Thu
Nov 18 2010 4:05pm

Violent Video Games Are Good for You

Violent video gamesRock and roll music? Bad for you. Comic books? They promote deviant behavior. Rap music? Dangerous.

Ditto for the internet, heavy metal and role-playing games. All were feared when they first arrived. Each in its own way was supposed to corrupt the youth of America.

It’s hard to believe today, but way back in the late 19th century, even the widespread use of the telephone was deemed a social threat. The telephone would encourage unhealthy gossip, critics said. It would disrupt and distract us. In one of the more inventive fears, the telephone would burst our private bubbles of happiness by bringing bad news.

Suffice it to say, a cloud of mistrust tends to hang over any new and misunderstood cultural phenomena. We often demonize that which the younger generation embraces, especially if it’s gory or sexual, or seems to glorify violence.

The cycle has repeated again with video games. A five-year legal battle over whether violent video games are protected as “free speech” reached the Supreme Court earlier this month, when the justices heard arguments in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants.

Back in 2005, the state of California passed a law that forbade the sale of violent video games to those younger than 18. In particular, the law objected to games “in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being” in a “patently offensive way”—as opposed to games that depict death or violence more abstractly.

But that law was deemed unconstitutional, and now arguments pro and con have made their way to the biggest, baddest court in the land.

In addition to the First Amendment free speech question, the justices are considering whether the state must prove “a direct causal link between violent video games and physical and psychological harm to minors” before it prohibits their sale to those under 18.

So now we get the amusing scene of Justice Samuel Alito wondering “what James Madison [would have] thought about video games,” and Chief Justice John Roberts describing the nitty-gritty of Postal 2, one of the more extreme first-person shooter games. Among other depravities, Postal 2 allows the player to “go postal” and kill and humiliate in-game characters in a variety of creative ways: by setting them on fire, by urinating on them once they’ve been immobilized by a stun gun, or by using their heads to play “fetch” with dogs. You get the idea.

This is undoubtedly a gross-out experience. The game is offensive to many. I’m not particularly inclined to play it. But it is, after all, only a game.

Like with comic books, like with rap music, 99.9 percent of kids—and adults, for that matter—understand what is real violence and what is a representation of violence. According to a report issued by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services in Canada, by the time kids reach elementary school they can recognize motivations and consequences of characters’ actions. Kids aren’t going around chucking pitchforks at babies just because we see this in a realistic game.

And a strong argument can be made that watching, playing and participating in activities that depict cruelty or bloodshed are therapeutic. We see the violence on the page or screen and this helps us understand death. We can face what it might mean to do evil deeds. But we don’t become evil ourselves. As Gerard Jones, author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence writes:

Through immersion in imaginary combat and identification with a violent protagonist, children engage the rage they’ve stifled . . . and become more capable of utilizing it against life’s challenges.

Sadly, this doesn’t prevent lazy journalists from often including in their news reports the detail that suspected killers played a game like Grand Theft Auto. Because the graphic violence of some games is objectionable to many, it’s easy to imagine a cause and effect. As it turns out, a U.S. Secret Service study found that only one in eight of Columbine/Virginia Tech-type school shooters showed any interest in violent video games. And a U.S. surgeon general’s report found that mental stability and the quality of home life—not media exposure—were the relevant factors in violent acts committed by kids.

Besides, so-called dangerous influences have always been with us. As Justice Antonin Scalia rightly noted during the debate, Grimm’s Fairy Tales are extremely graphic in their depiction of brutality. How many huntsmen cut out the hearts of boars or princes, which were then eaten by wicked queens? How many children were nearly burned alive? Disney whitewashed Grimm, but take a read of the original, nastier stories. They pulled no punches.

Because gamers take an active role in the carnage—they hold the gun, so to speak—some might argue that video games might be more affecting or disturbing than literature (or music or television). Yet, told around the fire, gruesome folk tales probably had the same imaginative impact on the minds of innocent 18th century German kiddies as today’s youth playing gore-fests like Left 4 Dead. Which is to say, stories were exciting, scary and got the adrenaline flowing.

Another reason to doubt the gaming industry’s power to corrupt: More than one generation, mine included, has now been raised on violent video games. But there’s no credible proof that a higher proportion of sociopaths or snipers roams the streets than at any previous time in modern history. In fact, according to Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson, founders of the Center for Mental Health and Media (a division of the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry), and members of the psychiatry faculty at Harvard Medical School, as video game usage has skyrocketed in the past two decades, the rate of juvenile crime has actually fallen.

