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Widescreen perspective of violent videogames – the violence debate

What’s the impact of video games? Or are they to blame by engaging the user in increasing levels of violent situations.



It isn’t often that my emotional wellbeing is overtaken by stress, the phenomenon that occurs when the mind and stomach recoil in tandem in response to harmful thoughts and situations that seemingly go beyond our ability to deal with them (like being overdue on rent or dumped by a gruff pistol salesman via a grammatically lawless text message). Like everyone else, I can feel the roots of stress spiraling around my perception, of course, but it rarely burrows deep enough into my psychological soil to grow into anything wearisome or problematic. My (un)remarkable secret:  solid relationships, copious squat thrusts (booty poppin’ exercises), unrestricted writing (voluptuous creative freedom), and videogames – all of which are emotional and physical mediums I use to reflect on, ponder, purge, and temporarily forget the thoughts and events that pester me. 

Out of all of these “Operation: Punch Stress in the Junk” routines, videogames have had my back the longest. I began as a spectator, watching my brother Tarzan-swing over crocodiles and sand traps in Pitfall, and save an insecure princess from a roid-raged King Koopa in Super Mario World. It was around the age of six or seven that I equipped a controller with an optimistic smirk and became a gleeful participant. The first game I fell in love with at that time but was forbidden to play (because it was my older brother’s) – Final Fantasy II. I went from being as illiterate as a broiled bacon burger to exceptional in reading comprehension within the period of a semester, just so I could dunk my head in and drown under that game’s undulating narrative. Videogames were my first true form of constructive escapism – a virtual landscape that welcomed unlimited experimentation and offered instant feedback for my efforts — and the amount of violence in the games I experienced was, as I vividly recall, never an issue for my family. For the rest of society, however, the worst was and still is always assumed when it comes to the influence violence in games is purported to have over our children and young adults.

Blame the Game, Mommy

“Games are responsible for child obesity; games transformed our son Donny into a caped, antisocial binge drinker; games are the reason my son fakes comas and drools in his sleep” – I’ve heard parents, since the early 90’s until late last week, make every conceivable claim of why videogames are an invention with less worth than solar powered left-handed scissors, but none are as severe as the declaration that games program children into violent little scallywags, students training through virtual reality to become the lowest, saltiest dregs of society’s filth riddled underbelly.

And parents aren’t necessarily wrong in making such assumptions. Politicians and the media frame the issue with such absolute disdain that it seems obvious, despite inconclusive research, that videogames are the undisputed champion of all of society’s woes. It’s a tactic of political scapegoating (to avoid the issues of class inequality, declining civil liberties, and gun control, perhaps?) that reveals its pattern whenever a national tragedy grips our collective sympathy: a school shooting fragments our hearts and drains what little confidence we have left in the human condition, and the government (or political figures who claim to speak for it), unwilling to upset its political and corporate interests, offers a simple, promising cause – videogame violence. It’s pure genius, from the standpoint of political self-preservation and subterfuge, but it doesn’t align with over two decades of research committed to discovering causation and correlation between gaming violence and violent behavior. 

The Dirty Difficulty of Testing for Violence

To this frigid day, aggregated research on game violence transferring into the real world is inconclusive and ambiguous. As you can imagine, testing for violence isn’t as simple as having a child play a game that focuses on the zombie apocalypse for an hour, handing him a sledgehammer and a shotgun in a bunker full of his costumed peers, and asking, “Do ya feel like bludgeoning the other kids? Huh? Possibly, yes? Pretend they’re zombies.” That would be barbarically unethical. 

But like all things controversial, the methods by which these studies were performed are often called into question. The age of the participants being examined (most were not children, but college-age), the ineffective measurements for determining aggression ( I wrote the words “exploding uppercut” in my essay section, so that makes me more aggressive than someone who wrote “purple kiss explosion”), and the methodological flexibility some researchers are allowed when calculating their findings so that the conclusion matches the expectation of the advocacy group that funded them: these are three problems that arguably render some conclusions, whether supportive or disagreeable of the “Games Cause Violence” hypothesis, utterly insincere. 

