“Video games are bad for you? That’s what they said about rock n’ roll.” -Shigeru Miyamoto
via Asking Big Questions #006: “Do video games cause violence?” —
The Well-Red Mage has asked another Big Question: do video games cause violence?
In modern society, there’s a mentality from authority figures that video games lead to violence. But the truth is that video games are just the anxiety of the moment. There were plenty of “scares” before video games, and each of them took the same form. It was only the medium that was different. If you can see the pattern, it all suddenly unravels. Horror films used to be the subject of parental scrutiny for their mature content and disturbing subject matter, despite the fact that those horror films were expressing anxiety over the problems of the time in which they were made. Before horror films, it was comic books that were accused of leading to a rise in juvenile delinquency and also homosexuality. Now it’s video games that are seducing the innocent, despite children being at much more actual risk of conditioning from the cultist status of popular YouTube content creators with their branded merchandise, catchphrases and named collectives.
How does this happen? The same way as always – politicians and pressure groups creating scapegoats because it’s easier to construct artificial narratives than to think about the actual problems in society that are too difficult to solve all at once.
It’s easier to believe that it’s someone else’s fault, because then there’s no complicity or reason to feel guilty. When people don’t want to accept their flaws, they blame other people and institutions. And in the long term, society becomes armed against itself until we stop thinking of each other as individuals, and become more tribal. As we become more aware than ever of our ability for self-destruction, we recede further within ourselves. As far as we need to in order to make ourselves believe that we aren’t all part of a shared big picture.
When society is traumatised by the latest outbreak of insanity, that trauma can be difficult to deal with. And so we accuse others, make ourselves into victims and blame individuals. We want revenge. People have been taken from us. We’re getting sick of endless shootings. We pick something that can’t fight back. Blaming video games for violence is the equivalent of kicking a car’s tyres. It doesn’t accomplish anything, but it makes us feel better.
That’s why I understand the way that video games are misunderstood. People are upset. They’re not pretending that there isn’t a problem. It’s just the conclusion that doesn’t make sense, because it follows the same patterns of baseless accusations as outcries against comic books and horror films.
Video games are a global medium. They can bring people together, from a great number of countries and cultures. They can be a starting point for further relationships. They create a virtual space where the world can meet itself. If video games caused violence, then it wouldn’t only be America where school shootings are a frequent occurrence.
(On a personal note, I’ve never understood the contradiction between blaming violent video games for violence but praising them for representing patriotic values.)
The Global Peace Index ranks Iceland as the most peaceful nation in the world. Iceland is also the home of CCP Games, developers of the EVE games, which involve player-versus-player combat. If video games caused violence, EVE Online would’ve been responsible for all those mass shootings and high crime levels that Iceland doesn’t have.
There’s no scientific evidence of a connection between playing video games and being violent, despite numerous tests.
Therefore, blaming video games for violence is a rejection of facts, statistics and also common sense. That’s why it’s bad for society; because no society can develop if it ignores scientific method and objective, unbiased studies.
Obviously, this is apart from the fact that not all video games are about violence. Part of my review of Driver (yes, that again) was about the way in which it made me feel as if I really were in a car chase, but I’m actually a very timid driver.
Does Driver glamorise dangerous driving? Well, yeah. But that’s only in my opinion. The only real way to fail apart from time limits is to wreck the car, and that’s pretty much inevitable. So to some, Driver may be a danger simulator representing the consequences of dangerous driving. If a person looks at a violent video game and assumes that the violence is being glamorised, then that’s a lack of experience with the medium they’re ignorantly criticising. And if they really do think that video game violence is glamorous, then that’s a deeper problem with them.
The mass hysteria of video games as leading to violence isn’t just incorrect: it’s a witch hunt, based on lack of critical thought caused by knee-jerk reactions, of something which is easy to blame, because that’s more desirable than spending a long time thinking complexly about the real issues, which make us uncomfortable.
For instance: do violent video games create violent people, or attract them? Because the lack of evidence for the former implies the latter. But that’s not a very nice think to think about, because it acknowledges a greater problem: that these people are already amongst us, and that they are the way they are for no reason.
The lack of correlation backs that up. But instead, we think against all logic and reasoning in order to create a reality that doesn’t exist, because it’s easier for us to psychologically cope with.