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No, Your PS3 Is Not Making You Crazy

February 15, 2013

by J. Andrew Zalucky

angry-video-game-nerd

I’ve argued a couple of times, once in my rant against censorship, and again in my article on the Sandy Hook massacre, that the scapegoating of violent video games and other media is unjustified and misguided. Some people, particularly those in the media, will often say that if a young man constantly plays violent video games and watches violent movies, there must be some effect on his behavior and consciousness. I do not deny this, and as someone who’s played plenty of violent video games and seen plenty of horror movies, there is no denying that exposure and immersion in this type of media can get you very riled up. But this does not mean that there is causation between the popularity of violent media and overall violence in society.

In fact, a recent New York Times article makes the opposite point:

The proliferation of violent video games has not coincided with spikes in youth violent crime. The number of violent youth offenders fell by more than half between 1994 and 2010, to 224 per 100,000 population, according to government statistics, while video game sales have more than doubled since 1996.

So is the problem the games themselves? Or is it much more likely due to obsessive behavior on the part of the individual? How do we account for the innumerable instances of children who grew up playing video games and turned out fine? I don’t have all the data in front of me, but I can make a few assertions from my own experience. What it essentially comes down to is guidance and honesty on the part of parents that imposes reasonable limitations on kids until they reach a certain level of maturity, and the ability of those parents to make the understanding of fantasy vs. reality clear to their children. Of course, the onus inevitably falls on the individual to grow and mature and be able to say, “Ok, this game is pretty sweet, but I think 2 hours is enough for now.”

The persistent urge to blame violent media for the ills of society is nothing more than a dodge of real questions of mental health. It comes from the desire of those who see things about modernity they dislike, and choose to throw their alienation on the face of larger forces of culture like music, film, and gaming. As Ronald Bailey put it in his recent article in Reason, “Killing pixels is no more a cause of juvenile crime than reading comics turned out to be.”

Anyway, as it is the weekend, I feel obligated to share something a little uplifting. And in the spirit of that, I leave you with this TED lecture presented Steven Pinker, on how violence has declined in recent centuries. I particularly like how it challenges the assumption that pre-civilized society was some sort of hippy-esque Eden of love and understanding:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check on the release date on Rome II: Total War.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2013 3:11 pm

    Right, there is no causation between violent media and the urge to act on that violence.

    The people who point as the hyper-violence in our media as the culprit for gun-related violence are off their marks and have an agenda: to deviate the discussion from the proliferation of guns in this country (300 MILLIONS registered handguns in this country; insane by any standard not utilized to gauge a war zone).

    However, the same folks who point at violence in the media as the sole reason (or the main reason) behind violent urges bring up an interesting point: why are we so obsessed with violence?

    Violent movies, violent video-games, violent books, violent TV newscasts, violent news article all desensitize the real horrors of violence. When you blow up a guy to smithereens in a video-game, you don’t have to deal with the smell of death, with the horrors of having to pick pieces of an exploded human being. You don’t have to deal with the rush of emotion that comes from the inflicting violence on another human being.

    Instead, this hyper-violent media normalizes violence as an act that’s almost banal, mundane. It’s true that violence is part of human nature but why glorify? How come 10 out of the 14 best-selling games in 2012 involved killing pixelated “bad guys?” Wouldn’t we profit more from a culture that emphasizes on the arts, intellectualism, and science? It’s already very hard to talk intellectually about war because there is nothing intellectual about it: violence rarely (if ever) solves anything — please keep your misguided and misunderstood views of WWII and the Nazis, I don’t to hear about it.

    Anyways, I do agree that there is no correlation between violent video-games and violent acts. But let’s not keep glorifying this culture of hyper-violence that brainwashes us into believing what we know constitutes or doesn’t constitute as violence.

    • February 15, 2013 3:21 pm

      Definitely some interesting points there worth exploring in another article- thanks for reading! If you like what you see here, don’t forget to follow us on FB and Twitter!

    • Tristram permalink
      February 16, 2013 12:05 am

      The popularity of violent media may be (I’m not an expert) due to the sources of modern cultures. I would expect cultures that are more willing to accept/idolize violence would be much better at surviving generation to generation while other cultures would be wiped out by the more violent ones. As I said I’m not an expert, this is just armchair speculation, but it would be nice to hear from an expert.

  2. PJK permalink
    February 16, 2013 8:39 am

    http://cthealthcentral.com/?p=2163

    Legislators heard testimony Thursday challenging the link between violent video games and mass killings. A Texas professor said the state should not waste efforts on a video game task force in the wake of the Newtown shooting, although lawmakers cited studies that showed increased aggression in game players.

  3. February 20, 2013 8:44 am

    Awesome article.

Trackbacks

  1. Oh, and Tarantino is not Making You Crazy Either | For the Sake of Argument

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