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Can Violent Video Games Set In Chicago Spark Real Bloodshed?

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The video game "Watch Dogs" is set in Chicago, with a few adjustments. (Ubisoft)

The video game “Watch Dogs” is set in Chicago, with a few adjustments. (Ubisoft)

Brad Edwards Brad Edwards
Brad Edwards is a general assignment reporter for CBS 2 Chicago. He...
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(CBS) – A Windy City-style backdrop is prominent in two violent video games, one of which has riled the head of the Chicago police officers’ union.

That’s because “Hitman: Absolution” features an assassin who slaughters several cops – cops who wear caps and uniforms markedly similar to those of the Chicago Police Department. In one scene, an officer pleads, “I don’t want to die,” before his neck is snapped.

“It’s just incomprehensible,” Michael Shields, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, tells CBS 2’s Brad Edwards after watching the carnage.

For Shields, the first-person shooter game hits too close to home. He says it could send the wrong message to players.

“It shapes them into thinking that doing harm to a Chicago police officer is just all right, it’s just part of the game,” he says.

“Hitman: Absolution” has sold millions, and it’s not the only game with Chicago overtones. “Watch Dogs,” slated for release later this year, features a hacker who gets into violent confrontations within an eerily realistic cityscape that will be familiar to Chicagoans.

Noted neurologist Yang Wang of Indiana University is now conducting brain scans on players that show the emotional control center of the brain deactivates after playing games.

Yang says he thinks there is a connection between video-game and real-world violence and that it could be exacerbated when a game’s setting is local.

“I don’t think it’s changed my brain at all,” counters Chicago college student Chase Zvonek, who plays “Hitman: Absolution.” “You get to feel like you’re in Chicago. It’s a fun game, it’s entertaining.”

Columbia College Assistant Prof. Tom Dowd, a game-design veteran who teaches the trade to students, is skeptical, too.

“I don’t know that the connection is as established as some like to think,” he says. “The experience can never be real. No matter how many times you push a button, it’s not like pulling a trigger on a gun – it’s just not.”

Both “Hitman” and “Watch Dogs” are not made locally.  Spokespersons for the manufacturers did not respond to CBS 2’s requests for comment.

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