Thursday, March 01, 2007

Videogames and Violence

There has been a very real and loud debate going on for years now about the connection, or lack thereof, between video games and violence. I don't want to spend too much time on this as it is something that someone will say something relevant about every few weeks.

If you haven't been keeping up on things heres the scoop: people have been dying or getting hurt. A small fraction of people dying or getting hurt involve children/adolescents. A small fraction of those incidents are tied to video games. Certain other people are claiming that video games make children more violent. Thats the story. Here are some excerpts from an article I came across on IGN the other day.

In a recent issue of the American Sociological Association's Context magazine, sociologist Karen
Sternheimer put some heavy doubt into the theories that videogame violence directly result in real-world violence. Sternheimer claims that there is no such correlation, and that the reality might be exactly the opposite.

Sternheimer cited as evidence of this trend the fact that as annual sales of videogames and accessories has risen to over $10 billion, juvenile homicide arrests have fallen 77%.

In a very frank and forthright manner, Sternheimer stated, "If we want to understand why young people become homicidal, we need to look beyond the games they play."

Rather than paying atte
ntion to more pertinent issues that might nurture violence -- such
as poverty, instability, domestic abuse, unemployment, and mental illness -- reactionaries have been directing their ire at the games industry, effectively exonerating these other factors of their impact.

"It is equally likely that more aggressive people seek out violent entertainment," Sternheimer said. "After adult rampage shootings in the workplace, which happen more often than school shootings, reporters seldom mention if the shooters played video games."

Sternheimer seemed to disagree with the analytical methods of a 2001 study which found that videogames did increase aggressive behavior, stating: "They don't offer much insight as to why a few isolated kids, and not t
he millions of others who play these games, decided to pick up
real weapons and shoot real people."

I couldn't agree with this woman more. I remember many a stressful day that I would come home and UNWIND by plugging in an FPS and killing nazis or zombies or nazi-zombies. I used violent video games as an outlet to get those feelings out in a safe and reasonable way. I still use video games that way.

I also agree 100% that more violent people will automatically seek out more violent ways to entertain themselves. We hear the Columbine massacre being blamed on video games but I see two sick and twisted kids who weren't delusional, they knew they weren't in a video game. They were just sadistic and wanted to hurt people. If they hadn't played video games they would have integrated ideas from books or movies into their plans. The truth is we make our personalities by judging information and either assimilating or rejecting that information. Bad people latch onto bad things because they like it. People who DO the kinds of violent things contained in some video games are obviously bad people. I don't see how there is an argument.

There are differences between video games and movies or books sure, as there are differences between all forms of media. The War of the Worlds was acted out on a radio station in 1938 by Orson Welles and panic ensued all over the nation due to the immersive nature of the radio at that time. You and I may judge a videogame to be more realistic or more immersive than a radio show but they arent any more real to us than the radio was to people in 1938. Are contemporary videogames more immersive than contemporary movies? It's hard to say. On the one hand videogame have a person controlling a character and 'acting out' in a violent manner. On the other hand suspension of disbelief still remains regardless of what you are doing or watching. Your mind knows it isn't real.

I know what I think and how I feel about this issue and it is very simple. Videogames have a ratings system, just as movies have a rating system. Parents need to know what their children are doing and they have a responsibility to keep children playing games that are appropriate for their level of maturity. I can understand a seven year old thinking they can drive because they play a racing game. Small children should never be handed the keys to your vehicle. Or the keys to your gun safe. Adolescent children definitely know how to hurt people, and what reality is. They are their own persons and should be largely responsible for their own actions.

Oh, and check this out...

You can see the Wii is on there twice, and Britney Spear's hair beat out the 360 and PS3. Thats has to hurt...


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