No, Video Games Do Not Cause Violence

In the aftermath of every major episode of violence, we get the inevitable explanations trotted out anew. Perhaps the dumbest and least supported claim is that violent video games and movies cause people to be more violent and provoke such spasms of murder and mayhem. Nope.

As a video game violence researcher and someone who has done scholarship on mass homicides, let me state very emphatically: There is no good evidence that video games or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth. Our research lab recently published new prospective results with teens in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence indicating that exposure to video game violence neither increased aggressive behaviors, nor decreased prosocial behaviors. Whitney Gunter and Kevin Daly recently published a large study of children in Computers in Human Behavior which found video game violence effects to be inconsequential with other factors controlled. And as for the notion of that violent media “desensitizes” users, recent results published by my student Raul Ramos found that exposure to violence on screen had no influence on viewer empathy for victims of real violence. (A study published by Holly Bowen and Julia Spaniol in Applied Cognitive Psychology similarly found no evidence for a desensitization effect for video games.) Finally, a review of the literature by the Swedish government in 2012 has joined the U.S. Supreme Court and the Australian government in concluding that video game research is inconsistent at best and riddled with methodological flaws.

In fact, during the years in which video games soared in popularity, youth violence has declined to 40-year lows. And while it’s natural, in such an emotional time, for people to search desperately for answers, that often results in misinformation. In 2007, after the Virginia Tech Massacre, pundits such as Dr. Phil immediately blamed video games. Only later did the official investigation reveal that the perpetrator was not a violent game player after all. In the Sandy Hook case, after the shooter was misidentified as Adam Lanza’s brother Ryan, the Facebook page of the video game Mass Effect (which Ryan “liked” on his own Facebook page) was attacked by angry hordes.

The fact that society is actually becoming less violent by nearly every measure is rarely discussed. But the fact is that violent crime has been going down steadily for 20 years, though it’s still much higher in America than in nearly any other Western nation. But it’s crisis time, a time when we exploit tragedy to find simple solutions. As Mencken wrote in the Divine Afflatus, one of my favorite essays of all time, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”

Comments

  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    Remember that guns don’t kill people.
    Bullets don’t kill people.
    Massive tissue damage and blood loss kill people.

  2. grumpyoldfart says

    I seem to recall that back in the 1950s, comic books were blamed for causing children to commit crimes.

  3. says

    It is rather weird that Americans are willing to sacrifice the First Amendment in order to protect the arguably less useful Second one…

  4. sivivolk says

    I wonder if these people also blame games like America’s Army, developed by the US Army, for gun violence.

  5. Thorne says

    After noticing that violence seems to be declining, while at the same time the popularity of violent video games is rising, I would start to wonder if the violent games are helping to suppress violent tendencies in the young.

    And I’ve noticed that, though violence seems to be declining, the reporting of violence has been growing by leaps and bounds. TV news, especially, seems to thrive on it, rehashing what would have been relatively minor incidents 20 years ago until they seem like apocalyptic cataclysms.

    I also wonder if there is any correlation between declining violence and declining religious power. I know there have been studies which seem to show that areas of high religious belief tend to have higher rates of violent crime. It would seem to make sense that, as more people turn away from religion, and as more kids are brought up in more secular schools and homes, they learn to be more accepting of those who are different from themselves.

    In that vein, I’ve noticed that there hasn’t been any definitive report (that I’ve heard, anyway) on Lanza’s religious views, except for a few really ugly whackjobs who automatically blame anything evil on atheist muslims. My guess is that this means he probably wasn’t an atheist or agnostic, as Fox News would have been all over that. My next guess, based on nothing tangible, is that he was probably raised Christian, but that his religious views had nothing to do with his actions. Have they managed to come up with some kind of reason for what he did?

  6. schism says

    I’ve noticed that the people most likely to blame video games (or music, or movies, or Dungeons and Dragons, etc., etc.) for real-life violence are often the same ones to espouse the NRA’s “MORE GUNS” ideas. This is especially amusing after that NRA guy’s press conference, wherein he claimed something to the effect of “the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Which, of course, is the basic plot of practically every action movie/game in existence.

    Obviously someone in this “debate” has reality/fantasy issues, but I don’t think it’s gamers.

  7. says

    What about D&D? Rap (so-called) music? That Satanized “rock and roll” promoted by that Elvis Presley with his gyrating hips that ruins our superior, white-kid morals?

