Lanning On Why Violent Games Are Still a Talking Point

A recent screening of Spencer Halpin’s Moral Kombat documentary featured a post-show panel of game experts discussing some of the topics presented in the film.

The screening took place on November 11th in San Francisco. Members of the roundtable included Wired’s Chris Kohler, Dean Takahashi from Venure Beat, Lorne Lanning of Oddworld Inhabitants and Spencer Halpin.

Perhaps the most interesting response was that of Lanning’s in response to the question of why violence and videogames is still such a hot topic:

They (media groups) want the sensationalism. They will broadcast anytime there’s a shooting; they will find people that have a very specific, loud, sensational, fearful opinion of it, and they will give them prime airtime. If you add up those minutes of airtime it’s actually a fair amount of penetration into the public mind.

But then, we look at the court cases and the Supreme Court decisions and court decisions in nine states, at the time I looked into it. And all of them, throughout all of these cases… they were sham cases. Those court cases, and the results of that, never get any airtime, because that’s not selling news. So we wind up with a very distorted opinion from the public perspective, those that rely on the corporate media. The results of the court case maybe be on page 9, probably on page 19 and take up a tenth of a page.

Meanwhile, when the sensationalism happens… the critics, with false claims that they are never held to, get a lot of exposure and that exposure compounds. We see this in so many things… in the lead up to the war, in healthcare… When it was a hot topic, we could count on the coverage being in a certain direction and I think we can continue to count on that because the media behavior isn’t changing for the better, if anything it can pretty much be proven it’s changing for the worse.

The full post-film discussion is available on YouTube in four segments: part one, part two, part three and part four.

Disclosure: Filmmaker Spencer Halpin is the brother of Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin. The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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  1. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    Towards the end of your comment. I have a neighbor that let her kids watch "Cops" & she said they are less than 10 yro. I said why? I told her it is good entertainment. lol. She said b/c her kids are going to eventually see that in their lifetime & my daughter is practicing it. I said what do you mean? She said she saw her daughter watching "Cops" & then 30 min later was playing w/her "dolly" heard her daughter throw something against the wall. She checked on her to look what was happening & asked her what that noise was? Her daughter told her that her dolly was being a bad girl & I slammed her against the wall & told her she was under arrest. I couldn’t stop laughing. So she told me that that is the reason why she lets her kids watch that show. She said this is a cruel world & I’m there to show my kids what it’s like so they are prepared. They are definitely not sheltered.

    & actually I think it will be either a) Comics they rant & complain about. b) bitch & complain about religion like having "God" in the Pledge of Allegance. c) Complaining about having the American Flag in front of school or the monument that stands in front of the Austin, Texas Court House that some old, homeless man filed a lawsuit on. Wanna know how he got a lawyer? He went to a public libraries computers & used them. That’s how…….I don’t think he won though. But this happened like over 5 yrs ago when I was a Senior in HS.

    Thing I don’t get is why they didn’t complain about Marge Simpson being on the cover of PlayBoy. Lmao. I’m serious too. It was their first cartoon ever. Yeah I saw CNN tell it on the news program & the voice of marge simpson talk about it, but the media just laughed at it. They didn’t complain. & that cartoon is not really a family cartoon, but a pg-13 or pg-14 cartoon. Lol.



    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  2. 0
    TBoneTony says:

    People like you and the person who posted before you has given me a good feeling that like comics before them, Videogames will gently be passed as everyday life and the news media will then only look to blame something else.

    I only wonder when they will be back to blaming those nude paintings and statues of naked people again, that would be funny considering that they have been around for centuries.

    Also Videogames have not been blamed as much as they used to, Yee is making a fool of himself in other areas while that crazy guy is disbarred, while David Grossman and Craig Anderson have already been proven to be nothing more than pesudo psychologists with only an agenda.

    In Europe, Vass has got some serious opposition from a few other politicians who have been talking over him in parliament before he could launch his attacks on videogames. The French have got friendly with videogames since it is good for their industries like Ubisoft.

    Germany and Russia are perhaps the only few europe nations who are still on the blame games for everything.

    China looks like they are 50 years in the past on the issue of Videogames.

