The D-Pad: Is There A Link Between Video Games and Violence?
October 19, 2011
Virtual violence and video games go hand in hand. While not all video games feature any form of violence, it’s hard to ignore the fact that top games like “Call of Duty”, “Mass Effect”, and “Gears of War’s” central game play revolves around shooting an enemy as they shoot at you, and in addition to the case of Gears of War, jam a chainsaw through their body. As gruesome as that sounds, it’s understandable that our society loves to play the blame game that video games would take the heat for causing any type of violence.
But I can say without a doubt that this is not true. Our society always blames any new medium for current problems. When comic books were new, a man known as Frederick Wertham attempted to blame them for violence. Same thing happened with rock music. I do not believe video games are any more responsible for crime rate than any of these other media. And I can back that up and answer most questions people have about this issue. Starting with these:
“Why doesn’t the ESRB do a better job of keeping violent games out of the hands of children?” Well let me explain what the ESRB is. The acronym stands for Entertainment Software Ratings Board. Their job is simply to set up a rating system based on age and make sure games fall into the age ratings based on their content. It’s the same thing as the rating system for movies. Their job is to place a warning on the game’s cover before it gets distributed. After that, if a game that’s too inappropriate for a minor ends up in his or her hands, it’s the fault of the retailer or parent for allowing it. The ESRB isn’t going to stalk our children and make sure they don’t buy games they aren’t old enough for.
“Well games still make kids act out what they see in them. How do you explain that?” Children live in a monkey see-monkey do mind set (sorry to any parents for comparing your children with monkeys). A little kid will repeat a bad word if they hear their parent say it by accident, or want to repeat something cool but dangerous they saw on TV. I did my fair share of stupid decisions based on what I saw but I never did anything outrageous and harmful to myself or others because my parents made sure I knew better. Parents should be aware of what their kids are playing and know the rating system set by the ESRB, just as they would forbid a television show or movie. I’m sorry if this offends, but developers are going to appeal to their fan base that is mature enough to not act out what is in the game, not to the parents who are using their PS3 as a babysitter.
“What about all the studies showing video games do cause violent tendencies?” You will find that there are an even amount of studies that say they don’t. It’s a difficult conclusion for anyone to come to, but people who are against video games will always favor the studies that side with them, and make sure those studies are seen more than the ones that counter them. Also, according to multiple articles on Cracked.com, video games have actually contributed to many positive changes in the human psych.
“How do you know that the content of those games aren’t corrupting the minds of gamers, young and old?” Based on multiple video game related acts of violence reported in the news, I believe content has nothing to do with it. First I’ll bring up Daniel Petric. Daniel Petric was a 17-year-old gamer who shot his parents, killing his mother and fatally wounding his father, after they forbad him from playing Halo 3. According to an article on this topic on cleveland.com, Petric had an accident that forced him to stay home for a year. During this time he developed an obsession with “Halo 3”. When his parents who were against the game banned him from playing it, Daniel acted out violently.
Now that seems to be countering my point but get this. According to an article on the Huffington Post, one Alexandra Tobias shook her three-month-old baby to death when the infant interrupted her game of “Farmville”. What do “Halo 3”, a game about fighting aliens, and “Farmville”, a game about raising your own virtual farm, have in common? Content wise, nothing. One is violent, one is cute. And yet both are to blame for events that harmed and killed. If you ask me, I say the culprit here is addiction. Both Petric and Tobias developed an addiction to these games and acted out violently, as anyone heavily addicted to something might.
If that’s not enough to convince you that it isn’t the violent content of these games making people do stupid harmful things, then in the same Huffington Post article there is mention of a Korean couple that let their own child starve to death while they raised a virtual baby. Also, according to a study by the FBI’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, violence amongst minors has steadily decreased since the early ‘90s, in which violence in video games began to increase.
“Well your just a dumb gamer whose addicted to killing stuff and is going to act out these violent tendencies at any moment!” No, I am a 19-year-old college student who is addicted to tacos and puts school and work first, and uses spare time in between to enjoy an industry that entertains me more than music or movies. I have been a gamer since I was 4 years old when my older brother got a Super Nintendo. Since then I’ve played just about every violent video game there is. I have not yet acted out any violent tendency nor will I ever because there are no violent tendencies to act out. If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s that I am anything but a violent person.
Even if I have not convinced anyone who still opposes video games and blames them for these problems, just know that the industry is not going to slow down. There are hundreds of thousands of active gamers, many of which are good hardworking people raising families and making a living. So to the dwindling number of nay-sayers, Tim Buckley, author of video game webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del said it best. “We outnumber you, and everyone who thinks like you.” In other words, the gaming industry is not going anywhere nor will they change what they’re doing based on the opinions of a minority that pins unsupportable blame on their products.