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Why game violence is in safe hands

Opinion: Tom Pakinkis says you've got to have faith...

Jumping double-footed on some Goomba punk's head has been Mario's signature execution since 1985.


Give him the tools and he'll light that mother up with what's essentially a compact flame-thrower as well. Completely unprovoked, I might add.

That little Goomba is just going about his business, innocently shuffling about. He can't step-aside - and he wasn't blessed with the enviable spring Mario boasts in both legs.

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If Mario would kindly hop over his head rather than on it, the little chap would just toddle off - maybe even back to a little family of Goombas (awww).

Fat chance, we're afraid: Two steel-toed boots to the skull for you, friend. Time to meet thy Maker.

It's nasty stuff when you think about it, but - as long as you remain relatively low on pixels, two centimetres tall and adorable - it looks like that little thug of a plumber is going to get away with murder.

People like Julie Peasgood, The Daily Mail and my Auntie will be able to find violence in video games wherever they look. Mainly because they want to.

Intergalactic war in Space Invaders, cannibalism in Pac-Man, weapons of mass destruction in Bomberman - it's always been despicably rife.

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Harmless as all of the above may be, what's changed these days is not the presence of video game violence, but the detail in which it's depicted.

It means that not only have we entered a generation of exit wounds and realistic blood-splatter - but that there's a wider range of violent conduct available to gamers.

We're not jumping on heads anymore, we're car-jacking, mowing down and shooting Police officers.

Up until now, we've done a fairly good job at rebutting the 'evil games' tirade from some of the more outraged sections of the media.

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Safe in the knowledge that the games industry is just as restricted - and, unfortunately, exploited - as the film industry when it comes to age-restricted material, we've been able to bat off criticism as overblown. Logic is such a devastating weapon, you see.

What's always been harder to defend, though, is the level of interactivity in video games - and the fact it is increasing in its sophistication at a similar rate to graphics.

Come, you can tell me that games are only as violent as films - maybe even books in some cases - but, when you squeeze the right trigger to take that sweet double head-shot, there's something satisfying going on in the synapses isn't there? Yeah, that's right - there's that little smirk of admission.

We're more connected in games than we are when we watch a film, physically and emotionally. We react more to what's on screen, we often leave with a surge of adrenaline, elation or depression when we put the pad down depending on how well our last session went. It's part and parcel of what makes our hobby quite so thrilling.

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Do I think that means games should come under harsher scrutiny when it comes to age-restricted content? Not at all.

I trust people's basic ability to differentiate reality from fantasy - and that faith is justified in all but a few rare cases (where other, frighteningly under-reported factors come into play).

But I can see why some concern exists amongst level-headed people over the different nature of violence in games and that in other entertainment media.

Last week, however, a small but significant gesture was unwittingly made, which should be used as a textbook example of how best to allay these worries.

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