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1 Mediating video game violence: a case study of GamePro Magazine, 1991-1999 Mortal Kombat. Night Trap. Lethal Enforcers.

Doom. The game titles themselves foreshadow the controversy they would create. The video game medium arrived suddenly and progressed quickly. While moviegoers had several decades between Charlie Chaplin and Platoon, video games grew to mainstream popularity in the 1980s and the first debates about their violent content took place in the early-1990s. Little scholarship has been devoted to examining how the news media has examined video game violence. Most scholarship on video games at this point is devoted to either effects research or narrative examinations of the content. The mainstream news media has provided sustained reporting on the debate over video game violence from the first splatter of blood in Mortal Kombat to the recent up close-and-personal shootings in Call of Duty.1 But no journalistic community has more at stake in these debates and discussions than video game journalists. In the 1990s, they were often considered the lesser brothers of mainstream journalistic counterparts, but video game journalists were heavily invested in the subject matter of video gamesnot just because magazine advertising generally depended on it, but also the writers and editors generally loved video games. How did video game magazines address this violence? The fan-oriented video game magazines GamePro Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Nintendo Power account for an unheard voice in this debate. This study gives voice to GamePro Magazine and tells the magazines story of video game violence. The 1990s may not be ancient history, but video game technology, culture and depictions of violence have all progressed light years since then. The time period 19911999 was selected to provide a picture of a key time period in gaming. It is during this era

2 that video games became a part of the first debates about violence, a fixture in the childhood of most children and developed a true culturelargely through magazines like GamePro. While GamePro is a magazine in the traditional sense, it catered to consumers who lived, played and shared their experiences in the midst of a rapidly changing industry. GamePro was a forum for communal discussion about gaming before the advent of the online gaming community online. Telling GamePros story simultaneously tells the story of the birth of a video gaming culture, how growth in technology accompanied growing depictions of violence and how accusations of violence from outside the gaming community were discussed and dismissed. An examination of what happened in magazines like GamePro is rare. Few scholars have questioned how magazines dedicated to the gaming population may have mediated video game violence differently than writers in the mainstream press. Using GamePro magazine as the main source, this study will explore the coverage of violent video games released in the 1990s. How did GamePro magazine mediate the conversation about violence in video games? How was GamePros response emblematic of the gaming, technological and cultural context of 1990s?

Why gaming, why now? To understand video game journalism in 1990s and how gaming violence was mediated, it is important to first understand video games during that time period. Moreover, it is important to understand gaming culture of that era. At the close of the

3 1990s, Mazzi Binasisa described the video game as reflective of societys wants and as a footnote of youth.2 In America, one would think that video games arose as a result of the marketplacegreat disposable income and more free time. On the contrary, video games grew to mass popularity in the midst of a recession in the early 1990s. A stock collapse in 1987 began a period of financial recession that continued until 1992.3 Video games existed for hobbyists since as far back as the 1950s.4 Arcade machines popularize video games in the 1970s, but it was still largely considered a niche hobby. The Atari 2600 brought arcade games into the home in September 1977. At the time, observers considered it an immense successa low cost way of playing the arcade games at home. But the Atari suffered from poor regulatory measures and inept money management.5 Atari trusted that third-party game creators would be able to deliver the product they promised on the box.6 Game creators spent thousands on marketing and colorful boxes but an inadequate on games.7 American consumers reacted with frustration that led to the video game crash of 1983.8 As a result, in 1985, Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in America faced an uphill battle and considerable suspicion on the part of both toy store distributors and consumers. Toy stores resisted stocking another video game system in their stores after the abysmal crash of the Atari. This led to the Nintendo being described as an Entertainment System as opposed to a Video Game System. But children were drawn to the game packaged with the NESSuper Mario Bros. By 1990, a third of all American households had an NES. It was an instant success and continued to be the dominant video game system until the mid-1990s.9

4 Nintendo demonstrated that games were not just for a minority of arcade nostalgic adults, but also an appealing entertainment alternative for kids. The NES touted many new bells and whistles: a zapper for Duck Hunt that could presumably help with hand-eye coordination, a mat for Track Meet that allowed children to run on specific buttons in order to race characters forward, and challenging, extended-attention span games like Zelda, and Final Fantasy.10 In order to make their games appealing to consumers, Nintendo instituted a strict licensing and censorship policy. All NES games had to be licensed by Nintendo and it censored blood and gore, references to sex, references to religion and references to alcohol and drugs.11 These censorship guidelines eroded during the 1990s, but for a while it gave parents some sense of security.12

Improving technology Yet while many saw video games as something for children, the video game industry proved by 1990 to be very grownup. By 1992, the industry made more money than Hollywood and was on pace to dwarf the music industry. By music industry standards, Super Mario Bros. 3 went platinum 11 times when it was released in 1990. The only artist who could claim such an accolade in the 1990s was Michael Jackson.13 While Nintendo was the dominant video game company for the early 1990s, its sway eroded by 1999. In late-1989, Sega introduced a competing console, the Sega Genesis. Like Nintendo, Sega insured that only consumer-friendly (and largely kidfriendly) games went to market. Unlike Nintendo, the Sega officials did not enforce the same level of censorship and their system was 16-bit, which meant it had twice the graphics and audio resolution of the 8-bit Nintendo.1415 In the early 1990s consumers

