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NCTV Takes Stand
On Video Game Violence

By Howard Mandel

The debate over video games' effects intensified recently as they were attacked by several medical authorities for their "violent scenarios" and "graphically aggressive themes."  Surgeon General C. Everett Koop charged that video games produce "aberrations in childhood behavior" and that the object of most arcade classics is to "eliminate, kill, destroy."  Only days before, the National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV), a Washington-based watchdog group that has monitored TV shoot-'em-ups, movies and Saturday morning cartoons, announced it was launching a new campaign against video game violence.

NCTV has asked the Federal Trade Commission to ban video game advertisements, claiming they are deceptive.  And Dr. Thomas Radecki, the NCTV chairperson, told VIDEO GAMES in an interview that "concerned public interest groups and psychologists should be allowed to go on the air and caution people as to their harmful effects."

Radecki, a psychiatrist at Southern Illinois University, charges that "video games teach a violent reaction in a crisis situation.:  In Berzerk, he wrote in an NCTV press release, "You're a stick figure with a handgun; the object is to kill as many other stick figures as possible, before they kill you.  This type of role-playing practice is certain to have long-term harmful effects on the player; it teaches violent reactions.  These games are training the next generation of Americans to be even more violent than our current generation, already the most violent in American history."

Copyright by Video Games

About Berzerk, NCTV Chairman Radecki says: "This type of role-playing practice is certain to have long-term harmful effects on the player; it teaches violent reactions."
While Radecki concedes no hard evidence exists linking video game playing, at home or in the arcades, to increased violent behavior, he believes research will soon catch up with the industry.  "The effects of movie and TV violence on audiences' aggressive behavior have been shown in 750 research projects," he said in the interview.  "Scientists I've talked with in the research community are nearly unanimous in the opinion that video game violence will prove no different than that in all other forms of media.

"Certainly," he continues, "if the U.S. Army trains recruits on Battle Zone, they're trying to teach the reactions to perform the task at hand,

which is to drive tanks.  Pac-Man has a violent theme, but it's rather abstract- and we'd expect it to have less influence toward violence than Battle Zone or Berzerk.  I guess shooting at rocks is okay; most of the action in Asteroids is non-violent.  But every once in a while a spaceship comes on the screen, and you're supposed to shoot at it.  If not for that spaceship, we probably wouldn't object to Asteroids.  We think sports games, quiz games that involve the mind, driving games that involve negotiating a terrain are all acceptable, but not chase games with hostile intent.

"There are many exciting problems in life that have one dealing with different situations.  How about games

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