A new study conducted by Greg Perreault, a doctoral student at the MU School of Journalism, concludes that, as technology has advanced, the criticism of violence in video games by the media has decreased.
Perreault examined the coverage of violent video games throughout the 1990s by GamePro Magazine, "the most popular video game news magazine during that time period." He found that journalists from GamePro expressed a "considerable amount of concern about the level of violence in the game software companies were creating in the early 1990s, when video game design was limited by technology."
"Early in the ‘90s, when video games were still a relatively new medium, journalists expressed quite a bit of concern about the level of violence in many of the games," Perreault said. "It is interesting because the simulated violence in these games was so mild relative to modern-day games."
Perreault found that, as new systems with improved technology were released in the 1990s such as the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation, the levels of concern about violence from GamePro journalists decreased.
"As technology improved and the animations became more and more life-like, game creators had increased capability to design more graphic violence, including blood and gore," Perreault said. "Despite this increasing amount of violence, journalists seemed to be less and less bothered by the blood and guts. This is important to note because journalism often mirrors the culture of the audience it serves. As technology improved, the entire gaming community became more and more comfortable with the levels of violence that were simultaneously increasing in video games. In a sense, the gaming community grew up. They aged from children using video games as toys to adolescents and adults using them as recreational devices. It appears that journalists reflected this trend in their writing."
Perreault also found that when the ESRB was first created by the ESA, gaming journalists opposed it. Now the ratings system is used as a defense against outside criticism, he claims.
"As more and more parents and outside sources criticize violent games, gamers and gaming journalists point to the rating system and say that parents should not allow their kids to play violent games with explicit ratings," Perreault said. "Ultimately, the trend in violent games is a reflection of what interests our society. Similar trends can be found in the increased number of ‘R’ rated movies as well as the popularity of gangster rap and other violent music. Video games are just another way our culture is expressing itself."
Perreault will present his research at the International Communication Association conference in Seattle this May.