  8. stubby says

    I’m starting to think video games may indeed cause violence. After playing the new Family Guy game for fifteen minutes last night I wanted to strangle a basket of kittens.

  9. John Hinkle says

    Of course, if social conservatives had their way, violent video games would be banned (or adult only), and Medicaid would be cut because it’s bankrupting our great nation and does not comport with Judeo-Christian values.
     
    The first would probably do nothing but irritate people, and the second would probably make the problem of mass homicide gun violence worse. For example, my sister is mentally ill and, if she were off her meds, she would revert to a state of illness (delusion, paranoia, etc). Her meds are expensive and there’s no way on social security disability alone that she could afford them. Cuts to Medicaid (or perhaps it’s Medicare, I forget), would devastate her.
     
    It is especially aggravating when big names in conservative punditry (e.g., Peggy Noonan) talk about, on the one hand, the need for “entitlement” cuts to get the deficit under control, and on the other hand the need to curb violent video games to diminish or solve the problem of gun violence. I think it would take some real effort to get further from a workable solution. (Well ok, you could say prayer would solve it, but at least that wouldn’t make the problem worse).

  10. says

    grumpyoldfart

    I seem to recall that back in the 1950s, comic books were blamed for causing children to commit crimes.

    Indeed. It was a moral panic started by a psychologist named Fredrick Werthem. He wrote a book called “Seduction of the Innocent” claiming that comic books were responsible for juvenile delinquency. His evidence? He worked with juvenile delinquents, and they all seemed to like comic books a lot. Correlation = Causation therefore PANIC! There were congressional hearing and book burnings, and eventually the comic book industry was forced to develop one of the most repressive censorship regimes ever instituted in order to avoid being put out of business.

    Additionally, he claimed that Batman would make kids gay and Wonder Woman would turn girls into man-hating feminists. So you can see the type of reactionary mindset that latches onto these kinds of easy solutions (rather than solving gun violence and inequality, the more likely, but more difficult, culprits).

    Every generation has its pop culture scapegoat that every culture crusader blames for problems that are difficult to solve, whether it’s gangster rap, pornography, video games, comic books, heavy metal, horror movies, The Simpsons or even fucking jazz music. It’s all just a way for small minded people to make it look like they’re solving problems, when actually they’re just flapping their jaws and distracting people from the real issues.

  11. paulburnett says

    Wes (#14) wrote “…eventually the comic book industry was forced to develop one of the most repressive censorship regimes ever instituted…”

    Never heard of the Hays Code for movies, have you?

  12. lofgren says

    I read somewhere that while video games do not cause violence, people with a tendency towards aggression use video games differently than most others. Basically most people use video games to relax, while those with a tendency towards aggression use video games to exercise violent fantasies. Even competitive gamers will rouse themselves from an extended gaming session with their adrenaline pumping, but will feel generally refreshed and calmer once that high passes. Those who are using video games as a proxy for real life violence, however, will be agitated, angry, or hyperactive when they put the controller down. It’s a crude standard, but it was put forth as a symptom for parents to watch out for if they are worried that their children might be bullies or have bullying tendencies.

  13. lofgren says

    Never heard of the Hays Code for movies, have you?

    I have, and there is no contest here. The Comics Code was far more repressive.

  14. zmidponk says

    Schism #10:

    This is especially amusing after that NRA guy’s press conference, wherein he claimed something to the effect of “the only thing stopping a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Which, of course, is the basic plot of practically every action movie/game in existence.

    Correct. I could probably use the fingers of one hand to count the number of games where you are actually forced to play as the bad guy (as opposed to it being a choice you can make within the game). Therefore, if the argument about games causing violence due to them ‘training’ people to kill is valid, they are actually training them to kill bad guys. Thus, by this argument, there should already be plenty of people in schools standing by to protect people from bad guys with guns – all the games players there.

  15. says

    The Hays code did have one amusing loophole: If you wanted to make a movie with orgies and other scenes of debauchery, you made a biblical film.

    What I find amazing is not how gun fetishists are trying to scapegoat pop culture, but how badly it backfired against them this time.

  16. Quantum Mechanic says

    I’ll give that NRA bastard my video games when he pries them from my cold, dead hands.

  17. slc1 says

    Re filfthdentist @ #11

    I can remember when Presley went on the Ed Sullivan show and the camera showed him from the chest up. The next act was a dance number by actress Debra Paget who wore next to nothing and performed a number right out of the dance of the seven veils.

