Monday, 5 May 2008

GTA4 And Violence In The Media

Grand Theft Auto 4 (GTA4) has just been released, much to the delight of gamers. It is, without a doubt, a violent game, and as a result, it has also prompted the usual television panel discussions and newspaper editorials regarding whether or not violent games and movies lead to violent acts being committed in society.

Gamers vehemently deny any such link, most of them making the point that it is “just a game” and that it would never prompt them to go out into the world to perpetrate, copy-cat style, the violent acts that they see during gameplay. On the other hand, cases exist of people seemingly doing just that – for example, after spending hundreds of hours playing a previous release of Grand Theft Auto in 2003, 18 year old Devin Moore Thompson gunned down three men (two police officers and a 911 dispatcher) in the town of Fayette, Alabama. For every Devin, however, there are millions of other gamers who have never (and would never) follow through on what they do during a game. And so the argument continues, round and round in circles.

Because of cases like Devin’s, it is often assumed that any link between violence portrayed in a game or movie and violent acts committed in real life will be a direct one. In other words, people assume that the gamer or viewer themselves will be the perpetrator of any violence, acting out what they have practiced or seen in the virtual world. While I think it is perfectly possible that this is a plausible scenario, I also think that the situation is a bit more complex than this.

At an energy level, what we think about creates our reality – including changing our physical brains. For someone like Devin, with a troubled history, anger was already a predominant way of interacting with the world. Playing a violent video game would have further entrenched these thoughts in his mind. Given that the “wiring” of the prefrontal cortex (the brain’s impulse control centre which allows us to think ahead to the potential consequences of our actions) is not fully completed until one’s early 20s, Devin would have been continually reinforcing neural connections during his teens that supported angry and violent patterns of behaviour. In a situation perceived as threatening, Devin’s actions merely corresponded to what he had trained his brain to do.

So why don’t more gamers duplicate the violent acts that their avatars perpetrate during a game? At an energy level, I think there are various contributory factors. For example, gamers who, prior to even engaging with a game, are already aligned with a more positive energy frequency, will have differently wired brains. Playing a violent game will not be enough to significantly alter physical brain structure, or permanently change their predominant thought patterns away from the game. Another factor to consider in this regard is how easily gamers are able to detach from the energy of the game after ending their gaming session. The more someone ruminates on the violent scenarios contained in a game like Grand Theft Auto after playing it, the more their thought patterns and hence their physical reality will be affected. Both of these factors just mentioned assume that the gamer is engrossed in the game, and hence aligned with the energy of violence, while playing it. However, it is also possible that some gamers can remain detached from the game in an energy sense, even during game play – they will still enjoy the game for what it is, but their level of conscious awareness is sufficiently high that they can maintain an objectivity towards the violence, maintain present moment awareness rather than getting lost in the game, and consequently remain at a high positive energy level throughout, For such gamers, the game may not change their vibrational alignment at all.

I think the number of gamers falling into the latter category are, however, small, and that the vast majority fall into the other groups, in which their vibrational alignment shifts temporarily while playing the game. As a result, even though these gamers would not commit violent acts themselves, I do think their playing of violent games contributes to the level of violence in the world – at an energy level, the effect of millions of gamers changing their vibrational alignments, albeit temporarily, to ones of anger and violence, affects the collective consciousness, and consequently reality mirrors this negative energy level in the world. I think this indirect link is often ignored during discussions of the effect of games like GTA4 on the world, yet I think it is far more insidious.

I’m not suggesting that we start getting all controlling and rush about censoring all violent games (and movies). I would far rather see the small group of gamers who are able to remain detached from the energy of such games increase. There is evidence that humanity’s collective consciousness is changing – many more people than before are starting to consider spiritual issues (the number of people tuning in to Oprah’s webcasts with Eckhart Tolle is an example of this). As this continues to grow, it is possible that we will see an increase in conscious gamers. It is interesting to consider that, although this group may continue to play violent games for a while, as their and humanity’s consciousness increases, it is likely that the nature of gaming will change too as the content of such games changes to reflect the new reality of a higher level of consciousness.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject – please leave a comment and share!


Tim Brownson said...

Fantastic and thoughtful article that takes all the hysteria out of the debate and looks at things sensibly from both points of view.

There is enough evidence now to prove that consciousness has a direct impact on the world we live in, yet still some people want to believe that it's something dreamed up by men in sandals that eat tofu and chant a lot.

Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom said...

Welcome, Tim, and thank you for the comment!

Tom Volkar / Delightful Work said...

Mags this is an interesting read. I imagine we all have different points of comfort and discomfort with violence. I'm not a gamer but I am able to watch a fairly violent movie like Braveheart and enjoy it for the bigger ideas it represents like freedom.

Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom said...

Thanks, Tom. I agree that we all have different levels of comfort with violence - for different reasons perhaps? For example, someone with a low level of conscious awareness may feel comfortable with violence because it resonates with an angry energy within them. On the other hand, someone with a high level of conscious awareness may feel comfortable with violence too - not in the sense of enjoying it or condoning it, but accepting it for what it is at the present moment, and also rising above it by not becoming energetically aligned with it. Instead, higher level concepts, like your Braveheart/freedom example, would come to the fore in one's energy field.

Andrea Hess|Empowered Soul said...

What a great article - kudos to you for tackling a tricky subject!

I have mixed feelings on the topic of violence - personally, I can't even watch the evening news because it's all negative, negative, negative. And I've become an absolutely baby about any kind of violence in movies or TV - I used to be able to watch Braveheart, but can't stomach it anymore! Which pretty much limits me to romantic comedies and reality TV ...

Having said that, there is lots of anger and violence in the world. Many people do carry those vibrations, and I would rather have them express those energies through a video game or by watching a violent movie than in "real life." I think it almost provides an outlet for some.

Obviously, I'd love to see the vibrations of anger and violence disappear from our planet altogether ... we're working on it, right? :-)


Mark - Creative Journey Cafe said...

Mags - Personally, I don't play the games and I think it's kind of unfortunate that the violent ones are so popular. I guess R rated movies have been around for a long time, and these games are M for mature. Some kids will sneak them the way they sneak into R movies.

But again, personally, I notice I've developed an incredibly senstive skin when it comes to violent images or even harsh language, and I'm no prude. I have to turn it off immediately. Bad vibes are not what I want in my life!

Mags | Woo-Woo Wisdom said...

Thanks for your comments, Andrea and Mark.

Like you both, I prefer not to engage with violence in the media - I'm not a gamer myself, don't enjoy violent movies, and I can't remember when last I watched the evening news!

That said, I've learned over time how to handle situations in which I encounter violent images, such as when I am at someone else's house and they choose to watch the news, or even in my own home, when my husband chooses to play games :). Sometimes I remove myself from the situation physically. But I've also learned to be able to detach from the energy of the violence - to accept it for what it is, remain compassionate towards anyone affected by it, and yet not allow it into my own energy field.

Andrea - yes, we're working on it!! I'm starting at home :). My husband has always had quite a high level of conscious awareness, but even so it has been interesting to see how his attitude to gaming has changed as a result of exposure to learning about energy from me. He still enjoys playing games, but the energy in the room is completely different to what it used to be! It's much lighter now!