This is the first in a series of experimental ‘dueling cblog editorials’ I will be doing with Aerox, you can check out his ‘Point’ here
. And while the topic is slightly cliché, I think it is oddly appropriate.
As gaming has moved from a small group of people and into the main stream, it is inevitable that it will be targeted as something that is a bad influence on the youth. A recent article stated some wanted to even go so far as to ban the media entirely. As someone who has played games since the age of five and one of the most notorious violent games of its time, Doom, at the supple young age of ten, these insulations are those made by politicians attempting to scare concerned and impressionable parents, their ‘think of the children’ cries are nothing new, and the evidence directly contradicts the insulation that these violent games are causing an epidemic of increased violent acts. Thusly, I must OBJECT!
US Department of Justice Study
In a 2003 department of Justice Survey
of violent crime and a Snyder survey of youth violence, both overall violent crime and crimes committed by Youth have declined substantially over the time in which video games have moved into the main stream.
The myth of a youth violence epidemic is just that, a myth. It does not, nor has it ever existed. A few high profile cases have given the illusion that there is a widespread amount of violence going on and several of those cases have shown some link to gaming.
While not the case in the mid 1990s, most, if not all, electronic gaming devices have some form of parental controls built into them. These devices can control the amount of time a child spends gaming and the content they are allowed to access. Like the V-Chip in televisions however, these devices can only do good if the parents exercise control using them.
The more disturbing trend in my opinion has not been the playing of violent video games by youth, but that parents continue to attempt to escape the responsibilities that come with having a child. Whether this be by not checking the rating of a game they buy to determine if it is appropriate for the maturity level of their child, or taking the time to set up the parental controls on their consoles and PCs. Fault for statistically tail end events (ie. School Shootings) that involve video games should lie more with parents than the industry that produces the media or the law abiding people that enjoy said media.
Just how ‘impressionable’ are youth
? This can vary widely between individuals and social demographic groups. What may greatly influence one child may have little to no effect on others. Again relating back to parenting, some children mature faster than others and may be able to ‘handle’, and I use the term loosely, the more violent and adult themes of some games.
Games are but a small part of a child’s psychological development, input comes from a large variety of sources, both ones that are sought by the child inquisitively and ones that may be forced on someone. The latter can be much more traumatic and have negative effects on a person’s psyche than the former and I would place video games in terms of the former. No child is forced to play video games like they are forced in a sense to be bullied at school or see Mommy and Daddy get a messy divorce. Any experience a child derives from games is one they sought out on their own
Correlation, Causation, and Outliers
Just because two things may be correlated does not necessarily mean that one is the cause of the other. And the same can be said for some studies that have linked video games to violent behavior. If one was truly the cause of the other, why do other studies of actual crimes not reflect this?
This would lead us to believe that the two are not truly related, the problem is that the general public sees more high profile cases that do have some form of link and then generalizes that all other cases must be similar. Take the case of Columbine for example, but shooters were later found to be avid Doom players. This must mean than, that anyone who plays first person shooters must be a school shooting waiting to happen, but in order to do this you would have to ignore all of the other evidence of a troubled youth
not related to videogames and the practice they took with real guns prior to the shooting. Something that is a far outlier is in no way indicative of the population as a whole and continually people seem to miss that when it comes to video games.
As you can see this evidence is clearly contradictory, but we don’t truly live in a black and white world. Video games, like any media, have some influence on children and young adults. However, games are not going to magically take a perfectly behaved child into the next school shooter by any means, nor would exposure to any other form of media. There will always be troubled youths, whose problems stem from a myriad of experiences ranging from parental fighting, bullying, or loneliness. A frightened and alarmist public will find a scapegoat somewhere, be it rock and roll, comic books, R-rated movies, banned literature, or in recent times, video games. What we can do is vote for politicians who recognize this and vote with a more ‘cool head’ on such issues than give into scare tactics to win votes from overbearing soccer moms.