Children have always been drawn to the disgusting. Even if the ban on violent games is eventually deemed lawful and enforced in California, the games will still find their way into the hot little hands of minors. So do online porn, and cigarettes and beer. But these vices haven’t toppled western civilization.

Not yet, anyway—although a zombie invasion or hurtling meteor might. Luckily, if you’re a good enough gamer, you’ll probably save the day.


Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, now in paperback. He’ll be in Brooklyn on November 22nd on the “Of Wizards and Wookies” panel with Tony Pacitti, author of My Best Friend is a Wookie, as well as Providence and Boston in December. Check out his events page for more information.

33 comments
AlecAustin
1. AlecAustin
The term that Henry Jenkins and media scholars who've built on his work use for the kind of reaction to novel media forms and technologies is "Moral Panic." The new and different must be threatening and bad and corrupting the youth!

Never mind that people raised concerns about alphabetic writing undermining the arts of memory back in the day. The art of the memory palace has been in a centuries-long decline, it's true. You'll forgive me if I don't shed any tears over that.
that one guy
2. that one guy
Just a thought...

Studies have proved that watching something triggers the same nerve and chemical responses in our brains as doing it. By repeatedly exposing a society to violence, it will become more violent. Just look at studies involving Austrailia and the introduction of Television. To think exposure to deviant behavior doesn't affect people is to ignore everything we know about sociology and psychology.
Cait Glasson
3. CaitieCat
I've been quite surprised to discover how much I have enjoyed playing the last few GTA games - particularly IV, in which there are a number of moral decisions which can be made between good and evil. I've also found it's helped me adapt better to certain psychotropic meds I'm taking, which in the past have led to anger management and irrational rage issues - instead of reaching that point with real people, I get that potential rage out against video images which can never hurt.

I'm not saying they're without negative influence, mind; just that I find there are positive aspects too.
Alex Brown
4. AlexBrown
that one guy @ 2: The only qualm I have with that arguement is that you've now decided that all the behavior in those video games is "deviant". Hell, many people today still consider homosexuality "deviant" behavior. Besides, you don't think people got riled up listening to Homer relate the story of Odysseus or reading The Mysteries of Udolpho? It's a part of our culture to get involved in stories and this is just another facet of that.

On the violence side of the arguement, I'd say you're ignoring the fact that violence is a massive part of sociology and psychology. Violence is part of what makes us human, and if people can vent their frustrations out on a CGI character rather than walking into a post office and blowing shit up then I'm all for it.
that one guy
5. Ben N.
I love good action movies and good FPSs, but I've had a question for a long time: if all we're seeing in our entertainment is violent responses, won't we have a harder time coming up with non-violent ones in real life? I'm not talking about outbreaks of gratuitous violence, I'm talking about times when it's socially acceptable to respond violently, but maybe more beneficial to respond non-violently. If there's no one helping us come up with creative responses to threats, and we're constantly exposed to violent responses, then won't it be that much harder to come up with them on our own?

I don't want to get rid of violent entertainment (because I couldn't have things like Fallout, Shoot 'em Up, and Red), but I would like to see more of the other stuff. I view it as a balance.
Brent Longstaff
6. Brentus
I would argue that these vices mentioned at the end of the article are toppling western civilization, not by knocking it down wholesale, but by degrading the people that make it up. Just look at how many lives alcohol and smoking have ended or ruined, how many lives, marriages, and families are destroyed by pornography. The effect of video games is less clear, but there is no doubt about the health effects of cigarettes and alcohol, the other non-health-related problems caused by alcohol (DUI manslaughter for instance), and the destructive effect pornography has had on many families. So those are probably not what you want to compare gaming to if your point is that gaming is not harmful.
that one guy
7. that one guy
Milo1313 @ 4:

"On the violence side of the arguement, I'd say you're ignoring the fact that violence is a massive part of sociology and psychology. Violence is part of what makes us human..."

I do not agree with this statement at all. Human's have the capacity to overcome such tendancies; that is what separates us from animals. We can adapt, improve, and progress.
As for your lifestyle choices, I have no comment--you are obviously free to persue whatever forms of entertainment you want...so long as they do not infringe upon the rights of others. Which brings us back to violence. Which--by definition--is harmful to everyone.

