Pack it in, kids, it’s been a good run. Time to clean up more violent video games that are destroying the youth, those meddling kids. Where’s my cane? I need to tell people to get off my yard.
Seriously though, Turkey is being the crotchety grandparent of the week by suggesting that there should be a country-wide ban of Minecraft, perhaps one of the most successful games in all of history. Why? Too violent, they say. Don’t believe it? Listen to this quote from Turkish news outlet named Habertürk, in a report written by Aile ve Sosyal Politikalar Bakanlığı (that’s Ministry of Family and Social Policy, for us English speakers… and yes, that’s a real thing):
“Although the game can be seen as encouraging creativity in children by letting them build houses, farmlands and bridges, mobs [hostile creatures] must be killed in order to protect these structures. In short, the game is based on violence.”
Uh huh, go on. This surprisingly comes from a “probe” released by the government of Turkey. Yeah, a probe into Minecraft, they got that extreme. Turkey began this probe to test whether the game encouraged violence towards women, which is a little strange given that there aren’t really any genders at all in Minecraft. The ministry out of Turkey further claimed that kids who played Minecraft lose empathy for animals as they are forced to kill their digital representations for food. It should be noted that they cited no scientific data for this claim, but hey, there you go.
While this may seem like a silly issue to fret about, this is not the first time an organization such as this Turkish ministry has accused games of encouraging violence. There are Targets and other retailers in Australia deliberately refusing to sell Grand Theft Auto V in their stores in a form protest to the game’s potentially hazardous depictions of violence directed toward women – the same goal as the original report from the ministry in Turkey. And let’s not forget the Hatred controversy, which was pulled from Steam for being to violent, before being returned to Steam, and then given an AO rating.
These games certainly earn their controversy. Hatred clearly glorifies blatant violence against innocent people in a pretty gross way and nobody can deny that the Grand Theft Auto series is one that is primarily based on violence. But while gamers can argue back and forth about whether these representations of violence are good or bad for an industry that has a sordid history with violence and associated media representation, it seems pretty clear that Minecraft doesn’t fall in the same category. Anyone who can equate the extremely simple and practical presentation of the killing of almost cartoon monsters such as Creepers in Minecraft or the slaying of poor little cows for their meat – especially taking this point as the main gameplay mechanic surrounding the game – is clearly missing the point of the voxel based construction sanbox, which is more inherently built around the idea of free-form building in the same vein as Lego. This isn’t to say that violence in video games isn’t a big issue that people should be discussing, as evidenced with Game/Shows recent video discussing violence as a fundamental game mechanic.
The takeaway here is that Turkey is another country to add to the list of governmental organizations that are attempting to needless censor their culture for… what reason? It’s hard to say, as this isn’t the first time that Turkey has made a deliberately silly move to restrict what is largely considered one of the most progressive society in the Middle East. To be fair, the same government – led by President Erdoğan – has also attempted banning Twitter and other social media outlets because people were criticizing Erdoğan’s leadership. Good luck with that.