Just How Violent Is Pacman, Anyway?

from the yikes dept

A couple months ago, we wrote about a bunch of politicians grandstanding against video games, an event that was later mocked successfully by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. It appears that the hearing is still getting plenty of attention. Slashdot is pointing to an ongoing debate over some of the research that was presented at the hearing. Aaron Stanton, at About.com, took issue with a Harvard researcher who testified about how the ESRB (the organization in charge of rating video games) did not accurately rate the games. Stanton notes that in the report, Dr. Kimberly Thompson, also put in some stats about classic video games, noting that Pacman was considered 62% violent. Yes, the game where you run around a maze chomping dots. Apparently, having the ghosts chase you is considered "violent." The blog Joystiq decided to ask Dr. Thompson to respond, which she did in great detail, pointing out that the Pacman issue was only a tiny part of the overall work and was more for comparative purposes. She also notes that games like Pacman may be played by children who are only 2 or 3 years old and cannot yet distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy. Stanton, however, responds to Thompson's response and makes some important points.

While Thompson says people are only focusing in on this one element, Stanton is absolutely right that the fact that her methodology recognizes Pacman as such a violent game should raise an awful lot of questions about the overall methodology (and that doesn't even get into the game Centipede, which is judged as 92.6% violent). While Thompson isn't trying to make public policy positions based on the research, the politicians she presented to will be making public policy decisions on it. And, given the way most politicians act, you can bet that they'll be using only the elements of the research that support their position while conveniently ignoring the points that don't. What the 62% Pacman number shows is that the scale and system that Thompson is using probably is quite different than what most people consider "violence" to be. However, when that same scale is used for the sake of public policy making, no one will note that the scale is not calibrated with our common sense views of violence, and that's a problem.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:41pm

    Very violent. First post.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Desmock, 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:42pm

    Very Violent.

    *Dances with his 2nd post along with his 1st that he didn't have time to label*

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    staomeel, 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:53pm

    I blame pacman for the rave scene...

    "If Pacman had affected us as kids we'd be running around in dark rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music."
    - Marcus Brigstocke www.marcusbrigstocke.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kiah, 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:59pm

    Pacman is violent?!

    OH GOD! What have I done?! All those innocent ghosts, murdered by the savageness of my pacman. Oh the horror!

    Yeah... I think they might be exagerating a bit... I mean, statistics can prove anything.

    Just out of curiousity... If pacman is 62% violent, how violent is Grand theft auto?

    Or even manhunt?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      recently inspired, 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:59pm

      Re: Pacman is violent?!

      Don't worry yourself too much, your consience is clean-- it was self defense- they were after you... or were they just a side effect of all those pills you were eating?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2006 @ 11:26pm

      Re: Pacman is violent?!

      Grand Theft Atuo is 10,021.25% violent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Starky, 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:00pm

    I actually found myself agreeing with most of her points (Not the arcade game ratings, but some other points she made, as I read all of the discussion and her case that was the start of this). The ESRB should play the games when assigning a rating.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2006 @ 1:29am

      Re:

      Originally posted by Starky
      "The ESRB should play the games when assigning a rating."

      Aside from how idiotic it is to expect them to play every game to rate it (what if they aren't good enough to get past some parts or find secret content), this kind of suggestion ignores the fact that the industry is self-regulated. They don't even have to rate games, they do it as a service to consumers. Next thing you know you will be demanding that all books are rated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Aug 2006 @ 9:34am

        Re: Re:

        > Aside from how idiotic it is to expect them to play every game to rate it

        Idiotic? No, that sounds like common sense. We expect those who rate movies to actually watch every movie they rate, even SNAKES ON A PLANE!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 Aug 2006 @ 8:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          A movie is, at most, 2 hours long.

          A video game is typically somewhere around 40.

          That's why it's absurd. Working 8 hours a day, a reviewer can finish a short game in one week.

          Then they have to go back through and search for easter eggs that may or may not exist. So it has to be a thorough playing.

          Let's say 70 to 80 hours then, going through different combinations. 2 weeks.

          That's the speed that we play games when we aren't looking for things that COULD be sexual. There's time to stop and write these things down, note, debate, look up references, etc.

          We're looking at a month a game.

          One whole month to be reviewed for one game.

          There are 8 systems pumping out games daily; not to mention a backlog of recent "playable" games that would be catalogued between the XBox, PS2, and Gamecube.

          It's. Not. Possible.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:06pm

    Re: I blame pacman for the rave scene...

    rofl... that's one of the funniest quotes i've ever read...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom, 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:22pm

    what??

    Video games dont make people violent. I played a lot of pacman. And all I want is to simply pound a shiv into the chests of the stupid @)(#$@)(#$* organisms that call themselves politicians.

    Erm, wait a second. Maybe games have made me violent.

    In which case---better not let politics me mad.

    Sure hope politicians don't start blaming video games rather than the fact they are raping society with politics.

    Screw video games, back to thumb-wars for me.


    Tom

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:28pm

    Wal-Mart's Violence Rating?