Also, studies show that almost all criminals--when asked what started them down the paths that led them to incarceration--admit that it started with pornography. Be careful & good luck.
that one guy
8. Irishnipple
As a father of three children aged 11, 9 and 7, who remembers what its like to be a kid, and has a well versed knowledge of video game violence, I can tell you from experience that the impact of violent media on the psychologically of children is zero to nothing.

Banning these games does little more than creating the impression of a forbidden fruit, something that a childs imagination conjures into the greatest experience ever if their dull parents want to restrict, and they will find a way to see or play it, as I did as a kid. I remember having banned movie nights at a friends where we had an older brother go to the video shop and get us out Nightmare on Elm Street and Poison Ivy and all the other films we'd been denied.

In my house my kids can play and watch anything violent they like as long as its supervised by myself or my wife. When friends come over I always call the parents to make sure its okay to let them play GTA or Left 4 Dead or watch Predators so we don't become that house of forbidden fruit ourselves.

Children do develop antisocial behaviour, but the kids that do often don't have access to violent media because the family income is spent on drugs, gambling and alcohol. My wife is a social worker (I should mention we live in Australia) and is keenly aware that the real impacts on children get the least social and media attention. The future rapists and murderers of the world are being created in houses all over the world right now and very few of them own an Xbox.

If law makers were really interested in helping the kids instead of indulging their own distate for something they don't understand this debate wouldn't even be happening. The end of the world isn't going to be caused by animated boobs and decapitations.
that one guy
9. Irishnipple
@that one guy

I would very much like to read these reports that say that almost all criminals confess that pornography set them on the road to crime. Having studied criminal psychology when helping my wife with her uni assignments I can say I've never come across the piece of research that indicated anything close to what you are saying.

Please provide a link.

Because I strongly believe sir, or madame, that you are making it up.
Alex Brown
10. AlexBrown
that one guy @ 7: Um, given that I am, by degree, a sociologist and spent a good 4 years studying said field, you'd think I'd have come across a study directly linking porn to criminal activity. I won't continue to argue about the validity - and necessessity of violence - as a part of the human condition because I think it deviates from the point of the article, and because I already had this debate in the comments section on my post on episode 2 of The Walking Dead. But I am really going to have to put my hands up at the porn = criminal mastermind thing. I and all of my friends and many acquaintances and most of humanity have managed to live relatively crime-free existences thus far, but thanks for wishing me continued good luck in that area.
Chris Meadows
11. Robotech_Master
It's interesting to consider just how many new technologies have invoked moral panic in the elder generations. I sometimes wonder, in thirty or forty years will I feel just as nervous about whatever new gimmick is capturing public imagination as today's Old Fokes are about video games (or rampant phone texting, or social networking, or…) now?

Nick Bilton has an interesting book (that I reviewed for TeleRead) called I Live in the Future (and Here's How It Works) in which he looks at the ways new technology is changing us—including video games. Fascinating reading and I highly recommend it.
Mike Conley
12. NomadUK
brentus@6: how many lives, marriages, and families are destroyed by pornography

I would argue that any damage is actually caused by the shame, confusion, and guilt imposed on these people by a deeply pathological society that is seriously, seriously fucked up when it comes to sex.
Paul Arzooman
13. parzooman
Anything can harm a person if they don't have the capacity for moderation of action or thought. I play violent video games on occasion and have not had the urge to be any more confrontational in my real life dealings with people than I was before I played them. I don't feel things for people or aliens or robots that don't exist -- I save my empathy for human beings or animals that do. Whether it's violence in films, video games or novels, it is the quirk of the individual that causes these things to affect them in a negative way. Alcohol is a drug but it's only a problem for those who by genetics or temperament cannot control the impulse or effect. Same with porn. I've watched porn since I was 12 or 13 years of age -- I have never replaced real sex with someone I cared about with it. If someone does, that's their personal issue.
that one guy
14. FeloniousMonk
I suppose I'm in the minority on this issue (at least on this blog), because I agree with that one guy. Video games are becoming so advanced that the visual difference between real and fake is narrowing down to a very fine line.

People who experience violence and trauma on a regular basis, such as the law enforcement personnel that I have worked with, are all at risk for a number of issues associated with that trauma, such as problems sleeping, difficulty dealing with stress, problems in personal relationships, alcoholism, etc. I think intentionally subjecting ourselves to that kind of trauma, or something that is visually nearly indistinguishable from it, has or will have negative effects that we can only guess at now.