  18. says

    Anti-communists, KKKristianist fuckwits, temperance unions, the war on drugs (dating back to the early 20th century–all of them attempts/movements to legislate morality–THEIR moralit. All abject failures that ruined millions of lives and save nobody.

  19. robertfaber says

    Every video game I’ve played has been localized and translated to multiple languages. These same video games being blamed here are sold world wide, not just in America. In the countries which have both violent video games AND more rational gun control measures, one does not find frequent (or any*) mass shootings.

    *Yeah, the Norwegian guy might have played World of Warcraft. But he also wrote a pretty detailed racist manifesto, so attributing that to a game with simple cartoon violence is pretty far fetched. No scratch that, it’s pure desperation on the part of gun manufacturer’s mouth pieces.

  20. says

    Grand Theft Auto sold just as well in the UK as it did in the US and, of course, you can look at any country’s top ten video games sales list and find the same violent games selling well everywhere in the world. And violent games have become orders of magnitude more violent *and* realistic over the last 20 years. The realism of he violence in video games today has very little in common with games even from just 10 years ago. Yet, no other nation has near the same level of problem with gun violence as the US has.

    And remember, this is with an average of seven times as many Americans behind bars as the citizens of these other countries (per capita). Americans are paying a huge and likely long term price for this method of putting the lid on violence in this manner.

    The easy availability of guns is the major difference from all these other countries. Indeed, if a link between video games and gun violence was proven, it would actually reinforce the claims that gun control measures do work, and work well.

  21. says

    Never heard of the Hays Code for movies, have you?

    I have heard of it. The Comics Code Authority was much worse in my opinion.

    Here’s the Comics Code:

    CODE FOR EDITORIAL MATTER

    General standards—Part A

    (1) Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal, to promote distrust of the forces of law and justice, or to inspire others with a desire to imitate criminals.

    (2) No comics shall explicitly present the unique details and methods of a crime.

    (3) Policemen, judges, Government officials and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.

    (4) If crime is depicted it shall be as a sordid and unpleasant activity.

    (5) Criminals shall not be presented so as to be rendered glamorous or to occupy a position which creates a desire for emulation.

    (6) In every instance good shall triumph over evil and the criminal punished for his misdeeds.

    (7) Scenes of excessive violence shall be prohibited. Scenes of brutal torture, excessive and unnecessary knife and gunplay, physical agony, gory and gruesome crime shall be eliminated.

    (8) No unique or unusual methods of concealing weapons shall be shown.

    (9) Instances of law-enforcement officers dying as a result of a criminal’s activities should be discouraged.

    (10) The crime of kidnapping shall never be portrayed in any detail, nor shall any profit accrue to the abductor or kidnaper. The criminal or the kidnaper must be punished in every case.

    (11) The letters of the word “crime” on a comics-magazine cover shall never be appreciably greater in dimension than the other words contained in the title. The word “crime” shall never appear alone on a cover.

    (12) Restraint in the use of the word “crime” in titles or subtitles shall be exercised.

    General standards—Part B

    (1) No comic magazine shall use the word horror or terror in its title.

    (2) All scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted.

    (3) All lurid, unsavory, gruesome illustrations shall be eliminated.

    (4) Inclusion of stories dealing with evil shall be used or shall be published only where the intent is to illustrate a moral issue and in no case shall evil be presented alluringly, nor so as to injure the sensibilities of the reader.

    (5) Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.

    General standards—Part C

    All elements or techniques not specifically mentioned herein, but which are contrary to the spirit and intent of the code, and are considered violations of good taste or decency, shall be prohibited.

    Dialogue

    (1) Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.

    (2) Special precautions to avoid references to physical afflictions or deformities shall be taken.

    (3) Although slang and colloquialisms are acceptable, excessive use should be discouraged and, wherever possible, good grammar shall be employed.

    Religion

    (1) Ridicule or attack on any religious or racial group is never permissible.

    Costume

    (1) Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.

    (2) Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.

    (3) All characters shall be depicted in dress reasonably acceptable to society.

    (4) Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.

    NOTE.—It should be recognized that all prohibitions dealing with costume, dialog, or artwork applies as specifically to the cover of a comic magazine as they do to the contents.

    Marriage and sex

    (1) Divorce shall not be treated humorously nor represented as desirable.

    (2) Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Violent love scenes as well as sexual abnormalities are unacceptable.

    (3) Respect for parents, the moral code, and for honorable behavior shall be fostered. A sympathetic understanding of the problems of love is not a license for morbid distortion.