5 largely faced the fading glory but enormous library of the NES and improved graphics and sleek design of the Sega Genesis even though numerous other competitors attempted to compete.16 Eager to maintain their hold on the American market, Nintendo created a the 16-bit console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1991. The Super Nintendo competed in graphics and sound with the Genesis and Nintendo also had a death grip on licensees from the previous Nintendo system. Until 1995, the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis dominated the video game console scene.17 The two systems were fairly evenly matched. In 1992, the Sega Genesis controlled 55 percent of the American 16-bit market, although later Nintendo would surpass them.18 Video gaming had spread beyond consoles and arcade machines however. In early computers, games operated from floppy disk drives and used the DOS operating system. But in 1992, Microsoft Windows 3.1x came packaged with the games Hearts, Solitaire, and Minesweeper. It represented a symbolic shot across the bow to assure users that personal computers could compete in games against consoles. The popular Windows 95 operating system followed a few years later. Both operating systems included games in the install package and made it easy for users to install other games.19 In 1995, Sony released the 32-bit Playstation to widespread acclaim and Sega released the Saturn, which floundered because of a high price-point and a small library of games. Nintendo responded with the Nintendo 64, which competed with the Playstation, but didnt hold the dominant position it had during the Nintendo or Super Nintendo years. The Sony Playstation, Sega Saturn and Nintendo 64 systems introduced the first consistent three-dimensional, polygonal game graphics.20

6 Violent Games During the NES years, many derided the system as childs play even as that was Nintendos very secret to success. In 1993, 70 percent of video game consumers were under the age of 18.21 In October 1992, the game developer Midway released Mortal Kombat released for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis after a successful run as an arcade game. The violence depicted in the fighting game went beyond just the depiction in blood. The game portrayed impaling, beheadings and the like. Mortal Kombat instigated the introduction of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), which began placing mandatory ratings on all video games in 1994. As such, Mortal Kombat was the first game to receive a mature rating.22 Players derided the Super Nintendo version of this game because Nintendos censorship guidelines removed the gore from the game content.23 Also in 1992, Hasbro Interactive announced Night Trap, one of the first survival horror games for a Sega CD and Sega 32Xsupplementary systems for the Sega Genesis. Night Trap featured full-motion video and generally worked as an interactive movie. In the game, a series of unattached, beautiful females between the ages of 16 and 19 are captured by zombie-like creatures and will presumably be killed if the player doesnt rescue them.24 The story and video footage resembles that of a low-budget horror movie, but the game caused such a controversy because of its depictions of women that it was taken from store shelves and revised.25 The following year, in December 1993, the creators of Wolfenstein 3D followed up their commercial success with Doom. A first-person shooter set in a Mars space base,

7 Doom applied the same violent gameplay mechanics of Wolfenstein to demonic aliens.26 Doom was one of the games argued to be an inciting factor behind the Columbine shootings in Littleton, CO.27 These three games paved the way for a range of depicted violence in video games that ranges from the redemptive in Bioshock, to the contemplative in God of War, to the realistic battle imagery in Modern Warfare and Call of Duty.28

Video game journalism These controversies didnt happen in a vacuum. Since its early days, the role of the press in America has been to mediate conversation.29 Yet the press also gives voice to the voiceless. Video games in 1980s and 1990s suffered the same fate as television and movies in their early yearsthey were either dismissed or ignored by serious journalists. Although moving pictures began to be displayed in the early 1900s, it was not until the 1940s that mainstream journalistic film criticism became a consistent feature of print news.30 The reason for delay? Criticism was for art. Most agreed that theater and music was art, but movies?31 With video games, the population of players grew rapidly and with intensity. It is not surpising then that gamers founded their own magazines in order to share video game news, review games and discuss industry trends. Video game journalism itself, at its best, could be considered equivalent to television or movie criticismlargely editorial in content. At its worst, as in the early years of Nintendo Power, it was simply a marketing arm of video game developers eager to push specific games into the homes of their consumers.32 Nintendo Power was the first, mass audience video game magazine and thus many journalists characterize video game

8 journalism as simple advertising by game developers or the vehement ramblings of hardcore fans.33 But Nintendo Power was not the only video game magazine on the market in the 1990s. GamePro Magazine debuted in 1989 and covered video games on all platforms, computers and even arcade cabinets. This is in stark contrast to its competitor Nintendo Power, which only covered Nintendo products. It gained a reputation for being willing to be critical of poor games in previews and reviews and for the buyers beware section in which readers could send complaints about issues with defective games.34 In January 1995, GamePro proudly shared that with more than half a million subscribers, GamePro was the most popular video game magazine in the United States.35 And while there has always been some diversity among video game players, this was not the case with GamePro. GamePro cultivated a niche and highly desirable audience: 97 percent of readers were male and 64 percent of readers were between the ages of 12 and 17.36 All GamePro writers used synonyms that generally reflected their reviewing niche (ie. Scary Larry, Hack n Slash). Many of the pseudonyms apply to the same person. GamePros editorial policy was to never reveal the identity of their writers.37 When the magazine debuted in 1989, the editorial staff included one full-time editor and a handful of freelance writers. The outfit started with staff members working out of their homes. In 1990, the staff leased a small office in Redwood City, CA. By 1992, the staff outgrew that office and they moved into their long-time office building in San Mateo, CA. Most months, the magazine ranged from 150 to 200 pages, depending on the number of strategy guide inserts. But during 1994, GamePro routinely climbed

9 toward 300 pages. By January 1997, the staff had grown to 12 full-time editors for their print and online product. Currently, no computer systems or organizations archive videogame magazines this includes the publishers themselves. The archives on most videogame magazine websites only present a few years of issues. The magazine GamePro closed in 2011 and finding back issues continues to be difficult. The only location these magazines could be found was on the website RetroMags, which digitally archives video game magazines in comic book reader format (.cbr). RetroMags makes the digital files available freely on the condition that they not be used for profit. RetroMags relies on crowdsourcing to gather the magazines. Fans work as a community to present the most complete collection of video game magazines. Many magazine archives are still incomplete but, GamePro, perhaps due to its popularity, has a complete archive from 1991 to 1999. As a result of the completeness of archive, the popularity of the magazine, and the features of video game criticism noted above, this researcher selected GamePro as a case study in examining how video game journalism discusses violence in its games. Every GamePro from 1991 through 2000a total of 96 issueswas examined and explored for the way writers and editors discussed violence in video games.

