don't blame videogames, blame parents and society. Even if your son plays shooting games he won't be the next charles whitman. So he won't stuck bartending all his life