This article is going to talk about a common misconception that many people seem to have regarding violent video games. Basically, there is a non-trivial group of people that like to claim that violence in video games will create violent individuals. I am here to talk about why this is not the case, and deconstruct why so many people rely on this faulty cause and effect relationship.
Violence in Video Games Creates Violent Individuals
This article will talk about a common misconception that people have regarding violence and video games. Read on to see if violence in video games truly creates violent individuals
Video Games are Interactive
One reason people like to claim that violent video games will create violent individuals is that video games are interactive. Unlike other forms of entertainment such as movies and books, a video game lets the user (aka. the player) interact with the game world. So, for example, if you watch a violent movie, you are not doing anything but watching. However, when you pull the trigger on your rifle in a game such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, you are interacting with the game and are taking an active role in the violence.
The problem I have with this viewpoint is that violent video games have been around for nearly as long as the video game industry has existed. I've played Doom, Quake, Halo 2, the first Diablo (which was more gory than its sequel, go figure), and countless other violent games. I don't even get the urge to get a gun and shoot someone just because I've played violent games.
Violent Video Games Are An Easy Scapegoat
A sizable portion of the violent video game naysayers are parents, and with valid reason. No one wants their child exposed to negative influences, and violence is pretty negative. However, look at it this way: It is only a video game. It is just like any other form of entertainment. If you don't want your child exposed to such things, then don't allow him or her to play such video games. If you're a parent with a child, that's part of your job as a parent.
However, some of those parents go into a faulty tangent of how their children are rebellious and won't listen to them because they play Call of Duty (feel free to insert your favorite violent game of choice instead of Call of Duty). In other words, they attempt to lay the blame on video games for their own parenting. It is not a video game's fault that your child won't listen to you. You have to impose discipline on your children, or they'll walk all over you. Of course, I am not a parent, but a parent should know that children will look for every possible opportunity to go against your established house rules. That's tangential to this discussion though, so let's move on.
That's not even the worst part of the demographic. At least parents have the excuse that they worry for their children (even if some of them could use a parenting class or two). Certain organizations, on the other hand, seem to have an aversion for anything related to video games out of principle. Violent video games are just a convenient hook from which they can spew their anti-video game vitriol. In the last decade, I've seen every major violent video game be blacklisted as "that one game that will turn children into mass murderers". Seriously, is it that easy? If that were the case, then let's make non-violent video games and no one will ever kill anyone else...
What's that you say? People killed other people before video games existed? Who would've thought? Could it be that there are other problems within our society that have nothing to do with our forms of entertainment that cause violence to spawn?
Summary: Video games are a convenient scapegoat for people unwilling to analyze their surroundings and look deeper into the rabbit hole, as it were.
The Faulty Cause and Effect Relationship
Premise: Violent video games are being played by more children every day.
Premise: There is more violence on the streets every day.
Conclusion: Violent video games are causing more violence on the streets every day.
You may see a problem with the above logic statement. You may not. I'm in the former group. While the premises, on their own, are sound, they mean nothing in of themselves. If you attempt to correlate them, you're not going to get much good out of it. Yet, that's exactly what lots of people do. You could take any dozen other premises and replace that premise about violent video games and probably reach the same conclusion. If you actually want to engage in such an exercise, read the sidebox to the right of this section.
Studies have been done that support the case that violent video games spawn violent individuals, but even they fall into the same trap. See, you can spin that argument that way, or you can spin it the following way:
Cause: John Doe is a violent person.
Effect: John Doe will prefer violent video games.
(Which, mind you, isn't always true either.)
What I'm trying to say is that you can't claim that violent video games will create violent individuals because it doesn't work. Every person's mind is a world onto itself. Who is anyone to say why anyone does anything, let alone become a serial killer?
(If you could figure out, with even 90% reliability, who's going to be a killer and who's not based on singular details such as gaming habits, you'd probably be a millionaire by now.)
Here's a small list of other premises that you could switch out for Premise #1 and still reach the same conclusion:
- World poverty is increasing every day.
- Overpopulation is a problem that is worsening every day.
- Individual intolerance to other people, situations and other miscellanea are decreasing every day.
That's just three different premises. I could list more, but here's the general idea of what I'm trying to say: You can spin anything in a certain way to support or counter a point.
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Well, that's about it for this article. However, I'd like to close with a few final words.
I sincerely hope that this article has forced you to think a bit about how we view the world in general. See, while this article is about violent video games, the way people view a lot of things in life tends to align with the viewpoints I described in this article. it's human nature not to accept responsibility and to blame things/situations that cannot defend themselves (video games being inanimate and all that) to attain a measure of validation.
So, feel free to post in the comments section and vote in the poll below this final section.
Until the next time, take care and have fun! ;)