Anxiety regarding video game violence Early on, readers expressed some concern about the potential role of the video game medium. In May 1991, Jonathan Cocco wrote to GamePro expressing concern regarding video game narratives.
Too many companies are manufacturing games that are simply variations on a theme. When will someone come onto the scene and breathe life back into the

games?...I hope someday the giants of the industry will realize that people are looking for real story lines, not just an excuse to vicariously kill somebody.38

Cocco was right. At the time, the video game industry needed something to breathe life into it and that arrived with Mortal Kombat and Doom in the mid-90s. However, vicarious killing would be a central part of this new life. From 1991 to 1993, GamePro presents a fairly sanitized picture of the world in the art, ads and discussion of video games. In a February 1991 review of The Magician, the author describes characters in the game as peaceful warriors.39 The phrase peaceful warriors is emblematic of those early games. One could argue that video games are innately violent. As one letter to the editor notes, in Super Mario Bros., the Mario kicks turtles and stomps gombaswhich is violence too.40 In Sonic the Hedgehog, the player attacks robots in order to free entrapped animals. GamePro Magazine indicates that the story is complete once peace has arrived; the warriors lose their reason to war. The cover of the May 1992 issue of GamePro presented a first in the history of the magazinea character with a weapon on the front cover (see Image 1). GamePro featured Splatterhouse 2 on the cover, yet the image is hardly what one would expect. The cartoonish drawing of the killer protagonist makes the hockey mask wearing protagonist look like he jumped out of an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as opposed to an action video game. He holds what one must assume is a knife, with the blade subtly cropped out. Green blood drips down the knife. The use of green blood is interesting because the game actually shows red pixels of blood. There are not any enemies that shed green blood when stabbed. The reviewer even describes the game as gory.41 Changing the color of the blood dampens the violence that was actually present in the game.

11 GamePro featured other violent video games of course, but most others were linked to major motion pictures. And even then, their video game iterations were usually not featured on the front coverwith the exception of The Rocketeer, which was also made cartoonish and featured no weapons (see Image 2).42 The cover for The Rocketeers issue paralleled the 1982 comic book (see Image 3), but for GamePro Magazine, the illustrator removed the weapon. The depictions of violence in these early issues reflect the sanitized imagery of violence in American culture at this time. News media images of the Gulf War in Iraq presented little of the horrors that war typically reeks.43 Fewer R-rated movies were released during the early 1990s than in the years that followed in 1991, 133 rated-R movies were released and by 1994, that number shrunk to 112 before climbing to a new high of 144 in 1995.44 Along with the renewed climb of R-rated movies came intense debate about violence in music. During this time period, hardcore hip-hop and rap grew to mainstream popularity as a result of artists Run-D.M.C, Ice-T and Wu Tang Clan. During this time period, this music overlapped with gangsta rap themes and focused on themes of street life, crime, drugs and police brutality.45 Like violent video games, hardcore rap was the subject of public discussion and concern in the mid-1990s.46 And when R-rated movies and violent music increased in popularity again, so did the rise in video game violence. In PC games, this change in tone took place around the games Wolfenstein 3-D and Doomwhich was later released to a number of game consoles. GamePro focused little on these games until Midway released Doom released for the Sega 32X and Sega CDadd-on systems for the Sega Genesis. An ad for Doom in January 1995 proudly proclaimed Now theres a place more violent than earth.47

12 The primary discussion grounds for violence in video games surrounded two powerful genre fads during the 1990s. Early on it the fighting game dominated the video game scene but as the decade progressed survival horror games and first-person shooters simultaneously grew in popularity and public attention.

Dominance of the Fighting Game A change occurs in the introduction of fighting game genre, which reached a dominant position with the release of Street Fighter II. It is impossible to downplay the degree to which GamePro Magazine promoted and crusaded on the part of the fighting game genre. In the editors note from January 1994, the editor noted that five of the past six covers were on fighting games.48 The reviews, special pullout strategy guides, ads and editors notes all indicate an unrestrained enthusiasm for the rise of the fighting game genre. This enthusiasm rose from the fact that video game consoles were now powerful enough to rival arcade gameswhere fighting games first appearedand because it was clear that the video game software, like the children who played it, had grown up. The sanitized early GamePro magazines that touted Sonic the Hedgehog drew child readers. The letters to the editor indicate that as those children grew up, they didnt give up their video game console but rather expected it to grow with them. In part this is indicated by the GamePro ratings system. The early ratings system had pictures of a young boy to illustrate their five-point scale for graphics, sound, control, challenge and fun factor. In June 1996, the boyish rating faces gave way to a more developed manly face (see Image 4). The editor discussed the new ratings images saying Our ratings guy has a more

