Are games more violent today?

Dec 27, 2007

"No longer are games simply about shooting aliens and destroying asteroids, but instead the top selling games reward players for killing police officers, maiming elderly persons, running over pedestrians and committing despicable acts of murder and torture upon women and racial minorities," says California State Senator, Leland Yee in an opinion piece on his website.

It's still a popular stance for politicians and strangers to videogames to take - this idea that gory games like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas or Manhunt 2 signify the impending apocalypse. With such alarmist and over exaggerated claims, you'd think we all have a new generation of murder crazy sadists that love torturing seniors and minorities to look forward to. It's true that violent acts in today's games look more realistic than ever; pressing a chainsaw deeper into your friend's brain in Gears of War is a far cry from the peaceful paddles of Pong. But are games and the ways we choose to entertain ourselves really any more violent today?

Read on for a look at history's most violent games, the ones where losing might've meant a very real and painful death. These are the brutal pastimes that people entertained themselves with long before Death Race 2000 or Doom stirred up concerns over excessively violent content in the videogames. You might be surprised.

Above: This Fatality isn't so shocking when compared to this sculpture of Perseus holding Medusa's head. There's plenty of gore in Greek literature and their games

The Game: Pugilism
Developer: The Greeks
Release date: 688 BC
Genre: Fighting
Number of players: 2
Rating: Rated M for death by beat downs, bleeding, and full frontal nudity.

People have probably gotten a kick out of watching two guys beat each other to a bloody pulp for as long as we've existed on this lonely little planet. Egyptian wall carvings suggest that boxing may have been practiced since 3000 BC. But most of our knowledge on ancient fist fighting comes from the Greeks, who called it pugilism.

What made the Greek sport more brutal than its modern day equivalent? There were no time limits or rounds for one. Lengthy fights were settled with the contestants taking turns pounding each other with free hits (Flintstones-style) until one man finally fell. Also, instead of padded gloves, fighters wrapped their hands in tough leather strips sprinkled with a dash of metal. This ensured that combatants would give each other a generous amount of cuts throughout the fight, making for a bloody battle. Although deaths were rare, records do indicate that fighters sometimes died.

If that weren't enough, ancient boxers also brawled in the nude. Was a pair of trunks too much to ask for back then? The idea of a huge naked guy trying to force feed us a knuckle sandwich with his dong dangling about wildly just makes us want to cross our legs, curl up in the fetal position, and pretend we're somewhere else.


  • cleverandruthless - October 28, 2009 6:31 a.m.

    Great article, though i would have preferred more recent, American examples of violent pastimes(i.e. bear-baiting and goose-pulling). As for sexual business, the "cockeldy bread" dance comes to mind... :)
  • oryandymackie - October 15, 2008 3:27 p.m.

    I'm sick of government and co. saying that, oh, we ca't play this. It's fiction. Definition of fiction. Imaginary. Unrealistic. I play horrors but I don't want to carve up people like Christmas dinner with a chainsaw.
  • Scott1121 - October 15, 2008 8:40 p.m.

    5th woohoo
  • Ravenbom - October 15, 2008 3:10 a.m.

    I find it surprising that a game where 11 steroid pumped beef-castles are facing off against another 11 raging shrunken testicle/bacne (back acne) meat mountains who all want to kill each other and only wear flimsy vinyl tunics and plastic plates on their shoulders isn't seen as violent, even after 20 years of Madden. Yet you kill one little hooker to get back your money, and GTA3 stirs up controversy.
  • Valandil - October 14, 2008 11:47 p.m.

    2nd! Yay!
  • lilspooks3 - March 28, 2009 4:13 a.m.

    so.. i kinda really liked the manhunt video. does that mean im messed up in my head, if this kinda stuff "excites" me :]
  • mattkarl1992 - March 1, 2009 10:51 p.m.

    if somebody has the balls to mimic GTA in reality, there is somthing wrong with that person to begin with. games don't make people do things.
  • nadrewod999 - February 28, 2009 4:28 a.m.

    sorry about my post 2 months ago, I guess my slow computer didn't sense me typing any "e"s for a while
  • P0ck3tC1am - February 23, 2009 2:26 p.m.

    you guys got to remeber the most "deadliest" game these guys ever played probably went like this: blip blip blip blip blip blip blip blip blip blip DAMNIT!
  • StevenHawking - January 11, 2009 9:38 p.m.