Self-Interpreting the Ambiguity

Personally, through my years of solving virtual mysteries, choking out genocidal warmongers, and collaborating with other players who share my adoration for gaming, I’ve never experienced or witnessed any actual aggression or violence that was a product of violence from a game, no matter how bloody or gratuitous or depraved the on-screen action might have been. But I have seen and experienced aggression, not violence, as a response to competition  (which any online gamer who has dealt with cheapskates and trash talkers can attest to), a game’s unfair difficulty, and the disappointingly poor quality of a game that was hyped to be everything but pure garbage(I’m waving my fist at you, Aliens: Colonial Marines). 

Competitive Hostility

If you view competitive videogames through the same scope that you use to watch competitive sports, then you have a good idea of the level of aggression that steams between rival teams battling for the title of champion: teammates generally treat one another with respect while performing altruistic tasks that are beneficial to the entire group; and when threatened to be outperformed by members of an opposing team, outsiders who are essentially faceless until the competition is over, their objective is to utilize collective talents and resources for domination. 

This principle might apply to competitive gaming. In franchises like Call of Duty, players can create, recruit for, and join a clan, a company of militaristic avatars whose desire to win is only outmatched by their incomprehensible vulgarity (“Wait, what the hell did you call me? You take that back, DicVanDemonDog989!”). To some, identity and self-esteem seem to be directly linked to the competition and the outcome of a match. The closer the score and the lower the points needed for victory, the tighter the camaraderie within a team becomes, the more each team aggresses in tone of voice and vulgarness at their antagonists, and the more desperate their actions are in-game. Of course, on almost all occasions, this exchange of trash talk is all in good fun, a type of short-term aggression that is more cathartic than potentially violent, and is rarely ever a real world problem. (Though, it would never surprise me if someone flew 1,200 miles to suplex a guy for calling him a dirty variation of the word “pansy” over the internet.)

Don’t Just Fantasize – Desensitize

Though it’s unclear if violent games beget violent behavior, they do seem capable of desensitization, decreasing our emotional responses to car chases, balletic gun duels, and Bruce Willis in a tank top – you know, images usually associated with violence in docudramas, Hollywood blockbusters, and frenzied action games. The research goes a little bit like this: A swanky test subject who usually doesn’t care to watch Bruce Willis ramp a car off of a toll booth into a helicopter is shown videos and images of Bruce Willis ramping a car off of a toll booth into a helicopter (or this scene’s equivalent). Because this subject is usually not exposed to violence, his heart rate increases, his sweat glands dilate, and he is disgusted and overtaken by discomfort, fear, and anxiety. 

According to Douglas A. Gentile, director of the media research lab of Iowa State University, when a gamer undergoes this same type of test after playing a violent game, but with the fictional images of violence replaced by a real-life video of violence, his heart rate is far lower than someone who didn’t play a violent game prior to watching; also, activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex and rostral anterior cingulate cortex, parts of the brain that partner up to resolve emotional conflict, are diminished, meaning that gamers are conditioning their brains to withstand the emotional weight that should follow violent actions in a real world setting as well as the gratuitous inclusions of Bruce Willis. 

While I do agree that one form of violence in media desensitizes us to other forms of violence in media (violent games can decrease my emotional response to an equally violent movie), I’m skeptical of the theory that violence in games, movies, television shows, and the nightly news weakens my emotional response to real world violence and urgency. Viewing real world violence from behind the popcorn and wine coolers of a flimsy plasma screen is far less stimulating than experiencing the same type of violence or situational intensity in person. 

My subjective case in point: I’ve simulated a car accident in a photorealistic game. And I’ve crash-dummied as a passenger into a concrete guard rail at 65 mph in the real world. I’ve cringed at violence toward women in a game. And I’ve tried to pacify domestic violence in the real world. Let me tell you (like you somehow don’t already know), when you collide with a solid, unflinching object at ludicrous speeds or attempt to negotiate a weapon out of an infuriated man’s grip, your emotional responsiveness is firing on all twelve cylinders, regardless of any movie you’ve watched or game you’ve played that resembles the situation at hand. 

