Although I didn’t want to continually harp on the topic of video game violence and violent crimes, it has played out that way. In an ongoing effort with other bloggers, I’ve tried to stem the tide of fear mongering and misinformation. I hope that in some small way, this information will find its way to the right people or perhaps some enterprising journalist, actually doing some legwork and background research, will find this searching for “violence and video games.” This is also ammunition for gamers. The next time some trash-clown tries to tell you how video games are making teenagers violent, this is for a “boo-yah” all up in their business.
First is an article from the Economist.com (I’ve included their graphics for convenience). The article is a fair and honest look at the video game industry and avoids a lot of knee jerking. From the article:
Amid all the arguments about the minutiae of rating systems, the unlocking of hidden content, and the stealing of children’s innocence, however, three important factors are generally overlooked: that attitudes to gaming are marked by a generational divide; that there is no convincing evidence that games make people violent; and that games have great potential in education. (emphasis mine)
Did I just read “no convincing evidence”? I believe I did, and I read that from a highly respected magazine. Not some two-bit blogger. Hear that, Mr. Thompson? I’ll repeat it for you: “there is no convincing evidence that games make people violent.” In fact, as we’ll see, the evidence actually points to just the opposite. But it’s understandable that the venerable members of our society don’t understand these “child playthings”.
“It’s just a generational divide,” says Gerhard Florin, the European boss of Electronic Arts, the world’s biggest games publisher. “It’s people not knowing what they are talking about, because they have never played a game, accusing millions of gamers of being zombies or violent.”
Again, this is something that should be brought to the attention of grubby lawyers and bloviating politicians. Play some GTA or Doom, let the storyline guide you and realize there’s something more complex than a “murder simulator.” That’s another great point the article makes:
What’s more, plenty of games, far from encouraging degeneracy, are morally complex, subtle and, very possibly, improving. Many now explicitly require players to choose whether to be good or evil, and their choices determine how the game they are playing develops.
This should could be a small factor into why violent crimes have gone down with video games are becoming more mainstream. The article also points to things critics hate to see — positive things being done with video games. My favorite was the teacher using Myst and its beautiful imagery to inspire kids to write better. Excellent. The article closes with some sobriety that video-game critics would do well to grok:
In June, Senator Charles Schumer held a press conference to draw attention to the M-rated game “25 to Life”, in which players take the role of a policeman or a gangster. “Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops,” he declared. True, but little Johnny should not be smoking, drinking alcohol or watching Quentin Tarantino movies either. Just as there are rules to try to keep these things out of little Johnny’s hands, there are rules for video games too. Political opportunism is part of the explanation for this double standard: many of gaming’s critics in America are Democrats playing to the centre.
The other stockpile of ammo comes from Gamer Revolution from its article, The Truth About Violent Youth and Video Games. I’ve also used the graph to further illustrate the point I’m trying to make.
While it’s not as eloquently written as the Economist piece, the author Duke Ferris did some good research (and documented sources) and found some interesting trends.
Something must be missing. That first graph is the overall violent crime rate, and we’re talking about youth violence here. So I found the data sorted by age, and it turns out that through 2002, youth homicide actually dropped across the board, the only increase being among adults…
The lowest levels ever recorded. In other words, the Playstation era has, in fact, produced the most non-violent kids ever
And when peopl read the next quote, I hope that little light bulb pops up and they think to themslves, quite profoundly, “Oh, yeah. That makes sense.”
To be fair, there have been about 300 studies on the effects of violent media, about 30 of which have been about video games. Most have found little to no connection, although some studies found a small, casual correlation between aggressive people and violent media.
Even if true, this does not necessarily mean violent media has created aggressive people. It is more likely that aggressive people are attracted to violent media.
And there’s more of being mean to the media —
The media in particular loves to bash video games, making sure to point out any time there’s an Xbox within 50 yards of a crime. This is because games are the new competition – every hour you spend interacting with a game is one hour less spent drooling in front of their fear-mongering programming.
Again, please read the whole article. It’s another good read with some excellent links for further knowledge.
So as I said, that settles it. You can look at the stastics anyway you want, there is no way you can say violent video games are leading to violent crimes. It’s a simple as the graphs and statistics bear out — video gaming is becoming more popular, with more and more gamers playing video games and yet violent crime is going down. Way down. So the print out one of those graphs. Tuck it away in your wallet. Next time some tells you that video games are causing the moral decline in our world, politely show them the business.
Update: Great. Now Thompson is going after Capcom for Killer 7. What does he base his reasoning on? An IGN review of the game. This is priceless. You can bet game review editors will be vetting all future reviews with Jack in mind. This man truly is an idiot.
Another Update: From this Slashdot article there’s a link to a long interview with Jack Thompson. I listened to the whole thing, and while I still don’t agree with him and he didn’t make any headway in convincing me, I’ll admit that he is well spoken and made some valid points. He’s a raging narcissist but he’s a lawyer, so that can be expected. Unfortunately, he’s still pointing to all this research linking video games with violence but he still can’t make the link with video game violence and violent crime. A lot of the research he points to (like this Indiana University study) involve adolescents that already have a predilection to aggresive (and violent) behavior. I mentioned this earlier. The link of brain chemistry and violent media can be shown but they still can’t link this to the actual increase in criminal activity. He’s still wrong.
If you have time, listen to it. It’ll make you frustrated and tear out your hair. It’s disturbing, it touches on a myriad of topics, including the GTA grandma, EA and the porn industry are in cahoots (huh?!), and many others.
(On a side note, I secretly thing Rockstar has something big planned for Bully. Everyone thinks it’s going to be a morally bankrupt game like GTA but I think there’s a big surprise waiting for us. We’ll see if that plays out, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about lately.)
Another another update: The Videogame Pundit has also commented on this. There’s a funny exchange with Scott from VGCats and Jack Thompson here. I believe this comic is what started it. VGCats makes me laugh.