13 angular face nowhey, hes no longer the baby faced kid he was, so why shouldnt he look older?49 The gamers grew up and so did their games. Street Fighter II and its numerous iteration on consoles (Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter II: Championship Edition, and Super Street Fighter II) all occupied the cover of GamePro magazine upon their release. Furthermore, each of the games received the royal treatment of having special section devoted to teaching players the special moves for each character. Yet an important distinction must be made between Street Fighter II and its primary competitor, Mortal Kombat: in Street Fighter II, the battle concludes when the opponent is knocked out. In Mortal Kombat, the battle usually doesnt end until someone is dead. There were other fighting games on the scene besides Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. GamePro offered extensive coverage to Primal Rage, Killer Instinct, Clay Fighters, King of the Monsters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Tournament Fighters. In most cases, the arcade game preceded the console game. GamePro first introduced Mortal Kombat in November 1992 in their feature Hot at the Arcades. The author Hack n Slash describes the violence in detail:
The fluidly animated characters are extremely responsive to player controls as they execute a variety of bone-crushing, blood-squirting attacks. Please note: If youre squeamish or have a faint heart, this game features some of the goriest violence ever to flicker across an arcade screen. High damage blows yield copious amounts of your opponents blood. One players secret move rips an opponents head right off of its body spinal column and all!50

Mortal Kombat included a feature new to fighting gamesthe fatality. Once a player defeated their opponent, the winner had the opportunity to execute a special move that would cause the opponent to die in a gory way. Players loved fatalities and many wrote to GamePro to defend the over-the-top gore. In an interview with GamePro Magazine,

14 the lead graphic artist for Mortal Kombat, John Tobias, argued that the fatalities drew people to Mortal Kombat, but great gameplay is what kept them there. He said: I dont think anyone is attracted to just something red on the screen.51 However, Mortal Kombat II introduced humorous, non-violent alternatives to fatalities: babalities, which turned an opponent into a baby, and Friendships, in which the character spares his opponent. The allure of Mortal Kombat was evident to GamePro writer Hack n Slash:
Mortal Kombat is taking arcades by storm, commanding lines even larger than those for Street Fighter II. With its beautiful graphics and gut-wrenching game play, Mortal Kombat is clearly making a bid to be THE fight game champ.52

Like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat was followed by a host of sequels that appeared typically first in arcades, but also across console platforms. The level of violence and gore in Mortal Kombat remained largely a feature of the Mortal Kombat brand as fighting games peaked in the mid-90s. Other fighting games allowed Mortal Kombat to take the corner of the market on violence and gore and instead find unique approaches of their own. Virtual Fighter boasted the first 3-D polygon graphics in video games and the ability to have your fighters move around in 3dimensional space. Darkstalkers drew characters from horror and monster stories to create its cast. Soul Blade allowed combatants to change their weapons and developed a story mode. The only other fighting game that caused significant public controversy was Primal Rage, a dinosaur fighting game. The key concern regarded a golden shower finishing move in which a gorilla character urinated on their opponenta finishing move that appeared in the arcade and Sega Genesis versions of the game but was censored from the Super Nintendo version. The controversy this time though didnt develop through the legal process but rather through a grassroots movement started by Ellie Rovella in Gilbert, AZ. In the June 1996 issue of GamePro, the writer reports that Rovella bought

15 her 11-year-old son the Genesiss Primal Rage for Christmas and then her son used a GamePro strategy guide in order to execute the golden shower (see Image 5). She returned the game to store and then took her argument nationwide.53 In the June 1996 issue of GamePro magazine, it is clear that her work has brought about results: Target removed Primal Rage from 22 stores, and Best Buy pulled it from 251 stores. The writers source Time Warner Interactive, the maker of the game, who comes across as indignantin that theyve never been given a chance to plead their case.
First [Time Warner Interactive] maintains that Rovella never contacted TWI directly and instead immediately took her fight to the mediaSecond, the game has been played by millions at home and in arcades sine 1994, and this is the first major complaint TWI has heard; if Primal Rage is so offensive, why hasnt anyone protested before? Third, the game was rated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) as being appropriate for teens, a fact prominently displayed on the packaging (along with a graphic description of the games violent action. By the ESRBs standard, her son was too young to be playing the game.

The ESRB ratings system is integral to how GamePro editors defend violence in games. The flair-up, however, was one of the last regarding fighting games. Letters to the editor, GamePro reviews and features all indicate a cooling of the fighting game genre by 1996. Future concerns would arise based around the survival horror and first-person shooter genres. But in general, GamePro promoted the sense that ESRB ratings had addressed all concerns regarding violent content.

Censoring and regulating games Despite the censorship put in place by Nintendo to protect players from offensive content, players and parents still expressed concern about the potential power of the video game medium. Over the course of the 1990s, the editorial policy of GamePro Magazine shifted. Initially, GamePro remained silent on the issue of ratings, but then gradually

16 opposed the ratings as being restrictive to freedom of expression. In time, Sega would create a rating system to address parental and policy maker concerns about Genesis content. Then the industry itself would later impose a rating system that included all consoles. As the ratings system took hold, GamePro used it as a defense as it crusaded against political calls for greater regulation in the industry. Calls for a rating system began long before the appearance of Mortal Kombat and Doom. In March 1991, GamePro Magazine responded to a letter from a parent requesting ratings on video games. GamePro editors responded with a neutral tone and referred the parent to a group called Parents Against Video Violence. The editors wrote: The issue of ratings is a growing concern for parents and gamers alikeWere always interested in hearing what our readers think about this issue.54 Later, however, GamePro clearly challenges the idea of the ratings system as being a step toward censorship.
A currently popular proposal suggests that a ratings system is the way to go. In theory, labeling boxes would give consumers and parents an indication of the violence they can expect in a game. Though violence is a valid concern, we believe that a ratings system will not work. A triple-X rating is more likely to raise interest in a game than to squash it. Whats more, even innocuous games, such as Marioland, Sonic the Hedgehog and Tiny Toon Adventures, would inevitably be subjected to rating, and that smacks of unnecessary censorship.55

