Do Video Games Cause Violence?
Recent events have, once again, brought up the topic of violent video games causing mass murders and violence in today's society. When trying to find a reason for any type of mass murder, there is always somebody or something that has to be at fault and video games are now what the Government are taking a look at. Before we jump into that though, we will first look at the history of violence in video games.
History of Violence in Video Games
In 1976, a game by the name of Death Race was released. The objective of the game was to run over as many gremlins are possible to get a high score. Today this sounds completely innocent, but at the time nobody had seen anything like it, and the "ahhhhhh" screams from the gremlins being hit force parents to take action and eventually the game was removed from shelves.
By 1993 multiple violent games are being released, such as Night Tap, DOOM, and the newly released Mortal Kombat. The outcry causes Congress to take a closer look at these style games, but ultimately Mortal Kombat stays on the shelves of stores and is a major success. The Congress meeting wasn't a complete failure though, as in 1994 the rating system is implemented on video games. The ESRB, a self-regulatory organization that assigns age and content ratings to video games is established by the Entertainment Software Association (formerly Interactive Digital Software Association). The rating system is strictly voluntary; however, nearly all video games are submitted for rating because many retail stores prohibit the sale of unrated video games and the major console manufacturers will not license games for their systems unless they carry ESRB ratings. The formation of the ESRB deflects potential government regulation of video games.
In 1997 Anti-video games activist and attorney Jack Thompson files the first of what are to be a large number of lawsuits claiming video games are responsible for violence perpetrated by teens. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of the parents of three children killed in the Heath High School shooting in 1997. The lawsuit is ultimately dismissed without any action taken and Thompson is permanently disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court for inappropriate conduct, including making false statements to tribunals and disparaging and humiliating litigants.
In 2005, Henry Jenkins, PhD, writes: "According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It's true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers – 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do NOT commit antisocial acts.
Lastly in 2012, the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, CT, in December of 2012, reopened the debate over the effects of media violence and especially the playing of violent video games. Community groups organized drives to remove video games and a number of libraries curtailed the playing of video games in their branches. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation pulled arcade games with plastic guns from rest areas along the Massachusetts turn-pike, replacing them with more "appropriate" games. Debate had already been stirred earlier in the year after a mass shooting in July in Aurora, CO.
How Many Gamers VS Mass Shootings?
In the 1970s, the United States averaged about 1.1 mass murders a year. That number has increased since around 2013-2015 to 4.5 mass murders per year. Advocates look at this rising number and point the finger at video games, as the video game industry began to grow and produce violent video games around the 1970s. Can this really be a legit assumption though? There is an average of about 115 million people in the United States that play video games regularly. 43% of these people play violent video games, meaning almost 50 million people in the United States play violent video games regularly. If all 4.5 mass murders per year are due to video games, what about the other 50 million gamers out there? This alone is a reason to look at the individual and not gaming as a whole picture.
Why Aren't Other Industries Blamed for Violence?
You have heard the saying "the bigger they are, the harder they fall", I believe this is similar to the gaming industry's predicament with violence in video games. Other entertainment industries are just as popular as video games, but since video games have actual interaction and not just viewing such as Sports, Movies, Television, ect, this is the reason it is always the target. You hear many advocates say video games "desensitize the brain to violence" but if that is the case, can't the same be said for movies and television shows, because without a doubt those look much more realistic than a video game. The NFL sheds light on a different angle. Is it the promotion of violence or competition that should be reviewed? The biggest shift the NFL is taking is to make the game less violent by minimizing hard hits and reducing injuries, but this is not what fans want to see. Fans watch football for the big tackles, and high competitive nature of the game, and the NFL is not to be blamed for that. That kind of personality trait is within an individual, and not because of something the NFL has done. Video games cannot be blamed for violence if the rest of the industries are not blamed as well. The fact that they are being solely looked at, makes the discussion void in my opinion.
Nobody is saying that video games haven't become more realistic in recent years. It is actually incredible how far they have come, and with that technology parents should be responsible in what they buy their children. Their is a rating system in place for a reason just as their is a rating system in television and movies. If a game is rating Mature, that means you will be exposing your child to mature parts of video games. The video games are not to be blamed in this case, but the parents who purchased them. Let's stop blaming everything around us for problems and start making people take responsibilities for their actions. We would love to know hear your opinions on this topic in the comments below so feel free to express yourself!