Columnist: GTA IV "Stimulates Dark Impulses"

May 5, 2008 -
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, columnist Katherine Kersten has a lengthy whine about Grand Theft Auto IV:
Games like GTA IV stimulate and glamorize our dark impulses. They create a taste for the psychological thrill that can come from dominating and degrading others. They encourage us to strip our fellow human beings of their dignity, and view them merely as objects of violence or sexual desire.

The hazards of violent games will only increase as new, more advanced technologies like the Wii system take hold... you can act out a game physically.

The average 32-year-old man who plays violent video games -- and spends his free hours fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers -- is likely to be someone's husband and father. What qualities of character will his wife find when she looks to him for love, steadiness and fidelity?

And when his young son looks to Dad as a role model -- well, that's the problem, isn't it?

Comments

So I took the opportunity and sent her an email, which I've posted below. I'll let you guys know if I get a response. Email is as follows:

[quote]Ms. Kersten:

I feel I must comment on your recent Grand Theft Auto IV column. With all due respect I must disagree with your basic assertions on several grounds.

Research has not "confirmed" in any way that aggressive tendencies are increased through the playing of violent video games anymore than they are increased through the viewing of violent movies. There are multiple studies suggesting that there might be some kind of effect and multiple studies suggesting there is little to no effect that persists beyond actual playing time. This is hardly confirmation of a hypothesis by any scientific standard.

Secondly, I have played video games for most of my life, receiving my first Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988 at age 4. Since then I have owned multiple systems and played a plethora of violent games. I have not had a potential for "...coarseness and cruelty..." emerge "...after months or years of immersion in lurid and prurient interests..."

I hardly consider my interests lurid or prurient. I am not a fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise but I have played the games, have you? They are no more lurid or "prurient" than movies such as Goodfellas, the Departed (a Best Picture winner), Scarface, or even Gangs of New York. It is ultimately a "crime drama." You are not rewarded for random violence, to the contrary, each act of violence increases your "Star [or Wanted] Level" which results in increasing law enforcement response including police pursuit, helicopters, the FBI and even the United States Army. There is no faster way to lose the game than to engage in random violence.

In regards to your comments regarding the Wii, again it strikes me that you seem to have never played the system. The Wii is hardly the sophisticated simulator that your article makes it sound like. The gestures used on the Wii amount to little more to minor wrist movements to flick the "Wiimote" or pushing your arm towards the TV and back or twisting your arm to rotate the remove. You can not "act out" any real activities with the system at all.

I am a gamer, most of my friends are gamers, most young adults nowadays are gamers. We have been playing games, many of them violent, for years if not decades. There has not been an explosion in violent crime or depraved activity. How long is this "emergence" supposed to take? 20 years, 30, 40? The reality of the current situation has undermined the basic presumption that violent video games lead to violence, it simply has not happened despite decades of use by millions of people.

Now, I am not saying kids should be playing Grand Theft Auto, it is rated M (17+) for a reason. It is comparable to an R rated movie and the content descriptors on the back of the box will make it clear to any responsible parents that their 12 year old should not be playing this game. The problem I, and many gamers see, is that parents do not read these descriptors. I have been in game stores where parents have been informed of the rating by the sales clerk only to be told "don't tell me how to raise my child" or, and in my opinion worse, been treated to a display of "I don't care, just give it to him."

Video games are merely the latest media to be subjected to this kind of treatment. In the 1950's your parents generation was threatened by Elvis Presely and those "long haired freaks" such as the The Beatles. Just as the "Devil's Music" has survived, I must argue you are fighting a battle that is already lost.

Thank you for your time. [/quote]

And how in sam f*ck does she know what the average 32 year old thinks!?


I don't understand most of these idiots think people only play GTA because of the sexual content and hooker slaying,when you could probably find the hooker killing online,and can definitely find sexual content and then some.

And when a reader looks to a tabloid writer for integrity, sources or evidence — well, that’s the problem, isn’t it?

Bandwagon's back.

Games do not create psychos they just give them inspiration.

I bet I'm a better parent than all those over-protective parents who like to blame everyone but themselves.

"Adults have killed Adults...
...For thousands of years.

Kids have killed Kids...
...For thousands of years.

Adults have killed Kids...
...Kids have killed Adults...
...For Thousands of years."