The solution, according to GamePro, is for parents to take an active role in monitoring their childs video games, and take more time to learn about the video games.56 Once Mortal Kombat reached home consoles, the proposal for video game ratings only escalated. Super Nintendo censored their version of the game, turning blood into gray sweat, and editing many of the fatalities. But this created a discrepancy between the mature-rated Sega Genesis version, which included blood, and the unrated Super Nintendo version, which did not but included many other violent acts.57

17 Nintendo of America denigrated Sega of Americas initial rating system. GamePro Magazine quotes a May 25, 1993 press release from Nintendo of America that said Segas rating system was a means for Sega to justify the marketing of increasingly violent video games.58 Nintendo stated that their responsibility was to only publish appropriate software. By mid-93, GamePro Magazine editors saw the writing on the wallregulation was going to spread industry-wide and thus supported the initial rating system from Sega.
When the smoke from all the rhetoric clears, the issues are fairly obvious, even to opponents of a ratings system. Theres no doubt that new technologies, such as CD-ROM, 3DO, and virtual reality, will facilitate the creation of games with far more realistic violence and sex, whether Nintendo and Sega chooses to make them or notSome sort of rating system for games, especially as game realism and graphic quality increase, is inevitable in the long run. If the industry doesnt voluntarily adopt standards or ratings, its likely that theyll be imposed on us as they have been in other media, like film and television. 59

In letters to the editor, gamers expressed indignation over Segas choice to impose a ratings system on their games through the Videogame Rating Council. Gamers argued that I see more violence on the six oclock new than in their games,60 that there are eight-year old kids out there with guns, not because of games, but because of their environment,61 and that if those groups want to cut violence in the games, they should first cut the violence in the society.62 In March 1994, responding to the rhetoric, the editor argues that gameplay, not violence is what makes games popular. Yet citing parental concerns about violence and sexism in games Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, GamePro started a parental newsletter called PlayRightwhich served to inform parents about the electronic entertainment products available to their kids.63 In 1994, the Entertainment Software Association formed the Entertainment Software Ratings Board to regulate the videogame industry and impose ratings based on

18 depictions of violence, sexuality and obscenities. Segas Videogame Rating Council was dissolved and Sega voluntarily took on the industry standard ratings. GamePro continued to campaign against efforts to denigrate violent video games using the argument that an industry-wide ratings system provides information regarding games, parents have the right and responsibility to keep themselves informed and if consumers dont think game content is appropriate they shouldnt buy the game. In light of the ESRB, Nintendo relaxed their censorship standards in late-1994 and released Killer Instincta Mortal Kombat look-alike. When Mortal Kombat II was released, Super Nintendo didnt edit out the blood or the fatalitiesin fact GamePro reviewers argue that the Super Nintendo version is the best version of the game.64

Violence up close-and-personal Night Trap, the survival horror game released for the Sega CD, was a game before its time. In many ways, the fact that it was used in congressional testimony regarding potential video game censorship is a testament to its impact. The 1992 game displayed graphical clarity that would not become industry standard until 1996. After the fighting game fad began to die down, two new fads arosethe survival horror genre, exemplified by Resident Evil, and the first-person shooter, exemplified by Time Crisis. Doom brought the two fads together and that may explain its success. In 1995, Doom began to appear in home consoles. Although Doom was released only a short time after the original Mortal Kombat, it did not saturate the market until much later since personal computer gamers remained a small percentage of the overall gamer population.

19 The Sega 32X, the Nintendo 64 and the Sony Playstation all boasted the graphical power to play Doom and at a more accessible price. Doom quickly spawned an array of similar first-person shooters including Quake, Turok and Half-Life. Furthermore, this first-person perspective began to enter other genres. Role-playing games, long known for providing a top-down Gods-Eye Perspective,65 suddenly presented first-person perspective as well in Deception, Persona and Kings Field. The horror genre proliferated with Blood and Resident Evil. The new systems and new genre fads combined to bring the action closer to the player. The limited-field perspective in both the survival horror genre and the first-person shooter both prevent the player from seeing everythingespecially the zombie creeping up behind their avatar. In a review of Resident Evil 2, Major Mike notes, RE2s graphics are more refined that the first games and the rendered cinemas paint a visual (if ghastly) feast.66 In short, the games graphics increased the horror. While there was cultural concern about the blood and gore in survival horror and first-person shooter games, as indicated by the regulatory efforts of Senators Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl, GamePro no longer emphasized the gore in the games in reviews. The gore became normalized. GamePro editors indicated this when they wrote in the April 1997 editorial, a gory game can be more fun to play than one thats sanitized.67 The popularity of Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 also evidenced the changes in the video game industry. Not only did the characters in the game resemble the characters from the movie, but one could play multiplayer against up to four people at a

20 time. In this way, Goldeneye 007 can be seen as an early precursor of the Halo phenomena in first-person shooting that would take place in the 2000s.

