Before Violent Video Games, There Were Just Plain Violent Games

Covering sports video games means I can take a break from the politically motivated and manipulated controversy of What Must We Do About Violent Video Games. Well, gee, thanks PBS. As this discussion argues, it turns out sports were simply society's first violent games.


Wrestling, as host Jamin Warren (of Kill Screen) notes, is basically fighting "with a couple extra rules," and a history going back millennia. In modern times, lacrosse originated as a brutal anything-goes sports among the native Americans. Buzkashi, in Afghanistan, is basically polo played with a headless goat's carcass. I've mused, somewhat facetiously, why Madden NFL—whose namesake league just settled a lawsuit over concussions for three-quarters of a billion dollars—isn't considered a violent video game, either.

It's not entirely correct to say violent sports have never risen to the level of a societal concern. In a 15-year span at the turn of the last century, more than 300 American college football players died as a direct result of their injuries, a crisis that led to the formation of what is now the NCAA. But thousands of youth wrestle, play football and other contact sports, and emulate the violent acts they see performed by professionals, too.


Warren doesn't go off and argue that either sports comes in for the same scolding, or video games are likewise exempt from the handwringing over violence. He goes on to explain why games—be they contested on fields, playing boards or game consoles—either involve or allegorize violence. It's a good argument, and one that ultimately answers yes to the video's titular question.

Will There Always Be Violent Video Games? [PBS Game/Show on YouTube]

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Interesting stuff. The video was pretty tasteful, I thought. I like PBS.

There is also research into how males "need" this kind of expression (i.e. sports, simulation of war, etc). I personally kind of dislike that notion because it reinforces a gender dichotomy, but it's something worth considering.

I've also read about how American football is basically itself a simulation of war. I wonder if European football is the same, or less violent sports like baseball.

What always annoys me is how video games take the bullet (and with good reason sometimes—CoD is pretty violent, and Bioshock Infinite is actually quite unfortunately very graphic) when movies, in my opinion, are much more violent, and what about books? I remember being shocked at the violence in books as a kid, but no one mentions that, or mentions the violence shown on the TV news.

I'm not saying it's good or bad. I just don't get why, again, video games take the blame when violence is ubiquitous. If we're going to question it, let's question it in all media, not just interactive media.