-BJB-

Knowing that bit of truth, maybe Katherine could tell us how GTA4 has allowed our 'dark impulses' to be shown, when, as history shows, video games have only been around for 40 years. Yet, mankind has gone to war against itself for a few thousand years in every part of the world. If Katherine believes this shows mankind's dark impulses, she never knew(know) the horros of the Nazi Regime of Germany from 1934-1945.

GTA4 has NOTHING, on what the dark impulses of the Nazis were capable of doing. Maybe, to save from looking like an idiot, she should learn HISTORY.

you know, all the worst societies had newspapers (or something akin) and since she works for a newspaper, it's obvious she is a violent, murdering psychopath.

@Tristram - While it may be difficult for you to comprehend, yes, Katherine Kersten has a husband; additionally, she does have children.

Kersten is exactly as she has been described by other readers of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune; a ranting fear-monger who is absolutely convinced that this latest "threat" will destroy the moral fabric of our nation, plunging our nation into a morass of debauchery and anarchy unequaled since the dreams of Bacchus. Her column is the Star-Tribune's response to complaints that they had a liberal-bent, and her screeds are always written in the same strident manner.

Ms. Kersten is the worst type of Christian; she claims to speak for all of us while maintaining a world-view that my faith finds unacceptably narrow. Her world is one where ideas are threats, where questions are sins, and where differences are unacceptable. Frequently, Ms. Kersten speaks to us "as a Christian," - but her's is not the faith of my father, my mother, nor any of my ancestors - it is a faith of fear and oppression. This faith has two good qualities going for it.

1) It is consistent.

If this were 1980, Ms. Kersten would be warning us of the evils of "Heavy Metal Music."

If this were 1950, Ms. Kersten would have informed us of the corrupting influence of "Comic Books."

If this were 1930, Ms. Kersten would see it as her moral duty to warn against the licentious nature of "Swing Dancing."

And, ironically enough, if it were the late 14th century, Ms. Kersten would be warning us that the availability of an English translation of the Bible constituted a severe threat to our immortal souls.

2) History has proven time and time again that these ideas can not last.

I've written Ms. Kersten on the topics of video-games and school violence in the past (this is not her first time speaking on either subject) and have attempted to correct her mistaken views; to date, I have never received a response. I take comfort, however, in the knowledge that we will one day be the generation in power, while accepting that we will also fall into the same traps our parents and grandparents have; we should simply hope that we can be the first generation to respond to new media ithout fear.

"— and spends his free hours fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers —"

And she know this how? Maybe she is the one "fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers".

I can see why she doesn't have a comment function on her blog. Incredible.

Witch! she can see into our minds!!!

WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE WHINE
WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHHHH! WAHHHH! WAHHH!

You know, that is all I am hearing and you know what? Not appealing.

Violence????

THIS IS ROCKSTAR!!!!!

Sorry for that.

Seriously though how can she sit there and pretend to know what kind of Father/Husband I am? So what she is saying that by playing GTA I am living at my darkest dreams? I'm sorry I thought for a second there I was playing it because it was a fun game.

i had my dark dreams before playing GTA...........

>What qualities of character will his wife find when she looks to him for love, steadiness and fidelity?

She'll find love, steadiness and fidelity, like she'll find in every other normal human being. Next question, please!

/b

Wow... you think people would be upset about the murders or genocides going on around the world, or the fact that so many institutions need, or that like 15% of the population posses 80% of the world's wealth through corporations... but no... this new video game is the reason the world is the way it is! Oh my! If we could only stop our children from playing the new Grand Theft Auto! Heaven forbid WE SHOULD SPEND TIME WITH THEM AND PARENT THEM!!!!!!!!!!

Her email is at the end of the article if anyone wishes to speak your mind to her.

I love how they bring up sex in the game when a vast majority of the stuff is pretty tame. I also love how she brought up the wii and its simulated movements which could provide more realistic sex/violence in games, because we all know that by holding down the b trigger and pushing our wiimotes foward and backwards for 10 mins will make for a realistic sex simulation :P.

Oh for fucks sake...

Why does it always come back to the Hookers and Drunken Driving with this game?