    A scary place, with gargoyles in blue uniforms scowling at you when you enter the store, all those orcs and goblins running around speaking in their harsh tongues, greedily snatching Made-in-China goods off the shelves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:55am

      Re: Wal-Mart's Violence Rating?

      You know, the funny part is, until you started going on about Orcs, I thought you were making a Snow Crash reference.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Outsider looking in, 24 Aug 2006 @ 9:35pm

    Politicians want kids to do something else....

    It seems that both politicians and professors want to get kids away from the video games and back out into the world. With all the obesity, depression and ADHD that kids suffer from today it probably wouldn't hurt to get the kids away from the games for a while and see what happens. Underpinning all of this potential legislature is a belief that video games are not beneficial (beyond eye-hand coordination), and this may or may not be the case. Perhaps video games do help kids who might otherwise be lonely or bored. The games certainly entertain, but it is hard to see how they teach children to do tangible work. Many of us probably know middle age men who will go out and fix the car or do house repairs. My twenty something friends often do not know how to do these things, and I am left wondering if they had something better to do in their childhood (and now) rather than going out and learning about the world. Of course, my good friend loves video games and can fix anything you throw at him, so this doesn't apply to everyone, but it does seem to be an emerging trend. This problem is multifactorial and all roads do not lead to video games, but isn't it possible that they are contributing?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2006 @ 1:31am

      Re: Politicians want kids to do something else....

      "Perhaps video games do help kids who might otherwise be lonely or bored."

      Or autistic, or shy, or abused, or lacking in imagination, or...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Grey Williams, 24 Aug 2006 @ 9:39pm

    It gets worse

    I wrote about it a few days ago on my LJ. It actually gets worse. This basically the same article but seems to contain a lot more info.

    For instance, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion scored only 5% violent using the same methodology. At the other end of the scale, Galaga and Galaxian both scored 100% violent. Heck, even Kirby64 scored 71.7% violent. KIRBY!

    Unfortunately they didn't give the violence rating that GTA got but according to the article, GTA3 scored as less violent than games like Space Invaders. So I guess my 10 year old son would be better off playing GTA then huh?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    rijit (profile), 24 Aug 2006 @ 10:12pm

    Ignorance is Bliss...

    Stupid. The rating system works just fine. In fact it is harder on content then Hollywood's rating system. An R rated movie would get an AO (Adults Only 18+) rating on everything except violence, which would get a MA(Mature Audience 17+) rating. Most PG(13+) movie ratings would get a Teen rating on games, meaning 14+ to play it. So the government thinks the rating system doesn't work, go figure.

    The only reason the politicians even bother with it is because it is a newer medium that is interactive. The movie industry had these kind of growing pains, as did the music industry, after all Rock n Roll was branded devil music when it started to grow. So video games are just the latest platform for politicians to latch on to and protect the children. After all that has come before, risky movies and rock n roll are mainstream, video games will eventually make it there as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    rijit (profile), 24 Aug 2006 @ 10:16pm

    Ignorance is Bliss... Part 2

    Or, we will all be living in a communist country where everything is totally controlled by the government. Come to think of it, we are not far from there now...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    good job centipede, 24 Aug 2006 @ 11:44pm

    video game violence o my!

    well then we better get our kids off them dang videogames right away. we wudnt want our kids building spacecraft and going out back to battle bugs now wud we, cuz everyone knows that every robery since GTA came out was caused by GTA

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wiarumas, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:00am

    and your local news channel scores a 514% violent rating...

    on a more serious note.. lets take away the violent game of pacman. let the kids go outside and play war with pretend guns and play with action figures that can decapitate one another... because that is far less violent than pacman.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sal, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:10am

      Re:

      I did just that. I stopped playing Halo, went to a local constructioin site, played some airsoft and went back to my hole to play Anarchy Online with my next door nieghbor.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    wist, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:05am

    i simply cannot wait for this generation of ignorant, incompetent politicians to die. they are so out of sync with today's culture its unbelievable. its comparable to the people of generations before us who thought elvis' dancing was inappropriate. its only a matter of time before they die or replaced with younger, more up to date incompetent politicians.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sal, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:08am

      Re:

      And when I grow up to be president, I will be just as ignorant. I don't even like todays culture. Gangster rap isn't helping. The 70's and 80's were great from what i've heard

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sal, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:06am

    sure are evil

    I'm a teenager so I guess i'll put in my 2 cents. I have played GTA, Hitman, Spliter Cell, Pacman, and Galaga (100% violent???). I don't have ADD (it's just a controll issue, not a disease). I exercise just as much as I play video games and am a geek. My friends and I don't have any problems with violence as we know the diference between video games and reality. Video games don't create the problems. They are just a fun and sometimes addictive outlet. Would you rather me play GTA and kill some hookers or bring a gun to school? And to all the politians, harsh rules won't solve the problem. Hell TV has more sex and violence and is more of a waste. Why not start raising your kids a healthy way? A right wing, republican, Christian perspective works, you should try it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    R. Larson, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:17am

    Pong!

