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October 25, 2014
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
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Current Concerns  >  2008  >  No 3/4, 2008  >  Brutal Computer Games Destroy Compassion [printversion]

Brutal Computer Games Destroy Compassion

Advice for parents how to recognize brutal computer games and protect their children from them

Press release by the German Society for Scientific Psychotherapy (GwG)

Psychotherapists demand that computer games in which adolescents are rewarded for killing or torturing humans be outlawed. This kind of games is increasingly marketed as shooting games, which plays down the issue. The notion of ‘media competence’ often serves as a cover. What children and adolescents need today is ‘media education’!
From the point of view of developmental psychology, games supporting violence are a disaster for the mainly juvenile users. This is the experience of many experts of the Society for scientific psychotherapy (Gesellschaft für wissenschaftliche Gesprächspsychotherapie, GwG), uniting specialists from psychotherapeutic counselling and school psychology services. The GwG is the largest European professional society for psychotherapy and counselling. It now demands to outlaw games that glorify violence, in order to preserve the fundamental consensus of a society built on human values.
“Killer games are like landmines for the soul”, says Elke Ostbomk-Fischer, university teacher and member of the GwG. “The media depravity of adolescents has reached such appalling levels during the latest years that politicians must react immediately to prevent an entire generation of children and adolescents from being drowned in a flood of violence.” With this statement, Elke Ostbomk-Fischer is in agreement with leading crime experts and with scientists that are watchful of media issues. “Some of these games are contempt uous of human dignity and therefore violate the German constitution. For this reason, their production and marketing should be a punishable offence.”
An increasing number of ever younger children are losing their natural compassion when they dive into worlds of brutal action for hours and days, worlds in which destruction and killing is experienced as fun and fascination. Boys are particularly affected by this. They begin to act in an increasingly aggressive manner and can hardly be won over  for any pro-social behaviour and rules of human cooperation.
There is an increasing number of adolescents that spend more time on addictive computer games than at school. “Many parents feel helpless, and they despair in view of the overwhelming power of media. They are often contemptibly depicted as backward by their own children when they react with scepticism as their kids put violent video games on their wishing lists, says psychotherapist Karl-Otto Hentze, who is CEO of the GwG. Children that are well-trained in internet usage will talk their parents into acceptance, based on arguments by “scientists” that are close to the computer industry.

What are killer games?

In file number 2007-0001-0100/76-07 by the German Bundesrat, they are defined as “game programs that display cruel or otherwise inhuman violence against humans or beings that resemble humans and let the player participate in such displayed acts of violence.”
Originally, these games were developed for the US armed forces as war simulations. They served the purpose to decrease the soldiers’ inhibitions to kill, to increase their ‘killing efficiency’. The US military psychologist David Grossman warns emphatically that this method of violence conditioning works in exactly the same way in children and adolescents when they play such violenceoriented programs intensively.

“Media Education” instead of “Media Competence”

The game producers have long taken control of the term “media competence”. The companies finance research and training projects aimed at increasing “media competence”. Of course they have an interest to prevent the outlawing of killer games. Some experts support them with arguments like “prohibitions make them even more attractive…” (If this were true it should also apply to traffic redlights, theft, and murder.) Another strategy is to upgrade computer games as “part of our culture.” In this view, “media competence” encourages a precise knowledge of game types, tools and technical details. Killing and violence can be accepted as an “aesthetic convention”.

“Media Education” includes “Education of the Heart

In contrast, “media education” includes the education of the heart. Its basis is an unequivocal orientation towards ethical conventions of human rights. The constitution is the standard. “Media education” supports a humane and cooperative culture of communication. Without a training in discernment, it is difficult to distinguish pedagogically useful advice from sales pitches.

Form your own opinion

The following questions help you to form your own opinion of a computer game.

1. Does the game feature persons or beings
–     that treat others degradingly?
–     that violate the rights of others or expel them from their home?
–     that rob the belongings of others or destroy their abode?
2. In the game, are persons or beings
–     intimidated or put in a state of great fear?
–     purposefully hurt?
–     tortured or threatened with torture?
–     dismembered?
–     strangulated, or are their necks broken?
–     injured by weapons?
–     killed with a shot aimed at the head or torn apart by bombs?
3. Does the game feature other examples of inhumane and cruel actions?
 Are such actions
–     considered a success?
–     displayed as fun?
–     rewarded with recognition?
4. Is the game lacking clear and realistic indications
–     that the cruel activities are not right?
–     that the persons affected by cruelty suffer?
–     that there are consequences and that the perpetrator will be held  responsible?
5. Does the game lack models of non-violent conflict resolution?
–     Does it fail to suggest being helpful, considerate, and socially responsible?
–     Is there a lack of examples in which avoiding violence is recognized as an achievement?
6. In this game, would your child be the person that is evil and cruel towards others and is successful with these actions?

If you answer ‘yes’ to some of these questions, think carefully what your child is going to learn in this game.

How can parents and personnel in pedagogical professions protect their children?

– Try to be a good role model in areas which you consider as important for your child.
– Question arguments that speak in favor of media endorsing violence. Rely on your own feeling and common sense. Do not trust in age recommendations on the game package. The legal protection of minors is not sufficient.
– Computer games cost a lot of time anmoney. They often make the purchase of hardware and accessories necessary. Don’t be pressed into spending more than you can afford.
– Watch how your children handle media. This is easier if a shared PC is used in a central room. The same applies to the TV.
– Show interest in what your child learns, experiences and feels.
– Accompany and support your child in getting trained on modern media. This way you also notice in time when your child accesses websites or games that you consider as inappropriate or even dangerous.
– Talk openly with your child about possible problems. Don’t blame your child. He or she has not invented these contents.
– A ‘good conversation’ means: every participant makes a bona fide effort to understand the other’s viewpoint. This includes
– listening to each other
– not interrupting each other
– not ridiculing or debasing what the other has said.
These rules should apply also to a situation in which you can by no means permit a game, because it is in gross violation of human dignity and counteracts your education.     •

Source: Press release by GwG, Nov 28, 2007;