    Okay, I want to play manhunt 2 now. That, and I want to see some good gladiator games now.... Someone should call Rockstar and say, "Make me a brutally horrific gladiator fighting game, and we'll call it historical license."
  • adrenaguy - January 5, 2009 7:16 p.m.

    yeah I'm sorry but it's like how they said that mass effect was a "sex simulator" well i have found plenty of them on the we doing that and ONLY that, and , as you said, el_hombre 11 the government should see films like that and realise, hey, this is just as bad! in fact, it'snot bad at all, neither are. because it's FICTION. as in the "it's not real but we like it because it's something we couldn't do" it's like when i go on rollercoaster sims, i build totally insane roller coasters and ride them just to see what it would be like to ride it, doesnt mean i'm gonna go build a coaster that creates Gs up to 45 now am I? no. that's just plain stupid. and impossible. so stop bugging us government and tbh, take it like a man and realise that it's not the gamers who kill people, it's the kids with bad parenting etc. they are the criminals, the robbers, the murderers, you get the Gist, get all the money put into "proving"(getting a load of criminals and asking if they play video games) that games are at fault and put it into helping those who are having trouble with their lives, help parents, help schools, and most importantl, help the criminals. b***h.
  • Smiffy99 - December 31, 2008 12:22 a.m.

    Okay, two,...uh, 14th! Woo! I'm really on top of it!
  • Smiffy99 - December 31, 2008 12:22 a.m.

    Okay, two,...uh, 14th! Woo! I'm really on top of it!
  • TrigunGunner - December 28, 2008 4:43 a.m.

    I hate how the politicians and all these government big shots go yacking about how bad games are how violent and mature they are, yet other forms of media like movies and books get none of that criticism
  • Corsair89 - December 23, 2008 8:19 a.m.

    damn, double post
  • Corsair89 - December 23, 2008 8:18 a.m.

    Yeesh, some of the Manhunt 2 kills made me cringe. Brutal.
  • El_Hombre11 - December 22, 2008 6:14 a.m.

    the Gov. just needs to get it in their minds that Video Games are simplistic in the same way as movies, people watch/play them to ESCAPE REALITY. You watch Wanted, Lord of the Rings, the Matrix, Batman, or SisterHood of the Traveling pants kauz you want to know WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE if it were real. Some people play Madden kauz they love football and maybe, huh, would actually want to have the unnatural ability to control some of their favorite players. Imagine that!!! Games weren't made to duplicate reality and breed a bunch of cyberkillers, thats what the internet is for Games were made to replace reality with anything we want at the time
  • CoD_22 - December 21, 2008 3:21 p.m.

    you would have to be pretty insane in the first place to kill someone because of playing gta. you play games because you can do things you wouldnt normally do in real life.
  • Geoffish - July 9, 2009 12:43 p.m.

    The thing that makes no sense about the general media's supposed "understanding" of games as a form of media is how they always want to protect their children. "Wont somebody please think of the children? He played GTA and now is a violent, sexual deviant!" I totally agree that young children shouldn’t be playing games with ratings above their age BUT that what ratings are for! "Your son shouldn’t have been playing GTA, he’s 10!" If the people think it’s acceptable for films that are unsuitable for children to be released in the cinema and then for retail then games should be treated the same way. It should be the parent’s responsibility to stop their children from playing games that are too mature for them. For instance if I ever have children I will play computer games with them (if they want to). However I won’t recommend playing a GTA title with them, until they are old enough. I think I'll just finish with saying I don’t believe that games do make people go crazy. However say I did go crazy and try to recreate my fave GTA level, the hardest part for me would be securing a firearm, maybe access to weapons should be the topic, and not whether games affect us at all. Also, this was probs the wrong place to post this, is there an artical about the media's understanding of games?

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