Lacking Constructive Context

Even more interesting than the arbitrary violence in games, which seems to be the focus of contention, is the trend in the popular film industry to minimalize the context of violence in action movies, motion pictures that certain videogames take inspiration from. It sort of reveals our culture’s attraction, or desensitization, to the intensification of violence in our entertainment through the years.

Take the Rambo franchise: in the seminal film, First Blood (1982), Sylvester “Damn I’m Old and Fit” Stallone suffers from a flashback of being tortured in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp. He proceeds to rough up a couple of officers who triggered the episode by treating him a bit inhumanely (he was arrested for vagrancy, after all). He swiftly escapes the police station, outruns a police car on a dirt bike through small town streets and dirt trails, climbs a 3,000 foot rock face to avoid capture, and accidentally kills a police officer in self-defense after the cop tried to snipe his flexing biceps off from a helicopter. Every act of violence in this film is contextual and pushes the plot forward – Rambo’s harsh treatment leads to his flashback that prompts his escape that provokes his survival instinct that triggers the unfortunate death of a police officer that brings about a statewide manhunt for an alleged murderer. By the end, everything comes together to highlight the repercussions of war. There is a consequence for every violent action. And only one person dies in the entire movie.

Now look at the most recent Rambo flick, Rambo (2007): 236 people are killed in the movie. The context that justifies the violence is something about rescuing missionaries (whose methods of peace are useless) taken hostage in a Burmese camp, but what it really boils down to is “the only way to deal with ‘primitive’ people who solve their problems with conflict is with people more experienced in conflict – and a bow and arrow!” The consequences for violence are a rescued missionary, 236 mostly faceless deaths, and a perpetually grimacing anti-hero.

Briefly analyzing these two movies, we can see not only how much more violent the franchise has become, but how the contextualization of violence was sharply reduced to compensate for a higher body count (it’s hard to develop the backstory and motivations for 236 characters to make us care about each death). Violence has gone from a cinematic tool that displays dynamic consequences to a means that justifies its ends.

A lot of action games use the contextual style of the second film for some of the same reasons actions movies do, to create agency and to minimalize realistic consequences. 

When you play a game where the primary mechanic is guns or swords or slow-motion slide tackles, you want to feel like the centerpiece badass of that universe. One of the best ways to do that is for the developer to set your character up against taunting waves of enemies who are challenging enough to keep your attention and make your dominion over them a reward worth achieving. This creates a feeling of power and importance for the game character that you happily connect with (because who doesn’t want to play as a nearly undefeatable demi-god from time to time?). Minimalizing realistic consequences adds to this agency. Your character can take a dozen zombie bites to the neck, eat a green herb laced with masculinity, and then be right back to full health, debilitating the undead with elbow drops. 

Game Over, Man!

Videogames were much different when I was a kid. Franchises like Doom and Mortal Kombat were considered unforgivably violent then but when looked at from today’s standards appear to be cartoonish, slapstick allegories of testosterone crusading for survival and relevance. Presently, games are more lifelike, and with that level of authenticity is a higher concern for the violence that’s portrayed in them. It’s understandable. I realize that the games I experienced as a child weren’t a fraction as realistic, visually, as the games released today and that there’s a possibility that the violent images and situations displayed may trigger aggression and desensitize children to other forms of media violence. So perform more studies, I say. What harm could it do (as long as it doesn’t strip attention away from other legitimate issues)?

But I don’t think that researchers will ultimately find a link between game violence and real world violence. Maybe I give children, young adults, and myself too much credit and confidence.  I do believe that there’s a link between competitive gaming and real world short-term aggression, but what rivalries that require challenge and skill for supremacy don’t? (Don’t say chess. I’ve seen a guy vehemently karate chop a chess board after losing a match). 

