I’d like to take a moment and explore how media is portraying video games – in particular violent ones – in a bad light. When a tragic accident happens, which supposedly took place after the ‘gamer’ played a particular video game; the media are first on the scene to blame the accident on what was seen enacted within the game itself.
As an avid gamer, I enjoy playing a variety of genres from RPGs and MMOs – to Action and Strategy. I enjoy games that make you think to get passed a level. Games that will immerse you in their story and games that require stealth to take down your enemy. One genre I am personally not a particular fan of is first person shooters like Call of Duty and Battlefield. It isn’t because of their violent portrayal of wars (and futuristic wars) with guns and executions, but rather the controls do not appeal to me. Even at that, the games I do play have realistic violence associated with them. Take Assassins Creed as an example. This is primarily a stealth based game, requiring you to assassinate targets associated with the Templar Order. Although the assassinations themselves are quick and clean – when you are detected, you must fight to get away. The fighting sequences themselves are bloody, violent and fun (dare I say), but I know when playing them that it is fiction. I don’t brandish my own sword and slit people’s throats after playing – that would be downright psychotic.
I mentioned Assassins Creed for a reason. In one such tragedy, the media portrayed Assassins Creed 3 as the reason behind a father’s temper at his crying child. Ultimately, this temper went too far and he shook the child until she died. Instead of discussing the father’s mental state, they made reference to the fact that the TV was switched on at the time of the accident, with a PlayStation controller on the chair. When police arrived the TV was switched off, but the father later admitted he was playing Assassins Creed 3. It is this statement that suggests the game, and not the father’s wrong doing or inability to care for his child, was at fault. It is this type of coverage that grabs the attention of millions in order to try and establish a link that video games result in violence.
Another, more common, example would be Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and Call of Duty (COD) games. These games may, at times, be associated with certain gun related violence or vandalism etc. due to their nature and the effect that they have on younger children who play them. I am not insinuating that games are associated with these crimes on a continuous basis, since majority of the time these crimes happen without warning. What I am annoyed with is when children, who are not old enough to play 18 rated games, commit the acts of violence and the media are quick to jump on the ‘videogames are bad for kids’ bandwagon to establish that BECAUSE of the nature of the game; these children/young adults are compelled to act in a violent way.
I’m sorry, what? There is an AGE rating on games for a reason, just like there are age ratings on particular movies. If it is rated 18 or over, then it can be assumed the content is not suitable for a younger audience. Like the movie industry, videogames have to go through a rating system to ascertain the level of violence, sexual content etc. Then they are given an age rating. PARENTS are the ones purchasing games for anyone not old enough to earn money – so shouldn’t the blame for these sorts of accidents be placed on the parents? At least partially, if not all?
I’m not trying to pin the blame on anyone here. In fact, I sympathise with those affected by these tragic events. However, there is a fine line between assuming that video games have a direct effect on people’s mental state and actually proving this link. As I mentioned before, I am an avid gamer who enjoys a plethora of genres. I have been playing games since I was about 10 years old, and not once did I feel compelled to re-enact what I saw in the game I just played. My parents were at hand to monitor what games I played and the length of time I played them. As I got older, my friends helped me to get out and socialise, rather than stay in and feel like the gaming world IS the real world.
I think that instead of painting the videogame industry in a bad light, that it should be praised for providing many young children with the opportunity to develop their creative skills. Nintendo in particular, with Wii and Wii U, are very family orientated and have developed games around the family setting. With their unique game pad, they have released games that are fun, creative and generally happy for young gamers. Sony, Microsoft and all the game developers have also provided the world with challenging, fun and creative games which DO NOT have mindless violence associated with them. Some of these games include:
• Kinect Sports
• Family Game Night
• Trivial Pursuit
• Zelda Franchise
• Mario Franchise
• Wii Party/Wii Resort
• Guitar Hero
• Angry Birds
The list is endless. Games are developed for particular age groups. These family games are kid friendly and are not overly violent. Rather, they are challenging and actually help with some of the child’s mental development by challenging them to think through puzzles and overcome obstacles. Some games require drawing patterns, images and pictures, while others require general knowledge. Some of it is trial and error. Having the humility to fail and continue trying is a lesson that all young people should learn.
I’ve read many articles surrounding this ‘supposed’ link between videogames and violence/suicide. Not one has EVER produced concrete evidence to support these claims. Although some of them have examined the relationship, they don’t necessarily implicate the games as triggers. You cannot publish a paper on The Big Bang without proving your theories and providing sufficient evidence to support your hypothesis. Why is it, that when videogames are the topic of discussion that anything the media or influential speakers say becomes the truth? Why is that any different to saying a man is guilty of murder, just because he was found beside the victim with no evidence to support he did it?
Contrary to studies of the impact from films and violence, the studies carried out of video games have found that people experience catharsis effects, equilibrium effects or their aggressive tendencies are significantly decreased. It was also found that children who played violent videogames show less defensive or aggressive behaviour, but became more assertive and experienced more need-persistent fantasies than children who played non-violent games. No studies have PROVEN any long-term effects.
So what does this mean? What it means is that children and adults who play violent video games are less susceptible to becoming aggressive and experience calming effects. This might be the situation where if you are angry, you would rather scream and shout than bottle it up inside. Violent video games do not make people violent, and I think the media should stop portraying that as a causational factor for certain tragedies – which coincidentally – may have happened after playing video games. Instead, they should focus primarily on two factors:
• The mental state of people who play videogames; are they aware of their surroundings, do they live in the gaming world rather than the real world, did they have problems with depression and/or anger management in the past?
• The parents who buy 18 and 15 rated games for their children. Children, especially during their teenage years, are highly influenced by their surroundings, family situations and what they do in the privacy of their own rooms. More often than not, it is the other situations that might make them violent or feel depressed or contemplate suicide and NOT the videogames they play. It has been proven that violent films effect and often triggers violent behaviours, mainly due to their realism, whereas, videogames are clearly set in a completely different world.
It is the coincidental factor that the media and others against the video game industry exploit. Until there is a proven causational link that video games trigger violence, this group should stop blaming something that doesn’t exist.