Does Violence Really Make Games More “FUN”?

A significant number of my 19-28 year old male college students would give a resounding “yes!” to that question. I asked an informal research question in one of my classes, asking the guys if their Xbox violent games were more “fun” when they contain more violence, more killing and more blood. They laughed out loud, nodding manly at one another and yelled, “heck yeah!”

Many NFL and NHL season ticket holders would say the same. I wonder: is there a fun-level difference between participating in the act of violence and simply watching the violence?  I agree with those who argue that people who play violent video games and watch violence in sports are participants, particularly the gamers. But, my question centers on the issue of “fun”.

Driving my son to school after a doctor appointment, the radio news confirmed that a 16 year old boy in a neighboring area died after a head on collision during his Varsity football game. Friday night, his school and community were cheering on their team. Today, their schools are closed, all sports are cancelled, and a community mourns.

I’ve never found myself an advocate for safety in sports. Honestly, I don’t believe much will change no matter how many millions the NFL has to pay out. But, will the Dad of the young man who died from a high school hit, ever again jump to his feet on a Sunday afternoon, throwing fist-punches into the air, cheering at the hit he just saw in a Dallas Cowboys game? Will he ever again view a “great hit” as fun?

A Dad on the sidelines of my daughter’s soccer team last season mentioned the need for some sort of helmet in soccer. Since my son is in a highly competitive ice hockey league, and has had a concussion, I somewhat shrugged off the Dad’s comment. Ice hockey is brutal for me to watch. Seeing my daughter in soccer all these years was far less stressful.

This season, where my daughter is at a higher soccer level and my son just started playing, my view changed. Watching kids jump 3’ in the air and hit heads instead of the ball, is intense. In sports such as soccer, girls’ lacrosse, and field hockey, perhaps the question should be, “will the sport be less fun if we institute helmets?” As Mom, I say “protection keeps the “fun” in sports!”

There is the ongoing helmet debate, but the bigger issue simply lies in contact sports. Fans won’t pay if hitting is taken out of hockey and football. Players don’t feel as competitive without the physical violence. And parents promote the fierceness. I’m one of the quieter hockey Moms, but wow, have I sat next to the crazy ones, who literally scream to their boys, demanding hits on their opponent. Better yet, I had a Grandma who set me straight on the importance of hitting in hockey:

When my son was 13 and just began body-checking in hockey, he took a wicked hit when playing in Canada one afternoon. I winced and said to my daughter next to me,  “jeeze, he needs to get used to this now that they are checking. That hit was horrible!”

No kidding, a Canadian Grandma turned to me and snarkily quipped, “Maybe you Americans should get your boys hitting as Peewees like we do. Then they would be better players by now.”  Hmmm. Better players? Or better hitters? FYI: Canada recently banned U13 body-checking.

Does violence really make games more “fun”?  While I personally say no, (as I cringe in the stands), America yells, “heck yeah!” to the tune of ONE BILLION DOLLARS.

Violence in games has been a form of entertainment since before the gladiator games in Ancient Rome. We can squawk about having evolved as parents and grown more educated and sophisticated as humans, and less barbaric in our entertainment, but the truth lies in America’s family living rooms: Black Ops II day one sales made $500million, reaching $1billion in sales 15 days after its launch. This week, Grand Theft Auto V made $800million in 24 hours. Kids 5-20 years old didn’t fund that entire $800million, but they’re playing. Mom and Dad are buying.

Grand Theft Auto III gave the player ability to hire a prostitute, have sex with her, kill her, then steal her money. What must Grand Theft Auto V give the player the ability to do?

Heck, if that’s how we Americans are defining “fun”, hockey body-checking and football collisions must seem downright boring.

3 Teenagers with 97 Practices and 68 Games – In 60 days.

MMy girls each play one fall sport and my son plays two. Since he has a lighter ice hockey schedule this year, he joined Varsity soccer as a second sport. The above title does not include Saturday morning recreational soccer games for my oldest two. And, lest you judge us as “that family”…you know, “the ones who have their kids in too much”…read on.

When my youngest was in the 5th grade, I met a fellow Mom in the school hallway who was completely frazzled. Like me, she had 3 children, but 2 of hers were well into the high school years. She told me she had driven back and forth to the school 17 times in two days. I thought she was exaggerating. Breathlessly, she listed her kids’ varying sports schedules, after school clubs, homecoming meetings, etc. etc. etc.  When she finished, I laughed and said, “Wow, you need a break with a cup of tea!”  She looked at me like I was crazy to think she’d have the time. Me? I sat around the kitchen island with my kids that afternoon, enjoying after-school cookies and milk, while leisurely hearing all the details of their day.

Knowing me back then (before my kids were teenagers and I smugly believed that my family was the most harmonious of all), I probably judged her for not having enough family dinners and for putting her kids into too many activities.

Fast forward 4 years.

As of Wednesday, all 3 of my children are in high school. Even though school just began for us, sports started in August and I have a well-worn path between my house and the school campus!

There was a time when I foolishly believed that kids belong at home the majority of the time and anything other than one outside interest was too much. Honestly, I fought for that life until I watched my twins become teenagers, and they grew into a new breed of humans right before my eyes. Yes, they needed more than home.

The school, travel, and recreational sports provide my teens with a sense of belonging. The physical exertion is excellent for their bodies and minds. The research I did to disprove their need for more than Mom 😉 showed that teen sports involvement elevated overall confidence, and monumentally reduced the amount of drug and alcohol use, and sexual promiscuity among teens.

Do sports cure all ills? Of course not. But music, athletics, and any other outside interest a child willingly pursues grows them personally and sometimes, professionally.

In summary, my daughter signed me up to host the first Varsity soccer team pasta dinner the night before school started. Just when I was feeling rather proud of myself for organizing our 60-day insane schedule and a dinner for 18 girls, one of the Dad’s picking up his daughter mentioned how busy they were. I nodded, thinking about our 97 practices. He added, “I don’t know if my daughter told you, but she’s the oldest of six kids. We’re working hard to stay on schedule.”

Hmmmm. Six kids? Well, now I just feel less amazing! God bless us all as we drive to countless fields and rinks, supporting our children. Someday when they are all in college, these will be our autumn memories!