My concern is that society focuses too much on the negative aspects of videogames. Parents, politicians, and venerable folks who have a distrust of anything that operates without a power cord need to understand that gaming is like any other pleasurable activity – it’s greatly beneficial in moderation but incredibly damaging in excess. As I said at the beginning, videogames are one of my forms of stress relief. I credit Final Fantasy II (and my parents’ support) as the intrinsic motivator for learning to read and, much later, falling head-over-high heels in love with everything about the written word. I would not be the highly flawed yet brashly optimistic man I am at this moment if it were not for the games I played and the friends I played them with. 

So I ask you: stay cautious, maintain skepticism, ask questions, and continue to do more research on this topic if you truly believe videogames to be an assemblage of evil and lethargy; just make sure to take note of some of the benefits while you’re at it. 

By Jedediah Hoy

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APRIL 1: Iceburg’s 17 minute investigation into April Fool’s Day

While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.



Humor is to wellbeing as a tightened fist is to a lighthearted crotch-shot: they both leave you breathless, on your knees in a rejuvenating stupor (or in a red-rain of pain!), and eager to contribute to or reciprocate the joke (or low-blow) with giddy enthusiasm. 

With this month being helmed by All Fools’ Day, we’ve never been more accepting of the hysteria that comes with being barraged in the funny bone; regrettably, history doesn’t share our excitement. While April 1 should evoke a mandatory grin followed by a, “By-the-pecs-of-Poseidon, what’s that mega-crap on your shirrr – made ya look,” the scrolls of time tell us there were people who and events that replaced the frivolous, laid-back attitude that April Fools’ Day is celebrated for with the motivation to be forever recognized within the highest echelon of killjoys.

Those people and events include…  

The Pope Who Fooled the French

New Year’s Day was originally on April 1. No, really. Several ancient cultures, like the Romans and the Hindus, marked the now notorious day for practical tomfoolery as the beginning of the year because the date closely aligned with the Vernal Equinox, which is usually around March 20. 

In 1582 Pope Gregory “Me So Fresh” XIII ordered the use of the new calendar. It placed New Year’s in January, and when the change was made, rumor says that many of the French were either unaware of or rebelling against the date change and continued to celebrate New Year’s on April 1. These traditionalists became one of the most rotund butts in the history of jokes, and April Fools’ Day was born. 

The Volcano That Burst Forth (Probably Because It Took Offense to a Joke)

If we’ve learned a single piece of [mis]information from the science portion of our grade school education, it’s that a volcano’s ease to anger is only equaled by its unwillingness to be a comedic punch-line. You’ve at least witnessed parts of the eventful life cycle of a volcano on the Discovery Channel (before reality shows like Rise of the Stink People began oozing their irrelevance over the airwaves); its dome was seemingly sedated, calmly drooling its molten effluence down a thirty-degree grass patch at speeds that an infant in flame-retardant pajama bottoms could out-roll. Unexpectedly, like the quick snap of a sucker punch, the cameraman or the millionaire working pro bono as an expert in lava composition cracked a bad joke at the volcano’s expense, and all hell leaked, boiled, blew, and broke loose. 

This might have been the case on April 1, 1793, when a collapsing lava dome — Mayu-yama from Mount Unzen, an active group of volcanoes on Japan’s Kyushu Island — triggered a landslide that rioted through Shimabara City and belly flopped into the Ariaka Sea, creating a pant-fertilizing megatsunami that reached the titanic heights of 330 ft., which combined with the land slide killed an estimated 15, 000 good humored citizens. 

The man who offended the snoozing goliath with salty humor was never found (or existed), but if he was (or did exist), we’re assuming: (A) he was a white guy (because that’s provocative), and (B) he was a would-be galactic samurai, i.e. the megalomaniacal ancestor of Thomas Cruise Mapother IV (AKA Tom “The Pleasure” Cruise). 

The Novelist Who Sneered at a Royal Suggestion

You don’t tell royalty no, unless, of course, you’re Jane Austen (or a free spirit dying to experience exile). On April 1, 1816, Austen responded to a letter from the Prince Regent regarding a suggestion to write a historic romance by saying, “I could not sit down to write a serious romance under any other motive than to save my life.” 

Maybe it was a joke: “Prince Regent, your story pitch is awful; I wouldn’t consider it unless my life was on the line… April fools!” 