What changed? Clearly, the images of violence in GamePro increased with the players age, with growing technology and with the popularity of violent games. But what was it that happened in the early 1990s that brought about such widespread discussion? According to the GamePro editors, the violent depictions in media arent what changed in this time period, but the response to it. In an August 1996 issue, GamePro editors argue that the reason for all of the debate about violence in video games was not a result of increased violence in the cultural market but rather a rising tide of conservatism that took place after the election of Democratic President Bill Clinton.68 They imply that conservative Republicans used violent video games as an example of the problems in society; problems they hoped to cash in on during following elections.
Throughout the 1990s a rising tide of conservatism has washed over the country. It began in 1992 when Pat Buchanan became a bona fide presidential candidate and family values became the main political topic. Soon Congress began debating the violence in video games; Night Trap, a hilariously mundane fullmotion-video game, disappeared from shelves, and video games sported a new age-group rating, courtesy of the Entertainment Software Ratings BoardMaybe its not enough just to play video games. Maybe gamers everywhere need to become advocates, writing to politicians, retailers and software companies to express their needs and their rightsWhat gamers need is a spokesperson who defends games as effectively as those who attack them. Perhaps that person will be you. A single voice can make a difference (the Arizona mom proved that).69

While the editors point the figure at conservatives for the initial wave against video games in 1993-1994, the later wave of disapproval against video games that occurred in 1996-1997 cut across party lines. This time led by Democratic Senators Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl, this push argued for greater restraint and some Congressional regulatory

21 measures. In Editors Notes, the editorial staff discussed the two by name and frequently. In April 1997, the editorials author argued that while the senators have good intentions, they were misguided in their beliefs regarding media effects. Most gamers arent influenced by violence, whether its in an arcade, in a theater or on TV.70

Conclusion During the course of the 1990s, the editorials in GamePro became more outspoken, more confident and more political as the editors and writers engaged their aging audience in the societal issues that could affect their gaming hobby. The story of GamePro reveals a series of fads, which grow more and less popular during the course of the decade. Seen as a whole, video games over time became more personal and portrayed more graphically accurate imagery of violence. From 1991 to 1994, fighting games grew to mass popularity as reflected in the pages of GamePro. But by 1994, letters to the editor began decrying a loss of originality in fighting games. Real enthusiasm returns to pages of the magazine with the increased popularity of the survival horror genre and the firstperson shooter genre. The fact that debates about violence in video games took place in the 1990s even among gamers in a fan-oriented gaming magazineis fascinating considering the progression of technology and depictions of violence that have happened between then and now. While the 1990s may not seem like the distant past, technology has progressed substantially. In the first letters to the editor regarding violence in video games, GamePro editors distanced the magazine from the violence debate and allowed gamers to carry on

22 the discussion without weighing in. But by 1992, three years into the publications existence, the editors came out firmly against any sort of rating system. As the imposition of a rating system grew more inevitable, the GamePro supported an industry-imposed system as opposed to one from the government. Then, as further attacks on violence in games progressed, GamePro used the ratings system as the defense against restrictions on the sale of games. GamePro created a supportive community for gamers. While the mainstream media, pundits and politicians decried the ills of video gaming, GamePro provided an alternative narrativeone that argued that violent video games were not only harmless, but fun. It provided a forum for gamers to debate and discuss their thoughts on the violence in video games, and while GamePro editors certainly disagreed with some letters to the editor, they always disagreed in a respectful manner. The GamePro editorials and reviews of violent games express a defensiveness about violence in games. The reactionary approach created a format for gamers to model when confronted about the games they play. GamePro was niche magazine in the service of video game fans and players. It represented their voice and their concerns. The fact that GamePro Magazine discussed video game violence demonstrated that gamers themselves expressed some concern about the perceived violence in their games. GamePro Magazine allowed them a communal forum to present their concerns, fears and reservations. The magazine challenged gamers, but also provided them a space where their views could be affirmed and supported. What can be made of the fact that discussions about violent content in video games decrease while violent imagery increases in the 1990s? It was not necessarily that

23 violence became less of a societal topic. Rather, in the gaming community, the level of violence seen in early games was normalized. After Mortal Kombat, gamers experienced Mortal Kombat II, Primal Rage, Killer Instinct and the like. The violence seen in those games became normal and the violent content in games doesnt become newsworthy again until the violence gets closer. As the technology in games increases, so does the level of violence presented. GamePro Magazine reached its half million subscribers in the time before the world wide web would drive much of the gaming fan community online. It also reached mass popularity before the gaming population diversified across genders and age groups as a result of the introduction of mobile gaming, social networking gaming and musicoriented gaming. The magazines staff provided a voice for a previously unheard community and acted as a cheerleader for the increasingly violent games all to the chorus of eager young male players. One can applaud GamePro Magazine for its willingness to address serious national and political concernsspecifically regarding violence and sexismin its editorial content but question that it dismissed these concerns so quickly. The magazine provided an alternative voice to that of parents and politicians who judged the young males gaming habit as a waste of time or potentially dangerous. It affirmed their interests but rarely questioned whether those interests were appropriate. The 1990s was a time of concern about violent content and that concern pored onto the pages of GamePro. The Gulf War presented one of the most sanitized wars in terms of visual content.71 Parents and politicians presented lofty rhetoric about the dangers posed by violent video games, R-rated movies and hip-hop and rap.72 So the fact

24 that GamePro responded to such rhetoric is emblematic of the degree to which they were defending and representing the interests of their readers. Most studies of video games have left press negotiations unexamined, and the video game press in particular. Giving voice to GamePro Magazine reveals an untold storythe story of young video gamers. GamePro gave them a forum and a voice during a time when they were young enough to be impressionable, young enough to have no say in the decisions made in their household and in Washington, yet old enough to realize that these discussions were important. And while GamePro Magazine is just one out of several video game magazines at this time, its position as the most popular magazine during the 1990s speaks to the importance of understanding the views and perspectives written into its pages.