    (4) The treatment of live-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.

    (5) Passion or romantic interest shall never be treated in such a way as to stimulate the lower and baser emotions.

    (6) Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.

    (7) Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.

    CODE FOR ADVERTISING MATTER

    These regulations are applicable to all magazines published by members of the Comics Magazine Association of America, Inc. Good taste shall be the guiding principle in the acceptance of advertising.

    (1) Liquor and tobacco advertising is not acceptable.

    (2) Advertisement of sex or sex instruction books are unacceptable.

    (3) The sale of picture postcards, “pinups,” “art studies,” or any other reproduction of nude or seminude figures is prohibited.

    (4) Advertising for the sale of knives or realistic gun facsimiles is prohibited.

    (5) Advertising for the sale of fireworks is prohibited.

    (6) Advertising dealing with the sale of gambling equipment or printed matter dealing with gambling shall not be accepted.

    (7) Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.

    (8) To the best of his ability, each publisher shall ascertain that all statements made in advertisements conform to fact and avoid misrepresentation.

    (9) Advertisement of medical, health, or toiletry products of questionable nature are to be rejected. Advertisements for medical, health, or toiletry products endorsed by the American Medical Association, or the American Dental Association, shall be deemed acceptable if they conform with all other conditions of the Advertising Code.

    And here’s the Hays Code:

    Resolved, That those things which are included in the following list shall not appear in pictures produced by the members of this Association, irrespective of the manner in which they are treated:

    Pointed profanity – by either title or lip – this includes the words “God,” “Lord,” “Jesus,” “Christ” (unless they be used reverently in connection with proper religious ceremonies), “hell,” “damn,” “Gawd,” and every other profane and vulgar expression however it may be spelled;
    Any licentious or suggestive nudity-in fact or in silhouette; and any lecherous or licentious notice thereof by other characters in the picture;
    The illegal traffic in drugs;
    Any inference of sex perversion;
    White slavery;
    Miscegenation (sex relationships between the white and black races);
    Sex hygiene and venereal diseases;
    Scenes of actual childbirth – in fact or in silhouette;
    Children’s sex organs;
    Ridicule of the clergy;
    Willful offense to any nation, race or creed;

    And be it further resolved, That special care be exercised in the manner in which the following subjects are treated, to the end that vulgarity and suggestiveness may be eliminated and that good taste may be emphasized:

    The use of the flag;
    International relations (avoiding picturizing in an unfavorable light another country’s religion, history, institutions, prominent people, and citizenry);
    Arson;
    The use of firearms;
    Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc. (having in mind the effect which a too-detailed description of these may have upon the moron);
    Brutality and possible gruesomeness;
    Technique of committing murder by whatever method;
    Methods of smuggling;
    Third-degree methods;
    Actual hangings or electrocutions as legal punishment for crime;
    Sympathy for criminals;
    Attitude toward public characters and institutions;
    Sedition;
    Apparent cruelty to children and animals;
    Branding of people or animals;
    The sale of women, or of a woman selling her virtue;
    Rape or attempted rape;
    First-night scenes;
    Man and woman in bed together;
    Deliberate seduction of girls;
    The institution of marriage;
    Surgical operations;
    The use of drugs;
    Titles or scenes having to do with law enforcement or law-enforcing officers;
    Excessive or lustful kissing, particularly when one character or the other is a “heavy.”

    Both are repressive, but the Comics Code is the worst of the two. Most notably, several things which the Hays Code says must be treated with “special care” are simply outright prohibited under the Comics Code. Also, the Comics Code outright bans certain genres (horror and crime, specifically), which were never banned under the Hays Code. Hell, the Comics Code even tells writers what kind of grammar they can use, and what size font to make certain words in their titles.

  22. dingojack says

    According to the FBI n 2010 there were 12996 homicides in America:
    8775 due to firearms (67.52% of total homicides)
    1704 due to knives or other cutting instruments (13.11% of total homicides)
    745 due to personal weapons (hands, fists, feet etc., including being pushed) (5.73% of all homicides)
    540 due to blunt objects (clubs, hammers etc.) (4.16% of all homicides)
    122 due to strangulation (0.94% of all homicides)
    98 due to asphyxiation ( 0.75% of all homicides)
    74 due to fire (0.57% of all homicides)
    39 due to narcotics (0.3% of all homicides)
    11 due to poisoning (0.08% of all homicides)
    10 due to drowning (0.08% of all homicides)
    4 due to explosives (0.03% of all homicides)
    874 due to weapons or weapon not stated (6.73% of all homicides)

    Of the 8775 firearm homicides:
    6009 used handguns (68.48% of firearm homicides)
    373 used shotguns (4.25% of firearm homicides)
    358 used rifles (4.08% of firearm homicides)
    96 used other guns (1.09% of all firearm homicides)
    1939 used an unspecified firearm (22.1% of all firearm homicides).

