Want your opinions on game violence 16

Hello, random person from the interwebz. I would like your opinion on game violence and how much or little is appropriate.

instruction screen

Some background …

While we began making educational video games to teach math and social studies, we have received numerous requests from teachers, counselors and parents to branch out. As a result, we have two games in development that include teaching language and a very different game that teaches decision-making, with a focus on children with family members addicted to alcohol or drugs. The working title of the game is Crossroads and it runs on iPhones right now and is in the testing phase with our partners at a substance abuse treatment program in North Dakota.

The game targets youth aged 11-17 who are presented situations, like coming home to a party where there are no adults and someone gives you the creepy vibe and keeps staring at you.  What do you do?

In each case, the correct answer is reinforced by playing some fun game.  In the example above, you go to your room, lock the door and don’t come out until morning when all is quiet, except for the sound of the gophers munching on your cabbages. The game is to tap on the gophers and kill them.

Some people think the red splat is too bloody and should be replaced by a gold star. I think that kids who are 11 and up in very high risk environments have seen way worse and it is fine.

I put the game up on our website to get your opinion. (Since it is on the web, not your phone, click on the gopher.)

Please click here to play it and let me know what you think.



If you are interested in the games currently available, click here.

dead guy with buffalo

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16 thoughts on “Want your opinions on game violence

  • Jared Miller

    I was somewhat disappointed, for some reason I was expecting an over zealous programmer to add more of a splat or a death bawl or something like that similar to shooting prairie dogs; they sure do spin. I know my 5 & 7 year old would love the game. By having a blue splat or a star it may make kids dumber; when you splat a gopher it is red.
    Growing up in the Midwest I remember a friend of mine that trapped gophers for the county and he had to save both front legs so he put them in a bag in his mothers freezer until the commissioners met to pay him. I say his mothers freezer because she was the most upset.

    • AnnMaria

      That’s pretty funny. I lived in North Dakota for years and gophers and other rodents were a nuisance. It was pretty common to send out a kid with a gun to shoot them. Now, I live in Santa Monica where some people feel that showing a picture of a gopher over a splash of red is too much for their little sensitive minds.

  • Dan Gross

    I am against playing violent video games that involve shooting guns since about the past 5 years. This is due to gun violence as I lost a few close friends who were shot and killed. Therefore, in my opinion, if the game targets the age less than 12, then there should be no blood/violence in the game. You could use another method for deterring the gophers away from the cabbage, Blood and violence displayed in video games should be restricted to the 12+ age. Also, you should consider abiding to animal rights when attacking or hurting animals. For example, it’s okay to shoot a deer when hunting, but not okay to hurt other animals.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  • Anwaan Jiimiz

    My question is more about “why?” Why is the payoff for at risk youth making a decision about personal safety a game where you kill something? I’ve spent a number of years living in Manitoba and I love Prairie Dogs. I’ve sat on the outskirts of a colony and watched them interact, watched them do their warning yips and jumps when a Red Tail Hawk flew over head and I’ve also followed studies showing how the common belief that they were a pest species has turned out to be wrong and in fact they improve the ecosystems they are a part of. That being said, I think I’ve mentioned before in previous conversations that my wife works for an Aboriginal Child Welfare agency and I’ve done some speaking with at risk kids about violence, mental health, and bullying. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of connection between the core game and this particular side game. I think there could be better rewards that teach a more positive lesson.

    I think if you asked kids in that age group, especially Aboriginal ones, they’d probably say they wouldn’t want to kill a little animal for no reason because it goes against our cultural beliefs and the reasoning in the game seems to be rooted in a misconception that white people have had not only about gophers and prairie dogs, but wolves and bison: that they are unwelcome pests who are a nuisance. If you know the story of Giizhigookwe, it is about how one of the smallest creatures, a young otter; dives to the bottom of the sea and brings up a small paw full of soil that she paints on the rim of the turtle to create Turtle Island. It does this after being mocked by the bigger, “more important” animals and birds who think it cannot possibly succeed when they, the greater ones, had failed.

    Having them catch the gophers would be just as effective a game perhaps with a lesson about how important every creature is no matter what their size or perceived importance is. These kids need positive reinforcement in their lives and to learn that regardless of their life circumstances, their background, or what other people think of them, that they are all important.

    • AnnMaria De Mars Post author

      I went to one reservation and the kids who played it thought it was fun. Of course, there are many tribes and many different views. That particular tribe has been farmers since long before the Europeans came and to them, gophers are eating their food they need to feed their families.

      As far as the kids needing positive reinforcement in their lives – I could not possibly agree with you more.

      However, let’s be honest, when farmers catch prairie dogs, rats or other creatures, what do they do with them? I guarantee you that they are not releasing them into some gopher sanctuary.

      I did not know the story about the otter. I’m going to remember that.