I look at the behavior of people around me, and I am astonished at their complete disregard for the effect their actions have on others (and I am not just talking about discourteous drivers). The more we objectify other human beings for entertainment, whether it be in video games, television, or movies, the more we will view those around us as mere objects.
Sim Tambem
15. Daedos
FeloniousMonk @ 14:

I have to agree with you. Objectifying people is a huge problem; it makes people selfish and self-centered. However, I think another problem is that this type of media teaches everyone (not just kids) that their actions do not have reprecusions. Kids should be raised knowing (learning by example) that their actions have consequences. I'm not talking about beating kids into submission; from what little I know about teaching, it is the good behaviour you want to focus on (ignore the bad...blah, blah). That being said, we seem to be embracing bad behavior, not ignoring it (I agree that banning anything will only make it more desireable, so I do not see that as the answer). I just think parents should make good decisions and raise their kids better. I am around kids all the time (as a teacher), and I can tell you that their is a huge difference between how kids used to act, and how they act these days. They are (as a group) disrespectful, selfish, and crude. We live in sad times. I just hope enough of us are smart enough to make a difference in your own families.
Alex Brown
16. AlexBrown
FeloniusMonk, brentus, that one guy: About every 20 years someone starts shouting about teh evil obscenity. Talkies are the death of entertainment. Elvis Presley will make your daughters slutty. Rap music will kill your children. Joe Camel wants your kids to die of cancer. (Oh, won't somebody think of the children!) And now violent video games signal the death of American morality.

Yes, some kids do go strangle other kids because they watch Dexter, but you know what? That kid is a shit anyway and would've tried to strangle someone after reading one of Jeff Lindsay's books. He didn't need the excuse to do it, it just triggered something that was already there. If violent video games were the harbinger of doom then we would've collapsed ages ago.

People often forget that people can tell the difference between fiction and reality. We aren't on Caprica here; we aren't walking into a virtual world. When we get to that stage then we can talk, but right now, making the arguement that Call of Duty is somehow worse than Elvis is pointless to me because there is absolutely nothing to back it up. For every study screaming about the ethics of mankind there is another completely dismissing it.
that one guy
17. FeloniousMonk
@Milo1313: I agree with you that adults can tell the difference between fiction and reality, but children are a whole different matter. I'm not saying that technology is evil, and we need to ban all video games. I just think a little restraint is in order. You need to be 18 to get into an R-rated moview (officially, anyway), I don't think it should be any different for a video game that contains the same level of violence and/or sexuality (if not more). If you want to be a more lenient parent, fine, buy your kid the game. But those of us with different standards would like a bit more oversight.
Yes, you can find a study backing up either side of the argument, which is why I didn't quote one. However, I don't need a study to tell me that some things are just wrong, regardless of whether they are real or fake.
Sim Tambem
18. Daedos
If history has taught us anything, it is that the majority is not always right. Just because watching sex, violence, and crude behaviour is normal, doesn't make it healthy. As for your arguments against things like Elvis' music and cigarettes...I think you are a little oblivious to how the world works. Can you argue that there aren't a higher percentage of slutty girls today than there were fifty years ago? Can you argue that cigarettes don't kill people? If you are indeed a Sociologist (which I hope is not the case), you would know that an easy way to change a person's perception is to slowly expose them to what you want them to accept, until they are the ones torturing their peers with electicity (if you studied sociology at all, you'll know what I'm talking about).

Just because a person recognizes something as "fictional" doesn't mean that will affect their judgment or decision making. If a person watches violence/abuse, and sees that it helps people get what they want without consequences, somewhere in their mind, that is stored. One day, if they happen to be a bigger-than-average kid, and someone does something they don't liek, they will be much more likely to use force as a means to achieve what they want. You can find child behavior studies to back this sort of thing up in any Psychology book (probably Sociology too), and all over the web. So, I'll have to dissagree with you.

Even when most people do something, that doesn't make it right. How many of us voted for President Obama. I know when to admit when I've made a mistake, and that was a mistake. Still, he won by a majority.
Daniel Brown
19. I_Slap_Raptors
This discussion is a very odd discussion. Humans are violent, always have been. We're sexual too (although what this has to do with the original article is beyond me), we always have been. Some people, though, feel the need to pin the blame on something. To give just a short list of bugbears, in (very) rough chronological order, we've had evil spirits, the corrupting influence of city living, masturbation, jazz music, alcohol, marijuana, comic books, rock 'n' roll, leftist thinking, role playing games, violent films/tv shows, heavy metal music, rap music and now it's the turn of video games.

