July 1, 2013

Violence, Children and Video Games

“Violent video games and movies cause violent behavior!”  I’ve heard this saying thrown around a lot lately and I’ve said nothing because  I find that statement uneducated but as this has been tossed around a lot in mainstream media lately I thought I would add my two cents and yes I love to challenge peoples beliefs.

To give you a little background on myself for those of you who don’t know my hobbies.  I’ve played video games *of all types from Chess, Mario to Duke Nukem* since I was eight or nine years old.  Once I hit 8th grade I started playing numerous multiplayer games including Project Visitor, Counter-Strike, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, Half-Life, Team Fortress, etc.  Most of which would be considered violent games.  I played them so much *10 – 12 hours a day* on a regular basis that I started playing some of the competitively and semi-professionally.  I’ve also been deeply involved in the gaming community and modding communities since before I can remember.  I’ve played and beat almost every major game from Myst to Battlefield 3.   So in short my background in the gaming industry has been… lengthy.  So given this childhood steeped in epic violence how would you expect me to turn out?  Mainstream media would have you believe that I would grow up to be a pimp and smack hoes on the street while mowing down innocent pedestrians with my automatic weapons.  What am I really though?  I’m a System Architect for a major medical hardware and software manufacture and in my spare time *when I have it* I still play games and work on my cars.  I’m also married and live in the middle of suburbia.   So how did I turn out this way?

The “video games and movies are the problem” response is as about as silly as the “NRA kills children” statement.  It has no basis in reality.  Just like gun owners the majority competitive video game players are not suicidal maniacs bent on destroying the world.  There was a study done awhile back that said “[C]ompetitive video game play was correlated moderately positively with aggression. In contrast, the correlations between noncompetitive video game play and aggression were small and mostly negative. Competitive gambling also was correlated moderately positively with aggression, whereas the correlations between non-competitive gambling and aggression were small and positive.” So let’s take a look at what this says… if you are playing a competitive game you’re more likely to be aggressive.  This has nothing to do with the violent content but it has everything to do with the competition.  When you are competitive you’re going to be more aggressive.

“But Brad I know someone who plays video games 16 hours a day, he’s got no social life and he gets aggressive and violent when you try to take him away from it!  You have no idea what you’re talking about!”  Hmmm but is that the violent video games he’s playing or the non-ones for that matter?  Or is it the addiction to those games that causes the aggression.  I’d challenge everyone to look at many forms of addiction that do cause this same behavior such as sports, alcohol, soda, coffee, food, etc.

“So by that logic we should just let little children play Grand Theft Auto and let them watch violent movies!”  No… quite the contrary.  I don’t believe children need these types of things in their lives as they should be spending time learning and playing outside.   While I don’t believe violent images are the direct cause of violence in adults I do believe they have a small impression on little children, especially those that don’t receive proper parenting on what is real and what is not.  Or have parents who properly manage their time.

That is the real problem though isn’t it?  Just like the violence in our society.  We like to blame the gun, the game, the movies, the drugs, everything but ourselves.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve got to get in line to purchase a game when I’ve seen a mother come up with her five year old child with a copy of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty and have the store clerk ask her “Ma’am you know this game is rated Mature right” and she says something like “yeah I really don’t care”.   If parents don’t care what their children watch then they probably don’t care what they are doing either.

See as society we like the blame the symptom and not target the problem.  We want an easy fix, we want to think that if we donate so much money here, or go to church this many times, or legislate this or legislate that the problems will go away but that’s just targeting the symptoms not the problem.

Having said all that are there some people who are influenced by violent media? Of course there are but they are a small minority compared to the vast majority of us who aren’t.  The choice to watch that media or play those games is theirs to make not yours or mine *unless they are your children*.



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