    Japan for a long time have understood that adults play videogames although with their new political leaders taking power I hope they don’t go back to their censorship ways like they were in the 80’s and early 90’s. Or else we will see even more bizare takes in the Hentai genre and I think it might be interesting to see what people can come up with to avoid censorship.


    South America and Africa may not be as forward thinking about videogames but they will catch up in time.


    Australia… my home country and then New Zealand… however I…. don’t think they have really understood that adults play videogames and that there is no way any form of content rating could ever protect children.

    The only way to understand the content ratings and how they work is to fully understand and ‘GET IT THOUGH YOUR THICK SKULL YOU POLITICIANS’ that there are allot more harmful things in the world other than just violent or sexual videogames. 

    The ratings are there to inform the parents, so they can protect their own children while at the same time adults are able to see, watch, read and play what ever they want.

    There are allot more harmful things in life and it is up to parents to ‘PREPARE’ their kids for life and give them the skills to survive in this violent and sexual world.



  3. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    I think the media groups are ragging on video game violence & video games so they can get more attention from viewers & more people watching their shows. I told my mom about how news medias are not liking & giving a bad name to video games, she said that that is the same thing that happened 10 or 15 yrs ago when they (media) ragged on violent comic books & now they are not in the news anymore…..ugh! & I think it is only something to complain about, until something else catches their attention…..HEY I know! Now they are going to be talking about New Moon & rage again about vampires until it falls away then complain about something else, then they will rage again about the next new Twighlight movie.



    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  4. 0
    sharpshooterbabe says:

    If he thinks the government staged 9/11, he is an idiot.



    "It’s better to be hated for who you are, then be loved for who you are not." – Montgomery Gentry

  5. 0
    black manta says:

    I was meditating on this yesterday in fact, so it was kind of interesting to read Lorne’s take on it.  While I agree a with a lot of what Lorne said there, I think the perception of violent games in particular, and video games in general, have turned a corner.  Simply put, while it still may get brought up from time to time, it’s nowhere near the level of furor that it stirred-up 10 or even 5 years ago.  I attribute this to three things:

    1) Gaming is More Accepted:  As games become more popular and more commonplace in everyday life, more people have come to understand them better and have realized that they’re not the menace to society that some have claimed them to be.  Heck, my 40-something aunt bought a Wii and is playing Wii Bowling with the best of them.  And if she "gets" it, then a lot of other people are, too.  Also, the shootings at Virginia Tech defied the usual pattern many game critics came to expect.  When it was found that Sueng-Hui Cho didn’t play video games, it forced the news-media to re-evaluate their usual angles of coverage.  And it soon became clear to everyone that there were no simple answers to something like this.  During the Ft. Hood shootings, I was half-expecting Dave Grossman to come on and say that the military’s "murder simulator" training program had finally backfired on them, but it never happened.  And I can only imagine that part of the reason for that was because the media is now more willing to look beyond easy answers and examine these things more closely.

    2) The Critics Are Dwindling:  When you get down to it, the charge against video games was really being led by one person, and we all know who that was.  He alone was pretty much responsible for instigating a lot of those "sham cases" that Lorne mentioned (and he should know, having dealt with him personally a couple years ago).  I also think it was either Lorne or Hal Halpin who said all it takes is just one person, and now he’s defanged and discredited.  There’s been nary a peep out of him since he was disbarred (and I like it that way).  And so far, no one has really been willing to step up to replace him.  Of the others, David Grossman has also been pretty much debunked.  All that’s left is Joe Lieberman, who has since turned to making a nuisanace of himself on other issues, and Michael Atkinson who has now become gamers’ favorite boogeyman.

    3) It’s The Economy, Stupid:  Let’s face it, times are still pretty bad.  We’ve got more immediate problems to worry about, like unemployment and healthcare reform.  When faced with issues like that, more frivolous issues like violence in video games tend to take a backseat.  I’m sure that when times are good again, the media will start looking for things to point fingers at and place blame on, but at the rate things are going, it’ll probably be something else and not video games, as they’re well on their way to cementing themselves into everyday life.

  6. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    It dose not really matter if it is precived as a child’s toy they would still say it warps the minds of young adults and what not, I mean look at rock music,comics,films and TV. People who are still immature will care about it’s effect on others to the point logic no longer functions. What we need to do is see gaming in the same light as film, its a medium like any other get over it if you don;t like it don;t buy it,ect,ect,ect.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

  7. 0
    TBoneTony says:

    However I don’t agree with videogames ever teaching people about things.

