Hooray, it's that topic again. However, the following feature GameDev.net put up recently takes a closer look at the 'phenomenon' than your average CNN/Reuters/whatever story. The first part - the Early Medium - briefly covers the history of violence in videogames in the context of technological evolution. It's more than a short summary though as Arthur Williams Merrill also draws connections between other forms of entertainment consumed by the audience.
A consistent aspect aptly demonstrated in many mass entertainment mediums is the presence of violence, particularly and ironically in comedy, considered by many the alternative to drama. The Keystone Cops, Buster Keaton and the 3 Stooges are clear, early examples. For some reason, it just wouldn't be Gilligan's Island if the Skipper weren't hitting Gilligan over the head with his skipper's hat for doing something silly or stupid. You got an audience perceptual conditioning guaranteed laugh track and an audience expectation conditioning in one fell swoop of the Skipper's arm. How that has paid off is a double edged sword.Naturally there's more to humor/comedy than the author elaborates on here, but it's definitely an interesting, debatable point. Of course, you'd need to read more than the part I just quoted. He finally concludes that the evolution of hardware, which resulted in better graphics, is partially responsible for the increasing amount of violence featured, but "the popularity, broad recognition and proven emotional response values were the main drivers."
And while we're at the topic, I recommend checking out what can be described as John Difenderfer reviews GTA: Vice City if you haven't done that yet. My favourite part:
I think you have to have a strong mind to be able to play this game and not want to go out and kill people.And I'm tempted to think the mental state of John Difenderfer is more worrisome than anything shown in the GTA series. He also seems to be convinced that the main goal of the game is "to kill the Haitians", which again leads to the next point to be criticized in a game that was released more than year ago. Read more if you haven't had a reason to smile today yet.