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! "!Williams, Dmitri. "The Video Game Lightning Rod." Information Communication & Society 6,
no. 4 (2003): 523-50. 2 Binasisa, Mazzi. All Clicked Out. Game On: The History and Culture of Videogames, edited by Lucien King. London, U.K.: Laurence King Publishing Ltd., 2002. 3 Browning, E.S. "Exorcising the Ghosts of Octobers Past." The Wall Street Journal, 15 October 2007. 4 Kent, Steve L. The Ultimate History of Video Games. New York City, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001. p. 17! 5 Ibid. p. 234 6 Ibid., p. 54-55. 7 Ibid., p. 41. The Atari 2600 game E.T. is considered legendary in this regard. Players would enter the first room in the first level and fall down an endless, and unavoidable hole. The only way to stop the fall would be to reset the system and start over. 8 Sheff, David. Game Over: Press Start to Continue. Wilton, CT: GamePress, 1999. p. 140. 9 Sheff, Game Over: Press Start to Continue. p. 6. 10 Ibid., p. 183. 11 McCollough, J.J. "Nintendo Censorship." Filibuster Cartoons. 12 Sheff, Game Over: Press Start to Continue. p. 459 13 Sheff, David. Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. New York City, NY: Random House, 1993. p. 5-6. "#!Bits refer to the level of a computing power.! 15 Ryan, Jeff. Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America. New York City, NY: Penguin, 2011. p. 114. "$!Other systems in circulation during that time included the 3DO from Panasonic, the NeoGeo from SNK, the TurboGrafx-16 from NEC and the Jaguar from Atari.! 17 Sheff, Game Over: Press Start to Continue. p. 350. "%!GamePro Magazine, no. 46, 1992.! 19 Wolf, Mark J.P. "The Future of Video Games." In The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to Playstation and Beyond, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. p. 303-304. 20 Goldberg. All Your Base Are Belong to Us. p. 451. &"!Rated X.!GamePro Magazine, no. 59, 1993. p. 8.! 22 Kutner, Lawrence, and Cheryl Olsen. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. New York City, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2008. 23 Arsenault, Dominic. "System Profile: The Nintendo Entertainment System (Nes)." In The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to Playstation and Beyond, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. p. 111. &#!Night Trap: ProReview. GamePro Magazine, no. 51, 1992. p. 62 &'!Burgess, John. Sega to Withdraw, Revise Night Trap.!The Washington Post, 11 January 1994.! 26 Kushner, Masters of Doom: How Two Guy Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture. 27 Irvine, Reed, and Cliff Kincaid. "Video Games Can Kill." Accuracy in Media. 28 Rehak, Bob. "Genre Profile: First-Person Shooting Games." In The Video Game Explosion: A History from Pong to Playstation and Beyond, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. p. 192-193. 29 Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. New York City, NY: H. Holt and Company, 1927.

26 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Haberski, Raymond. 1ts Only a Movie!: Films and Critics in American Culture. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 2001. p. 11 31 Ibid. p. 12 32 Sheff, David. Game Over: How Nintendo Zapped an American Industry, Captured Your Dollars, and Enslaved Your Children. New York City, NY: Random House, 1993. p. 178. 33 Ibid. p. 179. 34 Reilly, Jim. "Game Pro Magazine Closes." Game Informer, 2011. ('!Good Quality and Sequels: Good Buy or Goodbye? GamePro Magazine, no. 76, 1995. p. 12! ($!Wanted: Wired Women. GamePro Magazine, no. 110, 1997. p. 24.! ()!The Feature Creature. 100 IssuesOver 200 Writers GamePro Magazine, no. 100, 1997. p. 38! (%!Cocco, Jonathan. Is the Industry on the Skids? GamePro Magazine, no. 32, 1991. p. 12! 39 Russ Ceccola. GamePro Magazine, no. 29, 1991. p. 52. #*!Reiser, Wesley. Violence in GamesThe Readers Speak Out.!GamePro Magazine, no. 60, 1993. p. 12! #"!Abby Normal. GamePro Magazine, no. 44, 1992. p. 38-39.! #&!GamePro Magazine, no. 34, 1991.! #(!Halliday, Fred, T Allen, and J Seaton. "Manipulation and Limits: Media Coverage of the Gulf War, 1990-91." The Media of conflict: War reporting and representations of Ethnic Violence, London and New York, Zed Books,1999.! ##!1994 Yearly Box Office by MPAA Rating. Retrieved 11 April, 2013 #'!"About Hardcore Rap." Rovi Corp. #$!Jones, Kenneth. "Are Rap Videos More Violent? Style Differences and the Prevalence of Sex and Violence in the Age of Mtv." Howard Journal of Communications 8, no. 4 (1997): 343-56. #)!GamePro Magazine, no. 76, 1995. p. 41.! #%!Editor's Note.!GamePro Magazine, no. 64, 1994. p. 10.! #+!Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes.!GamePro Magazine, no. 93, 1996. p. 12.! '*!Hack n Slash. Hot at the Arcades: Mortal Kombat.!GamePro Magazine, no. 32, 1992. p. 18.! '"!Slasher Quan. The Minds Behind Mortal Kombat II.!GamePro Magazine, no. 68, 1994. p. 27.! '&!Hack n Slash. Hot at the Arcades: Mortal Kombat.!GamePro Magazine, no. 32, 1992. p. 18.! '(!Moms Rage Pulls Primal Rage from Shelves.!GamePro Magazine, no. 93, 1996. p. 16.! '#!To Rate or Not to RateStill the Hot Topic. GamePro Magazine, no. 30, 1991. p. 12.! ''!Do we play till it hurts? GamePro Magazine, no. 56, 1993. p. 8! '$!Ibid.! ')!A bloodless Mortal Kombat. GamePro Magazine, no. 58, 1993. p. 12! '%!Rated X.!GamePro Magazine, no. 59, 1993. p. 8.! '+!Ibid! $*!Violence in Video Games.!GamePro Magazine, no. 60, 1993. p. 12.! $"!Video ViolenceThe Readers Speak Out.!GamePro Magazine, no. 61, 1993. p. 12.! $&!Video ViolenceThe Debate Continues.!GamePro Magazine, no. 65, 1994. p. 12.! $(!!Ibid.! $#!Special Feature: Mortal Rocks the House.!GamePro Magazine, no. 73, 1994. p. 36.! $'!Rehak, Bob. "Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar." In The Video Game Theory Reader, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf and Bernard Perron. New York City, NY: Routledge, 2003.! $$!Major Mike. Resident Evil 2: ProReview.!GamePro Magazine, no. 114, 1998. p. 92.!

