Are games more violent today?

See history's most brutal pastimes from gladiatorial games to medieval massacres for the answer

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 hiswebsite.

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.

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