Once again we have a person who has never even played Grand Theft Auto 4, and continues to ridcule it for absurd reasons. How many 32 year olds do you think are out there that play video games and have weird fantasys such as this? This lady is bluntly assuming that if you play grand theft auto 4 you will have these kinds of weird fantasys, that will infact effect you in real life and then later on effect your children. I don't know about you but I can tell that this video game, is in fact A GAME! And why do people keep saying stuff about the sex in this game? There barely is any. And it not like you even get to see anything. Im sorry but how stupid can these people be to judge something without even playing it. This goes back to the never judge a book by its cover thing....

Out of touch, much?

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptIn the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, columnist Katherine Kersten has a lengthy whine about Grand Theft Auto IV: Games like GTA IV stimulate and glamorize our dark impulses. They create a taste for the psychological thrill that can come from dominating and degrading others. They encourage us to strip our fellow human beings of their dignity, and view them merely as objects of violence or sexual desire. [...]

I found these entertaining for a while but now its just beating a dead horse. Not everyone who plays these games are insane psychopaths. Ive played video games since I was about 5 when I got my first game boy and I played GTA 3 when it came out. I was way under the legal age to buy it but Im now 21 and I dont get the urge to drive into the city, pick up a hooker, and then beat her to death for my money back.

That would be against the law and I would go to jail. I guess I didnt play enough cus Im not an amoral monster yet.

Yeah, I'm a husband. And my wife bought the game, I never have fantasies or dark thoughts about stripping my fellow man of his dignity. If I can distinguish reality from polygons, why can't she? Maybe she has the issues.

"The hazards of violent games will only increase as new, more advanced technologies like the Wii system take hold… you can act out a game physically."


Wait... GTA4 was on the Wii? where the hell is this version?!

tells me right there she's neither seen the game, nor the consoles its on.
why is it all the old farts out there think these games are making people violent?
especially the ones that HAVE NOT PLAYED ANY OF THEM?
how can you judge something you haven't tried?
its like fanboys praising their favorite console, but never even trying the others.
i've all 3, and of the 3 i like the Wii most for its innovative controls (despite its lacking good games so far aside from Manhunt, metroid and VC titles)
the 360 has grand online, and the PS3... well... its big and plays blu ray (its best feature really) is all i can say really, its nothing spectacular at all IMHO.

i was playing Duke3D when i was 9... why aren't i hanging out in strip clubs, all day/night getting lap dances, handing out my money to strippers, and talking big while toting a lot of guns?
i'm even former Navy and i don't do any of that....

wow... so much for violent games make violent people...

i can see it being true if you suffer a mental instability already, but thats true for anyone.
I get pissed off if i hear most rap music. why? i dunno, but it makes me wanna break something.
does that mean rap makes everyone angry and violent?
doesn't seem too.
but just cause it effects me, i guess i should go back and fight it some more making false claims on something i know next to nothing about eh?

And another one jumps on the bandwagon ... and another one and another one and another one jumps on the bandwagon ... hey what you going to do another one jumps on the bandwagon

/dismiss

You know, she might have had a better case with GTA: SA, but this one is written to where everybody is a clear person. There are no "objects".

Rockstar is good at making computer games.

Rockstar is NOT good at mind reading.

Rockstar could never make a game that personified my darkest imagineings. It would not sell and i'm fairly sure it'd put the developers into therapy.

Obviously, we can tell who's got the dark impulses. We, as gamers don't have them. And if you want to know what it stimulates a desire for, I've got one word for you:

FREEDOM!!

Just sent her an e-mail (you should too: kkersten@startribune.com):
I find your article rather distasteful.

http://www.startribune.com/local/18538584.html?page=3&c=y



"The average 32-year-old man who plays violent video games -- and spends his free hours fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers -- is likely to be someone's husband and father. What qualities of character will his wife find when she looks to him for love, steadiness and fidelity?"


Do you think that these people are created by violent video games? Or perhaps it is more logical that they are attracted to them because of their pre-existing mental health. Where did all the sicko's of society come from before we had video games? Do you have any kind of research or statistics to support the idea that the total % of the population who exhibit violent and unhealthy behaviour as a result of their mental state has changed very much since the introduction of violent video games? Banning video games is cutting off the head to cure the headache, it's attacking a symptom, of a problem I don't think has changed at all since the creation of modern society.



In addition, the media is a reflective entity, if what you see in the media bothers you, you should look back at society and decide what in society is causing the problem, there is not supply before there is demand.

