Attacking violent forms of media is nothing new, before it was video games its was movies and music, and before that it was books and plays. As human beings we are a naturally curious species and the desire to find a reason for the violence in the world is something all of us has contemplated at one time or another. It becomes really easy to say that someone was exposed to violent images and immediately assume this causes violent behavior… but is it that simple? To me it is extremely irresponsible to point the finger at video game developers and say that they are responsible for such crimes as the shootings in Newtown, CT. Gun laws, parenting, mental stability and many other factors determine the development of young adults, yet it seems that these aspects get pushed to the back page when it comes to researching the factors that lead to violent and brutal outbursts.
In my research of this topic I was able to find multiple articles outlining how video games contribute to the violence of todays youth, but one thing I was not able to find as easily are the details of these individuals lives and upbringing. Below are some of the quotes I found from both ABC News and CBS News, the views and opinions found in these pieces showed me just how little true research has been done on this particular topic and inspired me to provide a counter argument from the eyes of a gamer. While I am no expert in mental health I do have years of experience playing violent video games and also the experience of growing up without strong parenting and guidance, neither of which has ever caused me to commit a violent crime.
ABC News- Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?
The violence in the entertainment culture, particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games and movies now, does cause vulnerable young men, particularly, to be more violent, said Senator Joe Lieberman
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home, Scalia wrote. Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.
Chris Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communication at Texas A&M International University added If we are serious about reducing these types of violence in our society, video game violence or other media violence issues are clearly the wrong direction to focus on, Video game use is just not a common factor among mass homicide perpetrators. Some have been players, others have not been.
CBS News- Violent video games make kids aggressive, study suggests
Video games are excellent teaching tools because they reward players for engaging in certain types of behavior, study author Dr. Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri, said in a written statement. Unfortunately, in many popular video games, the behavior is violence.
A single exposure to a violent video game won’t turn someone into a mass murderer, Dr. Bartholow told CBS News. But if someone has repeatedly exposed themselves, these kinds of effects in the short term can turn into long-term changes.
With all of the backlash and finger-pointing its easy to paint the video game industry as a villain, but is that a fair and accurate depiction? Let’s take a look at the people in a gamers life who have an opportunity to help make good decisions and identify right from wrong.
To be fair I am not a parent and I have no idea how difficult and stressful it can be raising a child. I am quite sure that parenthood is one of the more challenging and time-consuming things that a human being can experience. Most parents these days are in dual income households and managing to take interest in everything a child does is probably next to impossible, but is it as hard as parents make it seem to inform themselves correctly about the games their kids are wanting to play? The simple answer to this question is no. In the time we currently live in parents have access to more information than ever before and are armed with the details that they need to make the choices that they feel are best for their children.
Time and time again I have seen parents in local video game stores being pestered by their children to buy them games that are rated outside of the child’s age. Whether it’s a young kid who wants to play a game rated T for teen or a teenager who wants to play a game rated M for mature, the story is always the same. “Mom, this game isn’t even that bad!” or “Mom, Bobby’s mom just bought this game last week!” The excuses and pleading are almost always the same and unfortunately so is the end result. The parent usually gives in and lays down some sort of half-hearted threat about throwing the game out if they see something that they deem inappropriate. We all know from the minute that game is put into the disc tray that the parent will never watch the child actually play the game. Watching your child while they play games might be unrealistic and I understand that. Parents have many responsibilities and even lives of their own, but this is not an excuse. Many times I have seen these very same parents paying more attention to their smartphones then they do their children as they browse the titles in their local game stores. Most of the time they are texting or they’re playing the latest word game that they downloaded from their respective online market instead of taking a few moments to research the game their child is asking for.
Parents might say to me that they simply don’t have enough time to research every single game that is out there and that they don’t know enough about games to know what content is truly on the disc their child is begging for. All this tells me is that parents are just too lazy to even try. When you type the letters “ESRB” into your favorite search engine the first link that appears is to the ESRB website itself. What makes this such an amazing tool is that every single game that is released is rated by the ESRB. Parents are only a touch away from finding out anything and everything they might need to know about the latest title their child just can’t live without. Lets take Grand Theft Auto, one of the most controversial game franchises of our generation and use it as an example. As we can clearly see the ESRB is doing everything that they can to provide parents with the information that will help them protect their kids from the games that they deem inappropriate. Can you foresee a situation where a parent is armed with the description we seen above for GTA and still make the choice to allow their young child to play it? Instead of seeing embarrassed parents give in to their children they would be empowered to say exactly why they feel the game shouldn’t be played by their kid. With this kind of data it becomes quite simple for parents to take a stand against content they don’t want their loved ones subjected to without waiting for something bad to happen and laying the blame at the feet of total strangers, i.e. game developers and publishers. The time has come for parents to take the responsibility of truly monitoring the games their kids play and the ESRB is the one stop shop for them to do just that.