Claire Harman, author of “Jane’s Fame,” talked on NPR on March 25, 2010, about Austen’s personality in addition to her popularity, and it turns out everything you’d imagine Austen to be is probably true: she was witty, cynical, and judging by her response to the Prince Regent, a little bit headstrong. 

Harman says that Austen’s fame was, in a way, rekindled by the biography written by her nephew. “James Edwards’ memoir of his aunt made her into a sort of sentimental object. You know, and people loved her as a person and as a character, as well as the books and sometimes instead of the books,” Harman said. 

The idea, however, that Austen had a meek and mild personality would not be accurate. Who would have thought?

“She wasn’t necessarily a nice person at all. I mean there’s really nothing in the letters to suggest anything other than a very sharp-witted and at times rather acid-tongued woman,” Harman said. 

So the whole “screw you Prince Regent” thing probably wasn’t a joke then. You go, girl! 

The Theory That Big-Banged Science

Melodramatic male studs who claim ladies to be the ficklest of life’s challenges need to escort Science on a dinner date or two: During the appetizer (cheese sticks), Science would intimately observe your surface area to get an estimate of your internal composition. She’d alleviate your physical insecurities by assuring, “Your name’s Pluto? How cute! I hear that small planets are in touch with their emotional side.” 

But the moment the dessert platter (Hazelnut Dacquoise with Chocolate Mousse served on an Astronaut’s face shield) lands on the table, she’d be all curled up on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, bragging about how she recategorized you as a Dwarf Planet, Science’s way of catapulting you into the “friend zone.” 

Science played the Steady State Theory in the same sort of way; prior to April 1, 1948, cosmological opinions were split between whether Steady State Theory or the Big Bang accurately described the origin and continuing development of the cosmos. But once the Big Bang Theory was officially proposed on the date listed by subjectively sexy, objectively brilliant geniuses Ralph Alpher and George Gamow in Physical Review through the essay “The Origins of Chemical Elements,” Big Bang began to gradually earn more favor within Science’s academic bedchambers. Science has been developing excuses to keep Steady State in the “friend zone” ever since. 

The Revolution That Preferred Loss-of-Life over Laughter 

Remember when McCarthyism was a thing? It was kind of a blip in American history. Luckily, China out did us. How often do you get to say that? 

Roughly ten years after the red scare settled down in America, the Cultural Revolution in China became the cool new trend. Just by chance, the nationwide witch-hunt for capitalists started on April 1, 1966. 

Admiration for market economies is no joke. 

This was the era of Mao Zedong and communism was at its peak. Zedong feared the country was headed in the wrong direction, so he called on China’s youth to put the country’s political ideology back on the right – well, left track. 

Nearly 1.5 million Chinese lost their lives and tons more felt the wrath of a large group of angsty, nationalistic teenagers. Take that, laws of supply and demand. 

By Leviathan Robb & Ginger Jones

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Profiles of our beloved supreme leaders – Kim Jong-Un, Paul Ryan and Chris Brown

Three men who want to rule the world and are the truest examples of what a supreme leader should be.



Kim Jong-Un

At only 30 years old this bright individual is the supreme leader of North Korea. Not only has Kim Jong-Un legalized pizza he has also forced employees at the local gourmet restaurant, McDonalds to serve breakfast until noon. Sure he threatens people with nukes every day, what teenager who plays Call of Duty doesn’t? Kimmy is such an inspirational figure to local teens, they can really learn how to be a social success and loved worldwide.  Rumor has it that Kim has sent all local redheads to South Korea so that they can find Seoul—whatever that means. If your bratty little brace faced sweetheart won’t listen, why not pick up a copy of Kim’s new book, “The Nukes of Hazzard.”

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan looks like a model straight off a package of Hanes boxer briefs—the look every politician strives for. Who cares if he has just graduated from pampers to public dampers. After recently announcing, “We are not going to give up on destroying the healthcare system”, his ratings went through the roof– taking with it your average American’s basic personal rights. Ryan is the guy you can go to with all of your personal problems, sure he won’t listen but you’ll be sidetracked by his baby blues. Like Kit-Kat give him a break! If Paul Ryan were an item at Big R he would be the perfect tool bag.   Paul Ryan has the kind of personality only a mother could love—which is totally in right now. 