    Thus if you could remove firearms from American society (even if the use of other weapons doubled) the number of homicides would fall by 35.04%.
    If you could only remove handguns from American society (even if the use of other weapons doubled) the number of homicides would increase by only 7.5%.

    You are 5.15 times more likely to die due to firearm than the next greatest weapon class (knife, other cutting instruments).
    You are 3.53 times more likely to die due to a handgun than a knife or other cutting instrument.

    Dingo

  23. scienceavenger says

    Dingo’s stats support my contention that this issue is far more charged by visceral reactions to these massacres, a general fear of guns, and our spoiled nature as Americans with regard to the amount of risk we are used to enduring, than a rational analysis of the major issues facing our country. At 4.2/100,000, our murder rate is far below most countries in the world, and a tempest in a teapot compared to the other major issues of the day. Fixing our problems with issues like health care and the drug war would benefit us more by orders of magnitude, and are where we ought to focus our political energies.

    Further, many expose their bias against guns by talking about “gun violence” and “gun murders”, as if those are the only ones that matter. It’s violence and murder per se that we ought to be concerned about, and making arguments like “once guns were removed via gun control measures, gun violence was reduced” are embarassing in their tautology and lack of relevance. They also carry zero persuasive value to the opposition, whose contention is that those intent on murder will simply choose another means if guns are removed from the picture. Talk about the effect of gun control measures on murder per se, and you’ll make more progress.

    It is also worth noting that guns are only one part of a complicated picture. One’s gender and age are more predictive of one’s proclivity to murder than is one’s access to guns. That is, young males without guns murder more people than old ladies with guns. If you are not suicidal, or married to someone who is, your probability of dying via gun are dramatically reduced. Too many arguments ignore these social realities, and give us general arguments like the gun-in-the-home-is-more-likely-to-kill-you canard that is the equivalent of arguing that wearing a turbon greatly increases your chances of dying via cobra bite.

  24. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

  25. says

    At 4.2/100,000, our murder rate is far below most countries in the world, and a tempest in a teapot compared to the other major issues of the day.

    The number is correct, but I too, call BS on the analysis. The murder rate in the US is about four times higher than it should be when compared with other wealthy democratic nations. I’ve had people try to rebut my arguments by comparing the US with Mexico (cartels) and Northern Ireland (terrorism) as nations with failing gun control, but of course, they are specious comparisons given the circumstances.

    Fixing our problems with issues like health care and the drug war would benefit us more by orders of magnitude, and are where we ought to focus our political energies.

    We have the wealth and resources to do all those things. This is not a good reason for giving the gun lobby free reign and digging our firearms hole even deeper than it is today. Car-related deaths is often brought up by gun supporters, but they fail to include the fact that a lot has been done to make our roads and vehicles safer, and fatalities have dropped by 50% over the last few decades, even as the total number of miles driven has risen. The same cannot be said about gun-related fatalities.

  26. dingojack says

    Thorn – did you miss the bit about if all firearms disappeared from America tomorrow Even if all other weapons doubled in use the homicide rate would drop by 35.04%?

    Yep at 4.2 per 100000 America is better than all but for:
    Monaco, Palau, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Iceland, French Polynesia, Brunei, Bahrain, Norway, Austria, Guam, Macau, Oman, Slovenia, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Spain, Germany, Qatar, Denmark, Italy New Zealand, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, China, Bhutan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Malta, Australia, Tonga, Tunisia, Poland, France, Netherlands, Samoa, Egypt, Ireland, United Kingdom, Portugal, Serbia, Hungary, Andorra, Morocco, Armenia, Croatia, Somalia, Algeria, Slovakia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,, Greece, Canada, Vietnam, Maldives, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Belgium, Jordan, São Tomé and Príncipe, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Tajikistan, Israel, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Finland, Malaysia, Syria, Afghanistan, Mauritius, Luxembourg, South Korea, Bangladesh, Nepal, Liechtenstein, Fiji, Libya, Iran, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Chile, Taiwan, Turkey, Djibouti, Argentina, Cambodia, India, Montenegro, Sri Lanka, Solomon Islands, Niger, Albania and Martinique.
    A hollow boast when you’re being beaten in number of gun deaths by Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and Lebanon, as examples.
    Dingo

  27. Thorne says

    Thorn – did you miss the bit about if all firearms disappeared from America tomorrow Even if all other weapons doubled in use the homicide rate would drop by 35.04%?

