Game Culture, Play

Violence and the Video Game

Recently Regina tweeted about violent video games being a catalyst for the spree killings we have the misfortune of suffering from time to time in the United States. Let me clarify. She didn’t say that violent video games cause this. She was actually stating that this is not the case. I agree. 

Some would argue that our society has become more prone to violence in recent years. Some would say that all you need to do is look at the news and you will see the proof. Often in the media they state or imply that a connection exists between playing violent games and actual violence. However, to date, as far as I can tell, there has not been definitive study proving one way or the other this is the case. I believe it’s a facile argument used to boost ratings and as a tool for groups who have an anti-videogame stance. 

It comes down to numbers for me. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports violence in the United States has actually been on the decline since the early 1990s. This is interesting to me because the decline in violence began at a period in video game history when the First Person Shooter genre had major hits with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. In fact, the decline in violence has been continuous since that time and has managed to continue in the face of increasingly violent and visceral games. 

Think of it another way. There are literally millions of people in the U.S. that play violent video games. If violent video games were the cause of spree killings, there would probably be at least one every day. But this was not the case in 2012. There were four. I think everyone would agree that it was four too many, but to lay the entirety of blame at the door step of the video game industry is absurd. 

I would argue that the reason that violence seems so predominant is because here, in the U.S., we have our faces shoved in it by media outlets constantly. Sensationalistic media, that rather than just report the news, looks to put some sort of spin on it to boost ratings. Unfortunately, the typical U.S. citizen nowadays seems to eat it up. 

The simple fact is violence is a part of the human condition. A part that I don’t believe is going to go away any time soon. Until we as a species find a way to evolve past it, it will continue to be so. No amount of pointing fingers will change that.


“Remember the Athenians.”

2 thoughts on “Violence and the Video Game”

  1. Absolutely agree with you, Mark. Violence has always been inherent in human society. It's difficult to point to film, TV or games as the culprit when one merely has to look into history for a far bloodier reality of human existence. I remember writing a screed against Jack Thompson when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. I've lost that bit of writing, but the feeling behind it still stands. Targeting games takes the focus off of the actual issues at hand, and merely serves as a convenient scapegoat for rating attraction. Games have many positive points, and I imagine 99% of the people who play them don't go on rampages.
    Nice article, Mark. 🙂

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