As each one of the examples I mentioned above falls into and then out of vogue, the moral panic moves onto something new. You'd really think that at some point, people might realise that correlation and causation are not, in fact, the same thing. Each one of the panics above had some crackpot claiming they were going to be the cause of the downfall of civilisation, yet civilisation keeps rumbling on, crime rates stay relatively static per capita over the generations, with spikes and dips as the economy slumps or rises, and moral guardians always find something new to blame for people being a mixed bunch, made up of people who play by the rules and people who don't.

Violent people do violent things. Sociopaths continue to think the rules don't apply to them, people who like sex have it, openly or quietly depending on current mores, and the only thing that changes is pop culture, which - by some curious coincidence - always manages to be thing to blame. The fact we're a fecund and predatory species by nature, never seems to be factored into any explanation for all the sex and violence we're encountering these days, whether the days in question are 1810, 1910 or 2010.
that one guy
20. Christopher Byler
I would very much like to read these reports that say that almost all criminals confess that pornography set them on the road to crime.

Base rate fallacy. Lots of people look at porn, therefore lots of criminals look at porn. Since there's a moral panic about it, it makes a convenient excuse for criminals looking for a cause (outside themselves) for their problems, and people already in the grip of the moral panic don't think twice (or even once) before accepting the explanation.

Come to think of it, the same logic probably applies to video games too.

Trying to figure out if there's a causal connection might involve thought, or even statistics. And those are hard. Righteous indignation is easy, and emotionally satisfying too.
Sim Tambem
21. Daedos
If things like drugs, addictive deviant behaviors, and violent media are constantly being blamed for the erosion of our society's morals...maybe there's a good reason. Maybe they are to blame.

Sometimes the obvious choice is the correct one.
Daniel Brown
22. I_Slap_Raptors
That's right lambson. The things you mentioned are being blamed for a VERY good reason - Huge numbers of people don't know the difference between correlation and causation. You can blame any old thing you like for the ills of society. Pick something you don't personally like or approve of that is heavily saturated into a culture, to the point that almost anyone you care to point at was exposed to it at some point, then convince yourself that's what's causing the decay of modern society. It's so easy to do, let me show you how by hastily assembling a ridiculous strawman which I, and many others, have great fondness for...

"Personally, I blame Sesame Street and the works of Jim Henson's Creature Workshop as a whole. Huge numbers of violent criminals watched programming and films made by the evil Henson and his Puppeteers of Doom, so it only stands to reason that Bert, Ernie, Big Bird and Mr Snuffleupagus are to blame for the fall of modern society. The numbers don't lie. An overwhelming majority of criminals and deviants were exposed to Sesame Street at an impressionable age, then grew up to become criminals and deviants. BAN THIS EVIL SHOW FROM TELEVISION AND THE INTERNET!"

Of course, the above statement could be a combination of base rate fallacy and confirmation bias, but I'm sure if the numbers were crunched they'd show a terrifying correlation between puppet based television entertainment and violent crime, addictive "deviant" behaviour (whatever the given value of "deviant" is supposed to be) and any other bad thing you care to mention. The great thing about scapegoats, is that they don't have to be actually guilty of anything, they just need to be visible, convenient and disliked/not understood (delete as applicable) by the people using them.

I can only be thankful there's no-one lobbying against puppetry in political circles, or we could soon be facing a world without Oscar the Grouch, Grover, Count von Count or Cookie Monster in it. A thought even more terrifying than a world without Fallout, Oblivion, Dragon Age or Red Dead Redemption.
Sim Tambem
23. Daedos
I Slap Raptors:

To ignore the facts (or claim thew all draw flawed conclusions) is the equivalent of throwing in your lot--in what you see as a game of chance (50-50)--with the less logical argument. That doesn't sound like a good strategy. Not to mention, almost every reliable, respectable study has a control group, which means when they say kids who watch violent TV shows regularly are 75% more likely to get into fights at school, they are comparing them to kids (the same age, location, religions, etc) that do not watch the same violent TV shows. That is what makes those kind of studies effective and valuable. You can not disregard studies that account for correlation and causation (which most of them do).