Chris Brown

If young men want to know how to be the perfect guy look no further than Chris Brown. When Chris was a child listening to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” he took it to heart by utilizing the lyrics and incorporating them into everyday life.  Brown likes his women like he prefers his eggs; beaten and over easy. When Rihanna (Browns’ current girlfriend) told Chris that she wanted a “black guy” he misheard her and gave her a love stamp right across her face—now that’s love.  Recently, Rihanna had taken up a career in stand-up comedy at high school proms but soon gave up another one of her dreams due to Brown’s embarrassing behavior. Reports say he kept “beating her to the punch line.”


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Talking to the ‘that’s what she said’ girl at your mom’s house

Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.



I recently sat down with a woman we all know, but few would actually recognize. Her name is Lauretta Scapini, and she is the “she” of “that’s what she said.” I ask her the hard questions.  

Iceburg: Hi Lauretta, thank you so much for meeting me today.

Lauretta Scapini: Of course, thank you for having me.

Ice-B: That’s what she said. 

LS: Yes, yes it is. 

Ice-B: Nice. So how did this whole thing get started? How have you taken the blame for so much, and please excuse my lack of decorum, but sluttiness?

LS: That’s a great question, thank you. Well, as many people probably know, the phrase “that’s what she said” gained tremendous popularity on the NBC hit show The Office. You know the one where the boss tries to screw over his employees?

Ice-B: That’s wh- um of course.

LS: I knew some of the guys on the set, you know, as a woman in my profession would–

Ice-B: Which would be what, exactly?

LS: Isn’t it obvious? I make wax sticks to light on fire. I’m a candlestick maker. 

Ice-B: Excuse me?

LS: It’s a very erotic field, and I mean come on, look at me. I’m a California “10,” which is like a New Mexico “87.” Don’t take it wrong.

Ice-B: None taken. So tell me more about being a candlestick maker and how that brought you to work with set guys at The Office.

LS: I’ve always been fascinated by my ability to mold wax into shapes, then just watch it burn. The scent combinations is probably the most exciting part of it. Anyway. I had a series of videos that were posted on YouTube that have since been removed where I walked the audience through the process of making candles, step by step. I know how men — and even some women — look at me, so I knew the best way for me to really market myself and my candles would be to play up my sexuality. So everything I said was meant to taken as euphemism. (Editor’s note: We love to take euphemisms.)

Ice-B: What would you say to those who criticize that sort of behavior? Discussions about who “she” must be inevitably turn to accusations of promiscuity and defamations of “her” character.

LS: It’s the cross I choose to bear. As much as I loved Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, I can’t help but feel more connection to the work and theory of Audre Lorde, specifically her discussions of intersectionality. As a beautiful, intelligent, mixed-race woman, I’ve found it frustrating to live and accept any sort of authentic experience that posits we live in simple binary oppositions that serve to differentiate men from women. Lorde maintains that there are a whole slew of categories and subdivisions for characterizing women because each experience is authentic and different and beautiful and can’t possibly speak to the whole experience of being a woman; of being a feminist. 

Ice-B: So by being overtly sexual, you’re helping women? I don’t understand. 

LS: We’re taught using the master’s tools. Our culture is a patriarchal one that we’re wholly dependent on. So I take what’s expected of me and blow it… out of proportion. 

Ice-B: Has it been hard? 

LS: That’s what I said. [Laughs] But yeah, it has been. It’s been a long, hard, road full of bumps and bruises, leather and lace– 

Ice-B: Ample alliterations. 

LS: Exactly. But my work isn’t done. We tend to categorize everyone: races, religions, genders, sexual orientations. If the world was meant to be black and white, we wouldn’t have colors. As much as women are forced into specific roles, men are, too. They need to know that they’re not sex machines, expected to fertilize the earth. And until I can get people to accept and own their sexuality, I won’t quit. I’m not finished yet.

Ice-B: That’s what he said.

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