    Videogames, are great because they are fun and enjoyable.

    And what is fun and enjoyable for a kid can be entirely different compared to what is fun and enjoyable for an adult.

    I feel in my own heart and my own opinion that many game preachers are talking too much in trying to improve health and lifestyle though their games or trying to improve a child’s education though these games when the real point of videogames being fun is being missed out and that is why there are so many crappy education games that are not fun for anyone.

    Because the main focus was being forced on education and not of what makes a videogame fun and enjoyable to play.


    Then we have on the other side of the fence, where politicians only say something positive about videogames when they believe that videogames teach kids about things that they should know, as if videogames have became the parents and not the parents themselves.

    Like listen to Senator Yee for example, the only positive thing he said about videogames was that "They are a powerful educational tool."

    I personally believe that no matter how positive that may sound, it is a really dangerous view of videogames teaching people because if you look at the violent videogames or many of the Japanese Hentai Computer Games, many people who are offended by that sort of content will immediately jump on blaming those games for teaching kids and even adults about how to use violence and extreme sex in society to hurt other people, that is what this opinion of games being a "Powerful Educational Tool" implies to.

    We need to shift the focus of Videogames being for kids and videogames being a powerful educational tool into something more accurate of Videogames being for anyone no matter if they are a kid or an adult, and the games are made for certain audiences and certain personal tastes that allow videogames to be fun for that audience even though they may not be fun for other audiences depending on personal tastes.


    Am I talking sense here?




  8. 0
    TBoneTony says:

    Does anyone still remember when Super Mario Galaxy was first released for the Wii back 2 years ago?

    Most of the gaming sites at Nintendo paid allot of attention to Super Mario Galaxy, while on the other side of the coin the Mainstream news media like Fox and co were saying that Manhunt 2 (the AO18+ now M17+ game) was going to sell big in Christmas 2007.

    Most of the time, news media in the big wide world only pay attention to what sells for them.

    The Nintendo mags and gaming sites paid allot of attention to Super Mario Galaxy and also a fair bit on Manhunt 2 because of the way it attracted the views of gamers.

    While on the mainstream media world, they only focus on the most violent of videogames, while only going for the positive gaming moments like Nintendo’s Wii sports and Wii Fit because they were considered newsworthy.


    Hell, back in 1999 when the news was talking so much about Doom and videogames being violent, I was playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and most of the gaming news was on that game as well as Final Fantasy 7 and 8.


    Basically, never rely on news media to ever tell people about the positive parts of Videogames unless if it is something that THEY consider newsworthy, also the same thing with gaming news that they will mostly be fair to most videogames that come out like with reviews, but they mostly have more coverage of the better games that get rated higher more.

    It is no surprise that for every violent game out there that is sensationalized by the news, there are many non-violent games that only gamers know about but nobody else does.


    So in a way, for the news media to tell to truth to parents that there are allot of games out there with AGE RATINGS on them is a ZERO possibility of happening because the people who present the news come from an age and generation who don’t give a shit about videogames and only care for what makes their news newsworthy,


    Everyone has become a Tabloid because that is what sells more than the real truth in news.

    That is a fact of life, and it is also a fact in life that people would be better off in life if they did not even listen to the news… very sad world we live in depending on how you look at it.


  9. 0
    beemoh says:

    I agree with this, although it does happen on both sides- I think I’m yet to see a single games news outlet that has paid so much as lip service to Mark Kermode’s comments on his BBC video blog about Modern Warfare, but lots about Newsnight and The Big Questions.

    It’s interesting to look at multiple facets frm the same outlet- Fox News’ online-only Strategy Room gave NSMB Wii a fair shake, while it’s usually their broadcast arm that goes all sensationalist- similarly, Kermode was hidden online by the BBC while Newsnight and Questions was broadcast in two highly coveted slots.


  10. 0
    ZippyDSMlee says:

    Yup, its also the same thing with homosexauls and other groups not being treated as fairly as others, they get railed on becuse errant sensationalism keeps people listening, its fear mongering/pandering 101.

    Until lobbying is a hanging offense I choose anarchy! Stop supporting big media and furthering the criminalization of consumers!!

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