I play video games. 68% of Australians play video games. Video games offer the chance to live out scenarios in immersive, digitally-realised worlds. Read that? Digital?
Video games like The Sims give players the opportunity to live out the daily life of a Sim, meaning that it is a real life simulator. Success and enjoyment in this game doesn’t always come out of utilising the purpose of the game, many players get in tune with their devilish side. We’ve all been through that stage in the Sims where we remove all the doors in a room or remove all the ladders from the swimming pool, inciting a slow death for our simulated beings. That doesn’t make me want to do it in real life. There’s only so much satisfaction I can get out of beating hookers with a baseball bat in Grand Theft Auto before I become bored. Does that mean I’ll do it in real life? Not quite … It also allows me to fly planes, run a business/lead a drug cartel, go on rollercoasters, skydive, scuba dive, drink drive, go on dates and live out my neon filled 1980s Miami Vice dreams. All things I’ll never do in real life *sigh*
This game is what is known as a sandbox, meaning you can craft your own adventure out of it (like a real sandbox) sharing elements with the Sims. Does that mean I’ve been desensitised to violence? I would argue no. Blood makes me squirm, and violence is sickening
But to get serious, video games are often used as scapegoats for real life violence. This has re-entered public discourse in the wake of the Parkland school shooting. With 17 school shootings in the US this year, it is understandable why video games are to blame, not guns. In the wake of the shooting, President Trump stated “I’m hearing more and more people saying the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” This was most likely informed by the American Psychological Association’s (APA) statements on video game violence which have been disputed by scholars on multiple occasions. Following this he requested a meeting with leading video game executives to discuss the matter, the meeting allegedly came to no significant conclusion. During the meeting this video was played …
Shout outs to the Whitehouse’s YouTube channel for releasing this interesting piece showing violence in video games. This was stolen footage, as many clips within the montage are actually watermarked by their content creators, meaning that the video was inevitably hit with a copyright strike.
The thing is … there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that violent video games have a detrimental effect on their players. Sure, there are numerous examples where the perpetrator of a crime has been a video game player, most prominently the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre. The two young men had been playing the controversial and violent first-person shooter, Doom.
Video games had also been considered as a reason behind the Sandy Hook shooting in 2013, as the perpetrator was an avid video game fan. Interestingly, the shooters favourite game was “Dance, Dance Revolution,” a game that can hardly be called violentnot be attributed to or considered to have the slightest hint of violence at all. The National Rifle Association (NRA) had condemned video games, suggesting that they may have been the root cause of the shooting. Evidence provided at a legal hearing shows that the perpetrator did own violent games including Left 4 Dead, Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty. This was alongside games like Lego Star Wars, Paper Mario and yes … Dance, Dance Revolution.
Studies have time and time again failed to reach a consensus about violent video games, but this doesn’t mean it’s going to leave public conversation anytime soon.
Dr. David Zendle of the University of York said, after conducting studies on realistic video games, that
“findings suggest that there is no link between these kinds of realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on their players”
Whitney DeCamp of Western Michigan University discovered that playing video games, no matter how bloody, did not predict violent behaviour. He also goes on to state that any hobby independent of what it is, helps to keep young people safe
“you keep them off the street and out of trouble”
Many scholars have called for the older presumptions about video game violence to be dropped as there is limited conclusive evidence and the assumption is based on “outdated” studies. The prime example is the APA’s amendment to their 2005 report titled Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media. This led to many scholars calling out the APA for a lack of research transparency and inconsistencies with methodological data.
I don’t want to paint a picture or justify violence in video games, but I am a strong supporter of video games and what they contribute to society, look no further than the Nintendo Wii which was found to develop motor function and contribute to weight loss.
The point of writing this wasn’t to attack or defend any side of the argument, it was to provide examples to allow you to make your mind up. Yes, I did want to slightly ridicule the anti-video game argument, mostly because it’s impossible to write something completely objective and unbiased. Hence, this is what it is …