  • Heather Ann Harris

    In my opinion, I believe the red splat is not too graphic. Unfortunately, a lot a of video games (as you are aware) are way more violent than that and I personally think the red splats would hold the age bracket it’s for, entertained longer. In addition, the red splat is “keeping it real” for a lack of better words. The target age range these would be for ( especially about decision making and drugs), I think it would be “coddling” too much by not showing a splat. You kill something, for instance in your games, killing animals for food, there’s blood. Regarding games to reach children not to do drugs, I believe there needs to be some harsh reality and reasons of not to do them. Keep the splat is my opinion.

  • alice

    If it’s a regular part of life in the universe the game is based on, then I think it’s better to be realistic and show a red splat when the gophers are killed, stars seem a little silly. Also, hats off to you for tackling such a challenging problem! Are you working with researchers/ people from these communities on the games? I’m curious about how to teach kids to make the right decisions in depressed and confusing environments.

    • AnnMaria De Mars Post author

      Yes, we are working with people in the community to make the game. In fact, it was their idea and they provided the story line, scenarios, right and wrong answers. I just came back from recording the voiceovers by people from the reservation, which our sound guy, Jonah, will be using instead of our placeholders done by our staff. We’re providing the animation, sound and programming and their staff are providing the content.

  • Norma

    In my opinion it is not a violent depiction you have…it’s reality,the gophers are invading your food supply so it is a mere solution to salvage what you can ( I like cabbage)
    Gophers invaded our backyard when a neighbor decided to plow out his vines and plant corn and moved in during each harvest…our dog took care of some but those devils live deep and destroyed many plants,bushes and my poor little fig tree. My 5 year old at the time celebrated when his dog brought forth a lifeless gopher because he helped dad alot in planting the seeds that were disrupted. The red is a fact of life in your game, if you squish a gopher in reality it will not radiate stars or alien blood
    Kids deserve truth and reality and not be educated with “candy coating”they are fed enough sugar as it is:)

  • Jared T

    I think it’s great the way it currently is. It is only cartoon violence and there’s a bit of humor to it. I’m sure kids will have fun with that and understand that it’s just a game. Kids in that age range more than likely have seen worse. My young nephews and nieces are used to killing zombies in games like Call of Duty and really get a kick out of movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. They understand the difference between make believe and know that real violence toward other people is not okay. They also understand that gophers are pests and destroy yards. 😉 Anyone getting offended by the violence in your game needs to lighten up. I’m a California resident and I’ve had my share of gopher control. Keep the blood!

  • Matt Johnson

    I do not think there is anything wrong with the graphics.I live in northern North Dakota and hunting and fishing are just a way of life here,passed down from generations.So I dont think its anything a kid has not seen before around here…..keep up the good work

  • Gina

    “You have one minute to get squash those gophers!” Sorry but gotta say that the “get squash” needs to be changed in the directions, either get em’ or squash em’. No problems with squashing them in the game, I nailed 10 and the blood splat actually made the kids watching want to try after I did. Not gory, just enough to prove splatting a gopher would make a mess. I work for a library system as a social worker and 100% of the kids are playing roblox–and the violence in it, seems to attract them more than the coding element. I’m happy they learn to code, but maybe not so thrilled with them coding-to-kill so to speak. I am enjoying your games, pushing them on the kids when I can, so keep em coming!

  • Carol Davis

    I killed several gophers and wondered if a student would realize that the red that came from the gophers was blood. I brought my seven-year old grandson to the computer and he played the game three times and loved it, even after I told him the red was blood. I asked if it made any difference to him that it was blood and he said no. Now, back to the question and my response: If there is a better alternative for getting rid of the gophers, it will get this grandma’s vote. How about little bars across the window to show the gopher is captured?

    • AnnMaria De Mars Post author

      The bars are kind of a funny idea that I think kids might like. I’ll try that in the update (assuming we get the Phase II !) as an A-B design.

      Also, confess, Carol, did you or did you not kill actual gophers as a child?

  • Kevin P. Heaney

    There is zero correlation between videogame violence and real world violence. As in the anti-vaxxer movement, it was spearheaded by an overzealous douchebag, who cherry picked data and used his pulpit to confuse people and do yell his Mrs. Lovejoy phrase of “Won’t someone thing of the childrend”.

    However, that being said, videogames are rated in a similar fashion to movies, and I think they are important. The violence in your games are not gratuitous and just for show, plus your games are for a wide variety of ages. If I, as an adult were looking at this game strictly for myself I would probably not purchase it, as it is not in my wheel-house, But knowing it’s for education, and the age range, I think the levels of violence you have show the real life and harshness of those days, but still using learning as a ways to show how to survive.

    I have no issues with the levels of violence in your games, or in the way you represent the violence. Things live and die in nature with or without the inclusion of man.