    Pong has got to be 100% violent. That poor white dot, getting knocked around by paddles and into walls. Back and forth, again and again! Oh, the horror that poor dot must have went through for all those years! Please, stop the violence!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MrPaladin, 25 Aug 2006 @ 1:59am

    I always thought Mario...

    Whenever violence in Vid games comes up I've always pointed at Pacman and Mario for some of the worst offences... lets take a quick look at them...

    PacMan-
    See's Ghosts...
    Has food cravings...
    Takes Drugs known as 'power pellets' that then allows him to consume said ghosts!!!...

    Mario...
    Finds hidden 'stashes' of cash...
    Proformance enhansing drugs in the form of Mushrooms, and Wild flowers and other such things...
    Hidden 'vines' (drug reference) that take him to 'warp pipes'...

    Lets face it people, Mario and pacman are a major reason alot of people smoked pot and did other Rec. drugs!!!
    (PS dont get me started on sonic...)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joerg, 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:33am

    99.99999%

    Mabye it's like when you get near to light speed, so that you have particles at 99% and some at 99.9995% lightspeed and it still makes a difference and especially makes a big difference to reaching c :)
    So GTA is prbably 99.995% violent :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RoyalPeasantry, 25 Aug 2006 @ 8:43am

    She also notes that games like Pacman may be played by children who are only 2 or 3 years old and cannot yet distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy.

    You know, for some odd reason I really DOUBT they connect themselves with the yellow circle thing enough to actually think, HOLY #$%^!!! I just DIED!!! or YES!!! I absolutly slaughtered that ghost!!! It died a horrible and painfull death!!!

    Which is basically what she was saying in her response as far as I could tell.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Aug 2006 @ 9:54am

      Re:

      Does anyone remember Hunt the Wumpus? That game scared the crap out of me when I was little. (I mean really little, like maybe 1 1/2.) Musta been that music...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Que, 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:43pm

    I don't get how people are so anti-video games...oh wait, yes I do, these people don't play video games.

    Drinking and smoking are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year (I don't think you can pin a single death on video games) but they're still allowed to be used, why? Because the politicition drink and smoke!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Xanthir, 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:11pm

    The Study Methodology

    Basically, the % violence was based on what percent of the time violent activities were going on. That's why a game like Galage was 100% violent - you're shooting things the entire time!

    On the other hand, a game like Hitman which is mostly sneaking with a tiny bit of violence at the end would rate extremely low on her scale.

    So, just on this little glimpse into the study, you see that it is so flawed as to be completely useless.

    There's also the matter of what exactly she defines 'violence' as...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Newob, 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:32pm

    How violent is my fist?

    What shit. Video games are make-believe. How violent is make-believe? Which is more violent, a real murder or a make-believe murder?

    These people keep saying that kids can't tell between fantasy and reality. But they are assigning violence percentages to make-believe fantasy worlds, as if they were the real thing. So, who doesn't know the difference between fantasy and reality? Alarmists and politicians, naturally. Kids seem to have a pretty good grasp on reality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2006 @ 12:23am

    according to the US government.

    watch our soldiers kill people with guns on TV is acceptable.

    a yellow circle eating white dots is not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2006 @ 10:40am

    > A video game is typically somewhere around 40. That's why it's absurd.

    A video game is typically 40 hours of redundant play after 5 mintues of uniqueness. If you such a dumb fcuk that you have to complete the entire game before you can tell how violent it is, then you should not be allowed to reproduce.

    Quite frankly rating a game R would problably increase it's sales since any kid would rather play a R-rated game than a PG-rated one, but the point is that the consumers (parents and kids) should have the information to make knowledgable choices. What's so wrong with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2006 @ 10:44am

    also, the orginal point was that although you don't have to play the entire game to rate it, you do actually have to play the game. The fact that they haven't played the game before rating it is why PacMan is being rated violent.

    Let's do the math. Let's say a person plays a game for a mere 8 hours (one work day) before rating it. That means it's only one-person day to rate a game. If 50 new games come out each month, which is WAY MORE than reality, then it only takes 50 person-days per month to rate all the games. That's 50/20 or 2.5 person-days per work day.

    So a company with only 3 employees would be sufficent to rate all games. Oh, that's so fcuking hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Atchy, 5 Dec 2006 @ 6:15am

    It never ends

    Have you noticed that the political issues are becoming more and more, er, what's the word? Oh yes, POINTLESS!!!! I mean come on, my little sister could see that Pacman is a harmless bunch of pixels.


    Anyway, I wonder what Legend of Zelda scored. Not to mention multiplayer online FPS like Counter Strike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Atchy, 5 Dec 2006 @ 6:15am

    It never ends

    Have you noticed that the political issues are becoming more and more, er, what's the word? Oh yes, POINTLESS!!!! I mean come on, my little sister could see that Pacman is a harmless bunch of pixels.


    Anyway, I wonder what Legend of Zelda scored. Not to mention multiplayer online FPS like Counter Strike.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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