27 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $)!Fight for your right to party!!GamePro Magazine, no. 95, 1996. p. 14! $%!Ibid.! $+!Ibid.! )*!Ibid. )"!Halliday, Fred, T Allen, and J Seaton. "Manipulation and Limits: Media Coverage of the Gulf
War, 1990-91." The Media of conflict: War reporting and representations of Ethnic Violence, London and New York, Zed Books,1999.! )&!Jones, Kenneth. "Are Rap Videos More Violent? Style Differences and the Prevalence of Sex and Violence in the Age of Mtv." Howard Journal of Communications 8, no. 4 (1997): 343-56.

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

28 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! APPENDIX AImages Image 1

The May 1992 cover, featuring Splatterhouse 2. Notice his weapon is covered in green blood, and that the bladed edge of his knife is hidden.

29 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Image 2

The July 1991 cover on The Rocketeer. Compare with the 1982 comic (Image 3).

30 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Image 3

The Rocketeerfrom a 1982 comic book

31 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Image 4

(Top)-the GamePro Ratings system, 1991 (Bottom)-the GamePro Ratings system, 1996

32 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Image 5

The image of the Primal Rage finishing move and cutline from the June 1996 GamePro Magazine.

33 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Appendix B-Gamer Technology/Terminology Atari 2600- marketed as the Atari Video Computer System (VCS), this video game console was later referred to by its model number2600. This was one of the first home consoles. Atari used this console to begin the lucrative business. Significant games included Pitfall and Space Invaders. Bit- Refers to the level of computing power in a video game console. A 16-bit console has twice the computing power of a 8-bit console. Sega Genesis-Sega was the main corporate competitor to Nintendo in the United States from 1990-1995. The Genesis was the 16-bit console, which split the video game market with the Super Nintendo almost 50/50. Unlike the Nintendo, Sega didnt censor its games. Thus this was the first popular home console display realistic blood. Significant games include Sonic the Hedgehog, Splatterhouse and Mortal Kombat. Sega Genesis add-onsthese were two gaming systems, which both supplemented and attached to the Sega Genesis video game console. They include the Sega CD and the Sega 32X. Significant games on these systems include Night Trap and Doom 32X. Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)- after the video game crash of 1983, Nintendo rebuilt the video game market almost two years later with this home console. It was the first home console that was truly mainstream, with titles that appealed not just to adults but also to children. Significant games on this system include Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)- The next-generation Nintendo hardware following the NES. It was graphically superior and also boasted better performance and memory. Facing the threat of the Sega Genesis, Nintendo created this console to maintain their hold on the video game market. Significant games on this system include Super Mario World and Mortal Kombat. Sony Playstation- while not the first CD-home video game console, this console was designed to be developer-friendly. The surprise entry into the 1995 video game wars beat out the Sega Saturn to be the primary competitor with the Nintendo 64. While graphically inferior to the Nintendo 64, it boasted a better memory and an exhaustive library of games. Significant games include Resident Evil and Time Crisis. Fighting game genre- this genre reached mass popularity at the arcades before home consoles. It pits a player against either the computer or another player. The player must move their avatar and attack their opponent in order to win. Most games feature combosbutton combinations that cause more damage than regular attacks. This was one of the two genres suspect in the first video game regulatory debates, which led to the

34 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! creation of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Significant games include Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. First-person shooter (FPS) genrein this genre the player takes the avatars point of view and operates from their perspective. These games tend to be war-oriented and, as the title of the genre indicates, the focus of these games is on the use of gun weaponry to complete objectives. Significant games include Doom, Turok and Call of Duty. Survival horror genrein some cases this genre has overlapped with the first-person shooter genre (most notably with Doom), but the focus of this game is in placing players in the midst of a horror movie. The antagonists of these games tend to be standard horror genre villains: zombies and vampires. Many times these games look over the shoulder of the protagonist. The players perspective is limited in order to increase suspense. Significant games include Resident Evil, Night Trap and D. ! !