That's why I prefer the Pioneer Press.

i love how the star tribune never puts comment options on articles that may actually cause a debate. She's just another mouth in my states second fastest dieing paper, don't get worked up over her.

She hasn't known what a 32 year old thinks in twenty years. No matter how hard she tries to hide her age.

And what's with the "men and boys." I want to know if any women play GTA.

I say tar and feather this witch.

The average 32-year-old man who plays violent video games — and spends his free hours fantasizing about murdering passersby and roughing up strippers


Phew. For a second I thought she was describing an average 32-year-old-man. Instead, she described an average 32-year-old psychopath. So, I'm safe.

I want her to explain, in detail, how GTA4 is so evil, but The Godfather series of movies is considered a classic (and I know a couple schools -- High Schools -- which show those movies for appreciation classes).

Oh, look... more lies... great...

The early 80's called, they want their knee-jerk paranoia back...

You know what. I think you guys should give her a piece of your mind. Send emails to her telling her why you disagree with her. Do fill her mailing account with Hate mail because that does not help our case any. But if we do show her why we disagree with her and make our valid points maybe we can get a decent responce from her.... who knows lol... but if she does not comply... hey... flood it lol.

The last people you want to mess with is gamers. I think Jack Thompson is starting to learn that. But who knows?

So by playing GTA, I am suddenly unable to provide love & fidelity to my woman?

Since just about every man in his 20's and 30's plays games, I guess we have TONS of women in empty, loveless relationships/marriages!

I think I should write an article about how uninformed, out of touch, columnist write columns that inspire hatred in the main stream gamer audience who would other wise be content to sit at home playing video games and not bothering anyone.

I was going to say I would be just as qualified to make those kind of judgments as she is and with just as much research to back me up. But then after thinking about it, I am way more qualified than she is on the subject.

It was so much better back before such immersive technologies. A father back in the 50s then could hide his disappointments and fears deep inside like God intended only to come out in a flurry of alcoholic rage when the Dodgers would lose the World Series again. Those were better days when abuse and ignorance and hatred could be hidden behind closed doors and drawn curtains. Those were the days of role models and, dare I say, heroes.

so the more advanced technologies like the wii are going to make us unfeeling muderers? yes last time i was playing cooking mama i had a massive urge to stab someone in the eye with a ladel

Why don't we ever hear any of this stupid bullshit from movies like The Godfather. I fully believe that if GTA4 would have been a movie rather than a game many of these same people would be jerking off to it and calling it art.

If these types of games turn us into psycopaths, then how come we havent had 2 million more murderers appeare after GTA4 was released?

Ill tell you why, because THESE GAMES DO NOT CAUSE VIOLENCE.

Jesus H Christ.

@ beemoh

I would assume she would only find those qualities if she was smart enough to look for a man with such qualities.

I'm curious as to why so many of these writers ignore women...they are discussed as victims and targets, but I wonder if female gamers are immune to all these evils that are supposedly welling up in men. I mean, everyone talks about how negative these violent masculinist fantasies are, but all the arguments assume that the game is reinforcing something already there, thus eliminating women from the picture entirely. I wonder what happens when the narrative is reversed and we ask what a husband finds when he looks for all those same qualities in his GTA playing wife... or if both of them play the game... for people brining up so many feminist issues in their critiques of the game, these journalists and bloggers are all showing a remarkable gender bias.

Obviously she must be a) a transvestite because she knows what an
average 32 year old man thinks

b) uninformed

c) stupid. obviously she belives everything she
reads

d)all of the above

All i want to know is how these people even hold there jobs when they make statments like this, is there no way to hold these people responsible for the bullshit that comes out of there mouth.

Ignore Katherine. She's the S'Trib's right-wing reactionary Ann-Coulter wanna-be. She's written screeds even more off-base than this.

Move along, nothing to see here...

@ Setesh

Nice letter. Please, anyone else writing letters, be tasteful and rational.

People are gabbing of about GTA to the point where you want to take every single lie they've made, turn every one of them into a single nail, and crucify them.

No doubt if we did that, however, we'd have a religion founded by anti-games activists that centres around Jack Thompson's sacrifice for the sins of those video game playing criminals.

This would in turn cause us to ask ourselves; "Was it worth it?"

I'm going to be an awful father and role model.

Katherine Kersten Just proved her idiocy.

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