I feel kind of dirty making my first blog post on GS a rant, but here it is.
In regards to the ongoing discussions about video game violence, ratings, etc.,here is my take for what it's worth (it's long and most certainly a rant,so bear with me, or just ignore it if you prefer):
I played a lot of violent video games, listened to a lot of violent music, watchedviolent movies,etc., etc. and turned out fine.
That said, my parents did a very good job, and I am a pretty stable person (or at least that's what I think). IDO NOTthink that violent mediaCAUSES more violence. It does however,psychologically enable those who have a propensity forviolence anyway, and this coupled with irresponsible parenting and a societal trend of blaming everyone other than the people directly responsible almost certainly does have an impact on violence in society.
There has been some pretty interesting research into this topic by a lot of people who are pretty respectable (Lt Col. Dave Grossman being one that comes to mind). To refer to some of the stuff that Grossman presents in the book On Killing (a very interesting read if you are curious about the psychological impact, cost and factors involved in killing, both in the military and other arenas) indicates that there are a number of factors involved in whether or not in a specific situation an individual has the capacity to kill someone, and violent media exposure can have an impact on this. One way is by a method called "operant conditioning." This is a tried and true method used for quite some time by military and law enforcement trainers to create specific immediate reactions to certain situations or images (shoot/don't shoot scenarios presenting armed and unarmed targets to be engaged appropriately are an example of this). Media (especially interactive media like video games) can provide operant conditioning. If you learn to reflexively engage armed police officers in Grand Theft Auto by shooting them, or to shoot the terrorist who pops out at you in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,you will be more able mentally (and thus more likely) to do the same thing in real life. This has been utilized by military forces all over the world as one methodto increase the "firing rate"of their soldiers (the rate at which soldiers whoencounter the enemyactively attempt to fire at andkill them). I don't have the numbers off hand, but the "firing rate" in say, World War II for instance, was remarkably low (something like 15-20% if I recall correctly), but with changes in training (including violent media exposure and operant conditioning) the modern firing rates in the American military at least (I don't have numbers for anyone else) are something like well over 90%. Does this mean that playing games (especially those involving violence and crime) will make you into a murderer? NO! It means that if OTHER factors that contribute to you being a murderer are present you will be MORE LIKELY to go through with it.
Okay, now that I have ticked everyone off, here's the thing. I don't think that violence in media is bad, I think that parents have a responsibility to make sure that they raise their children correctly, and that those children take FULL responsibility for their OWN actions (and the same goes for adults too, personal responsibility is the key). I don't think that we have a duty to prohibit or censor overly violent media, BUT I think that there is a need to be very responsible about who sees it, how they see it, how they perceive it, and really, more than anything, about how we raise our children to be. For adults, this media is and should be available if you want it, for children, it should be in the hands of the parents as to whether or not it is accessible.
As far as ESRB ratings for gamesgo (or other similar systems) or the MPAA ratings for movies, or any of the other ratings systems out there,I think that they are a useful tool or guideline for parents (especially those who aren't familiar with the specific content). They are neither a substitute for good parenting, nor a restriction on what media a child can see (that is up to the parents as to whether or not something is appropriate for THEIR child, and is a judgment call). It's true that there are some political and societal abnormalities to these ratings, but even with those, they still give a decent idea of what to expect. You won't see a full-nude sex scene in a G rated movie (at least not any I've seen) and you won't hear any F-bombs in a game rated E. As a parent (although I am also a pretty media aware one) I use these ratings as a starting point. There is some stuff that is rated as being more mature or intense than would be the default "acceptable level" for my kids that I let them see/play. There is also stuff that is rated at a default acceptable level (or even below) that I don't let them see/play because I object to other aspects of it (morals, values, etc.).
Okay, I'm really sorry for the rant, but I couldn't help it. This is a topic that I care quite a bit about, and have some personal interest in. I'm done now.