Kids watch ninjas fight in movies, then kick each other. Fact.
that one guy
24. Meagan Spooner
I'm glad you mentioned fairy tales. People often seem to forget that children being exposed to fictional violence is not a new or modern phenomenon.

Great post!
Michael Burke
25. Ludon
But the vilence in fairy tales only frightens and entertains children when they hear or read those stories. The children do not take an active part in that violence.

Additionally. While it is true that some evil characters in fairy tales were created from stereotypes of (then and all too often still now) hated groups, and those tales and others - like the Passion Play - have been used to stoke the hatred against those groups in the past, in my lifetime most fairy tales have been thought of purely as entertainment in this country. And do you want to throw in the violent TV shows boys in my boyhood years watched? Combat. Rat Patrol. Wild Wild West. Movies? Twelve O'Clock High, The Longest Day. And all those westerns. They each had clear cut distinctions between good and evil, just and unjust, and where the lines were. Where are those distinctions in today's video games? What are the distinctions between good and evil?

Good is left for dead on the sidewalk in some of the first person shooter games I've watched adults and kids play. Where the heroes in Combat and Rat Patrol wouldn't shoot at civilians and wouldn't kill the enemy if there was a strong reason for not doing so, the players of some of the shooter games are rewarded with points for shooting by-standers. And as far as I know, there are no situations in the shooter games where you would be rewarded for not killing an enemy. Are you seriously saying that you are comfortable with children having unrestricted access to these kind of messages? Well then. Why don't we go all the way? Why don't we encourage schools to stage dog fights for the students? Why don't we have the schools add rape to the physical education class. (There have been a few games over the years that included raping as a way of gaining points and some gamers either have or are seeking copies of those games.) Come to think of it. Let's do away with the MPAA rating system for movies. Let's let the schools show Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill in the first grade classrooms. Those of you arguing in favor of children having unrestricted access to violent video games might as well be encouraging all of this.

My bigest problem with these video games is that they are conditioning people - children and adults - to resort to violence as a first or at least an early choice. This conditioning is frightning enough, but when you consider that it is taking place along side the influence of the hate stoking coming from the media (Fox News, CNN, and all the crime dramas), from religious leaders ("God Hates Fags!" and all the rest of that bullshit.) and from politicians (pick one or pick them all), can you really feel good about where this nation and this world are going?

I don't play those video games. If anyone wants to jump on me for speaking against something that I don't have direct experience with, I'll ask you if you can be sure that you aren't defending those games because you've been conditioned to think of them as normal.
Greg M. Hall
26. gregmhall
@IrishNipple: as another parent (six kids, 7 thru 19) I wholeheartedly agree. In fact I kept one of my kids, who'd displayed anger control issues at a young age, away from violent video games, and whaddya know: he still had his issues. Now that he's almost 13, I've let him play Borderlands and, as long as I keep his session (with any game) below a couple of hours, I've noticed an improvement. I'm not crediting the game--he is maturing as well--but I do believe violent action hasn't worsened his problems in the slightest.

In my case--the kid had to get it from somewhere, right?--I've found playing a shooter after a stressful day has allowed me to vent off a lot of negativity that otherwise might get taken out on something in the real world.
Matthew B
27. MatthewB
The problem with these arguments are always with absolutes.

People who say that violent games are always bad for kids tend to deny the possibility of presenting nuance and context and treat all kids (age 0.01 to 17.99) like programmable robots incapable of abstract thought.

People who say that violent games are fine tend to treat all games the same, regardless of whether it's cartoon violence or graphic torture, glorified splatterfests or complex scenarios with moral implications and repercussions. They also tend to gloss over the differences in individual kids and dismiss all games' potential as teaching tools.

As always, the truth lies somewhere in between and it's different for every kid and changes as the they grow.

Specifically,
@Ludon You are making some classic mistakes that people who are unfamiliar with todays' games often make. Not all games are for kids and almost no one argues that all kids should have access to all games - that's a total straw man fallacy. There are shooters where harming a civilian is an instant-lose condition and in many others with more complex negative consequences. Still others either make the civilians immune to damage or simply omit civilians altogether in favor of tightly controlled scenarios where everyone is an active combatant.
Also, do you really want to hold "all those westerns" up as examples of media presenting good moral messages? I recall a lot of white skin = good, brown or red skin = bad in those.

Some movies are good. Some aren't. Some movies are ok for some kids. Some aren't.