    Not sure why this was addressed to me (if it was). You posted those stats after my last post. But yes, I saw the stats, and I agree with your conclusions. I’m a firm believer in gun CONTROL, not elimination. It should be much more difficult to get a gun permit, even more difficult to get a concealed carry permit, and downright impossible to get automatic weapons. And I would even argue that (since guns don’t kill people, bullets do) it should be much harder to purchase ammunition. And much more expensive to buy both guns and ammunition.

  28. dingojack says

    Thorne – apologies both for misspelling your handle and attributing scienceavengers’ ‘ideas’ to you.
    I address mine #34 to scienceavenger.
    Dingo
    ——–
    BTW I think the results that scienceadvenger pointed to are wrong. The total homicide rate for Australia in 2010 was around 1.2 per 100000, the homicide rate using a firearm was around 0.27 per 100000. Comparatively America had about 3.5 times more homicides (or all types), and 10.5 times more homicides using a firearm. per hundred thousand, than Australia in 2010.

  29. kermit. says

    David Grossman in his books “On Killing” and “On Combat” examines the issues of
    1. How do we make sane people deliberately violent, but only under specified circumstances (i.e. soldiers and cops) and
    2. How do we as a society accidentally make people – especially young people – violent?

    It is his empirically-based opinion (I don’t have those books at hand right now, so cannot provide cites) that video games *do make people more violent. Mentally healthy people (not sociopaths) have a strong aversion against committing violence against other humans – even in wartime. The more removed and abstract the violence is, the easier it is to commit. It is harder to kill a man with a knife (even defending against a mugger) than it is to shoot him. It is harder to shoot him than it is to drop a bomb on him or shoot him via monitor and joysticks controlling a drone. It is harder to kill a man by drone than it is to vote for a president who says he will kill the scary brown people for you.

    Part of the process for a normal person to become capable of violence is to be violent, at least in lesser ways, such as virtually or by being violent to non-humans. Killing livestock for a farmer or at a slaughter house deconditions the antiviolent instinct to a measurable degree. And virtual killing, the more realistic the better, also helps. Playing paintball (it hurts! and it hurts your buddy!) and realistic first person shooters are used by many police departments nationwide to help their otherwise sane police officers handle violent episodes. Note especially that the police training games require the shooter to shoot only the correct people, or they lose points. We don’t want cops shooting just anybody. But that’s what you do in GTA….

    C’mon, folks, complaining that playing such games didn’t make you shoot your mom doesn’t mean that it doesn’t slide everybody to some degree toward violence. It just doesn’t show in people who aren’t already violent – or sociopathic, or otherwise not strongly attached to others, like the different kid who is bullied by others and defended by noone. I expect readers here to be more subtle.

    Of course there are people on the other side of this issue who disparage video games for the wrong reasons, and do not understand the difference between Civilization and Grand Theft Auto.

    We can’t argue about the right thing to do if we don’t discuss the facts.

  30. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    Yes, of course it seems reasonable to theorize that video games incline people towards violence.

    In the same way, and for the same reasons that it seems reasonable that vaccines might cause autism.

    People around here are fucking smarter about THAT, though.

    (Well, there’s probably some studies that support an association. So many people, with such fucking RELIGIOUS devotion that it MUST be so <a href="http://www.xkcd.com/882/"have been throwing studies against the wall so desperately for so long that it's completely unsurprising that SOMETHING sticks. Although most of those studies tend to have some pretty serious defects, as does the underlying this-space-reserved-for-theory, but let’s just ignore that….)

  31. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    We can’t argue about the right thing to do if we don’t discuss the facts.

    Was there a single actual FACT in your entire post rather than a bunch of “seems logicals” and “you can’t prove it ISN’T”s?

  32. says

    Opinions are divided, there are studies showing the negative impact of gaming on specific groups of children, and studies showing video games has no real negative impact. Personally I think the truth is at half, violence always exists because it is in human being, and we just can’t control it sometime.

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