A month or so ago I was at my college/uni/place-that-tells-you-they-can-make-your-dreams-come-true-then-silently-strangles-them-in-the-night, or whatever you want to call it, and my English teacher told me to pick a topic and write about it. I then half-assed a paper on violent video games and thought I should share it with the world, so here it is.
Violence in Video Games Does Not Cause Real World Violence
The news-media often ignores the statistics to state that violence in video games causes violence in real life. Psychiatrist, social researcher and author Hugh Mackay disagrees. He states, So, if falling crime rates coincide with the rise of violent video games and increasing violence on TV and at the cinema, should we conclude that media violence is causing the drop in crime rates? ("Is Tv Violence All That Bad For Kids?", 2005). This evidence alone is enough to argue that violent video games do not cause real world violence. In fact, they are helping to decrease it.
Even though the media is quick to blame violence in video games for the violence in the world, the facts point in an entirely different direction. Between 1996 and 2004 the sale of violent video games doubled, while the amount of violent crime was been cut in half (Kain, 2013). This may appear to be a very violent time in Americas history, but in fact, the rate of violent crime has been falling steadily for years. Coincidentally, the amount of violent video games that are put into production and reach the homes of millions across the country has been steadily rising. Other countries around the world, such as Japan, buy a higher quantity of violent video games each year, but manage to keep their violent crime rate significantly lower than that of the USA. ("Crime", 2013). The reason they are significantly less violent as a nation than the United States is unknown, but if it is any evidence at all, it is evidence for the fact that the intake of violent media helps to subdue the want to commit violent acts in real world situations.
Even with the high amount of blame government officials have been placing on video games, there have yet to be any real tests that identify the relationship between violent video games and real world violence. In fact, Judge James Brady overturned the decision to ban the sale of video games that may contain violence and said any connection between video game and real-world violence was "tenuous and speculative" at best (Violent video games cleared, 2006). However, many people seem to think it is common sense that violence in video games will directly cause someone to commit violent crimes in real life. The only test that has been conducted showed that these games could cause people to show signs of aggression (Tassi, 2013). There was no implication that this aggression was any different than the aggression a person may feel when during normal day-to-day activities, such as driving in rush hour traffic, and certainly no evidence that shows it could cause a person to cross the line between the feeling of aggression and the physical act of violence.
One of the reasons for a lack of testing is the amount of variables that goes into a persons decisions. By saying that a person committed a violent act because they played Assassins Creed, the entirety of that persons life outside of the game is being neglected. There is no person on Earth that only plays video games. Every person has a series of people, places and things that make up their life. To leave out their day-to-day activities and only focus on one thing is to assume that the person that commits the act of violence does not have any pre-existing issues. The more it is allowed to blame tragedies on this one portion of a persons life, the less likely it is that anyone will ever truly discover the cause of deed.
Often when people speak of violent video games, the Call of Duty series comes up. Call of Duty is a first-person shooter that places the player in middle of a war and forces them to run, shoot and stab their way through enemies to eventually end the war. Adam Lanza, the man who shot and killed several people at Sandy Hook Elementary school, was said to have this game in his collection. The media made a very big deal about this, stating that this is what influenced him to go on his killing spree (Zakarin, 2011). However, this statement leaves a very large series of inconsistencies, such as the fact that Call of Duty sold over 50 million copies in first the fifteen days after its release (Sliwinski, 2012). If video games really were the cause for this terrible situation, wouldnt there be shootings like this every day? If 49,999,999 people, not including those who have bought and played the game since, can play this game without causing harm to another person, but one decides to do something terrible, the culprit is the person, not the game. The media was quick to highlight the video games in his collection, but did little to shed light on his home life or state of mental stability.
People often look at the news media in order to determine what is going on in the world. This causes a problem when the news media is looking at studies that have been falsified or are generally defective. Guy Porter and Vladan Starcevic spoke about this issue in an article titled Are violent video games harmful? (2007) They conclude that there are methodological shortcomings and that there are several interpretations of the relationship between video games violence and aggression. They also point out that there is a serious need for long-term studies in order to make any reliable conclusion as to whether the problem with aggression stems from violent video games or countless other possible things. They are very right to say this. The cause of violence could be caused by countless things that happen throughout a persons life, as well as their state of mental health and how impressionable they are.
One of the biggest and most obvious problems the video game world faces is also one that would be very easily fixed. This issue is the lack of parents monitoring the games they are purchasing for their children. The Entertainment Software Rating Board, or ESRB, was founded in 1994 to To empower consumers, especially parents, with guidance that allows them to make informed decisions about the age-appropriateness and suitability of video games and apps while holding the video game industry accountable for responsible marketing practices (ESRB, 2013). They have created a rating system that ranges from Early Childhood to Adults Only. Each rating has a specific age group listed on the label and the reason the game received that rating that it did. Every video game you can buy in stores has one of these ratings, yet games clearly marked for ages 17 and up reach the hands of more and more children every day. There seems to be a stigma attached to video games that causes parents to think they are solely for children, so they hand games like Grand Theft Auto to ten year old boys, and then are shocked to find out what happens in it. Many games have mature themes that children should not be exposed to, especially without proper guidance and explanation from their guardians. If violence could be caused by video games, awareness would be the first step to solving the problem.
The truth of the matter is, there is no scientific evidence that anything at all causes violence, but it is a fact of life. Until there is research done to figure out what the cause is, we will not be able to work to stop it. Maybe it is video games, but the rise in violent media matching the fall in violent crimes points in the opposite direction. If parents are worried about the violence their children are observing while playing video games, they should monitor the games they buy, but more importantly, they should talk to their children and make sure they know what the line between games and reality. Maybe the anti-video-game party should sit down and see what it is like to be put in the wondrous land of Tamriel where they can protect their fellow people from attacking hordes of dragons. Above all, everyone should observe the evidence that video games curb violent crimes instead of causing it.
Mackay, H. (2005). Is TV violence all that bad for kids?. Retrieved from http://www.theage.com.au/news/Hugh-Mackay/Is-TV-violence-all-that-bad-for-kids/2005/03/04/1109700674787.htmlCrime. (2013). Retrieved from http://www.nationmaster.com/country/ja-japan/cri-crime
Australasian psychiatry : bulletin of Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, ISSN 1039-8562, 10/2007, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp. 422 426
Violent video games cleared. (2006, Dec 21). Computer Act!Ve, , n/a. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212055587?accountid=35812
Kain, E. (2013). As Video Game Sales Climb Year Over Year, Violent Crime Continues To Fall. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/04/19/as-video-game-sales-climb-year-over-year-violent-crime-continues-to-fall/
Tassi, P. (2013). Biden Says Not to Fear the Facts About Video Game Violence. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/insertcoin/2013/01/25/biden-says-not-to-fear-the-facts-about-video-game-violence/
Zakarin, J. (2013). Sandy Hook Shooter Linked to Violent 'Call of Duty' Games, Sparking Debate. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sandy-hook-shooter-linked-violent-404576
Sliwinski, A. (2013). Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sales reach $1 billion in 15 days. Retrieved from http://www.joystiq.com/2012/12/05/call-of-duty-black-ops-2-1-billion/
About ESRB . (2013). Retrieved from http://www.esrb.org/about/index.jsp