Some games are good. Some aren't. Some games are ok for some kids. Some aren't.
Michael Burke
28. Ludon
@ mrburack
There are shooters where harming a civilian is an instant-lose condition and in many others with more complex negative consequences. Still others either make the civilians immune to damage or simply omit civilians altogether in favor of tightly controlled scenarios where
everyone is an active combatant.

Fine. Then what's wrong with games with those features having the equivalant of a PG-13 rating? While I'm against censorship in many ways, I happen to believe that rights are always paired with responsibilities. If you wish to produce violent video games you should take the responsibility to respect the views of those who would be offended - including the parents of the kids wanting to play those games. Parents who want to let their children play such games would still be able to buy the games and let the kids play them. And the parents who just don't care what their kids do? Well, there are so many other problems going on there. The parents who don't want their kids having access to such games need the help that such bans would provide.

Not all games are for kids and almost no one argues that all kids should have access to all games - that's a total straw man fallacy.

The biggest fallacy is the belief that voluntary systems will work. The MPAA system doesn't work that well. I've seen unescorted kids in R rated showings on many occasions. Even the regluated systems have flaws. Smoke and booze products and ad campaigns designed to appeal to the youth markets are still showing up.

I agree that there are differences in individuals. I've known people who at the age of thirteen or so displayed more maturity than other people in their thirties, forties or fifties. However. I don't trust leaving it up to the dealer - who is in business to make a profit - to make the determination whether it's violent games, cigarettes or booze. Even with what you pointed out about the current games, kids know about the other games and want to play them. I observed the son of someone I knew a few years ago trying out a James Bond like shooter game. He dropped it and went back to Grand Theft Auto because the Bond game was too slow and boreing for him. I also found it interesting watching his face as he played. He seemed to struggle with the Bond game but he became totally involved with the other game. The change was almost like he was a junky getting a fix. Do I personally think he should have been playing that game? No. Not with the history of dependancy, addiction and domestic violence in his family, but it was his parent's decision, not mine. I did express my views to that parent.
Michael Burke
29. Ludon
I see you ammended your comment while I responded. I was not trying to hold those westerns up as being wholely good. I was just stating that we kids watched them and that we were able to see the lines between good and evil, right and wrong within the context of those stories.
Matthew B
30. MatthewB
I think your familiarity with (and perhaps nostalgia for) those old shows and movies allows you to see the context in them while your unfamiliarity with games prevents you from seeing the contextthat they too possess.

With respect to voluntary systems vs. regulatory systems, you really have to look at the issue in terms of realities, not in terms of best or worst case scenarios. In reality, the voluntary ratings systems work. They inform parents and let them act upon that information. The fact that some parents are negligent or make bad choices is not a fault of the system - it's a fault with that parent.

Kids will always seek access to things they're not supposed to have - that's just part of growing up. Good parents are aware of that and mitigate the harm the kids will do to themselves. If you want to protect kids, educate and empower parents.

Affordable child care and better schools will do more good than censorship ever will.
that one guy
31. Ben N.
@FeloniousMonk and the others referring to studies on both sides. Yes, there are studies on both sides, but does that mean we should forego scientific studies? It's still valid to bring the studies in, and, if we're really concerned with the truth of this issue, call for more, better ones.

We should also address all the anecdotal evidence here ("my kids act this way, so this is how it is."). I assume we all know better than to think that this proves anything.

Gerard Jones, quoted in the article, doesn't have any formal training in psychology, as far as I can find, but is an author of comics, novels, and a few books on entertainment. Neither can I find anything confirming that Ethan Gilsdorf has formal training in this area. So, whereas this debate interests me greatly, it has been only opinion-based so far.

Can anyone refer to some good studies or books based on good research? I really would like to know.
Sim Tambem
32. Daedos
Wow. I am surprised this is still going on. Good dialogue.

@mrburack - I think you made one of the most intelligent statements yet.

If you want to protect kids, educate and empower parents...Affordable child care and better schools will do more good than censorship ever will.

Parents need to be involved in their kids' lives. Teach them how to make good decisions, then let them decide.
that one guy
33. Bryant Jaquez
I belive that video games can be used positivlly (team work/problem solveing/strategy) Especially for young kids, you should moniter them when the frist start playing, and parents need to be involved, maybee even learn to play them too.
There are a couple of really popular studies by Fordham, PBS, and Media Shift that endorse video games.

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