I really did think this topic had been put to bed in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. However, after another round of school shootings in America, games have once again been put on the front line as the cause.
If you look at the reasoning behind it, you can see why. It’s an easy scapegoat to fall upon with logic such as ‘Violent things must make people violent’. This, however, is a flawed understanding of gamers in general and how people deal with violence. How one person deals with such things will not be the same as another.
Gamers, in general, are more akin to problem solvers — interested in resolving the obstacles and tactics that let them get to the gore aspect of the game. Even with the most realistic and brutal of games, you often find players researching tactics and surveying the game’s world, then bathing in the blood of a fallen enemy. Non-gamers fail to appreciate it is often the ‘non-violent journey aspect’, not the prize (as this too soon become mundane) that keeps gamers coming back.
That is not to say there isn’t some minor truth to it, as video games can promote a relationship with violence — just not in the way politicians would like you to believe. Who hasn’t seen threats and harassment of developers and critics over social media, game lobbies filled with highly charged opinions and an increase in the number doxing to the streaming community? However, this is not a problem restricted to video games. Any large-scale media consumed by the public has faced such challenges, and we can often see this in relation to films.
But let’s get back to video games, specifically. The non-gaming community believes that gamers who play violent games enjoy the brutal, gore-drenched content in the same way a drug addict needs another hot fix from their drug of choice. It is seen as an endorphin-riddled craze which will only end up with one outcome. When the games of choice no longer give them what they need, the player must find an alternative, and therefore the only thing that would ever come close is real violence.
And why should any non-gamer dispute this, when even large organizations such as the American Psychological Association continue to believe this is the case? However, there is more scepticism these days; a group of 238 scholars in 2016 asked the association to retire its ‘outdated and problematic statements on video-game violence’. With studies from the last thirty years still disputing the link and gamers becoming older with evidence of violence not being promoted, this may well be the last time this subject is brought up as a viable conclusion.
Some professors now suggest that violent video games may help reduce societal violence rather than increase it. ‘Basically, by keeping young males busy with things they like’ — this would include everything from playing sports and collecting stamps to playing first-person-shooter video games — ‘you keep them off the streets and out of trouble,’ said Christopher Ferguson, an associate professor at Stetson University.
Still, the question has been raised again. Do violent video games play a part in creating real-life violence, such as the various school shootings? The overwhelming studies and research suggest that at best, there is a minor link with aggression, but it is not the main cause. However, variables such as society’s influence, individual experiences and personal afflictions will with no doubt in my mind play a bigger part in promoting violence that video games will ever do. Perhaps any real attraction to virtual violence isn’t the cause, but the effect of something baser?
Featured Image: Violent Games, by Rob Smith Jr