Video Games and Violence – It Makes Me So Angry

One of the usual arguments against video games is that they lead to violent behaviour. Several well-known cases of copycat killings do not make the rule. But is there a rule?

A 2004 article in The Guardian shed a little more light on the subject:

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said there was no evidence directly linking the playing of games with violent behaviour.

But some disagree, most notably Craig Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State University who has published a succession of studies making that link. “Violent video games are significantly associated with increased aggressive behaviour,” he says. “High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and violent criminal behaviour.”

I am not particularly keen on using statistics in arguments. Statstics can be found, used and abused in any discussion: Statistics can support any argument. So, with some hesitance, I enter the discussion.

A (perhaps too) simple question to ask is: If violence in video games is making people more violent, then shouldn’t violent crime rates have increased in tact with the growing number of people playing (violent) games?

According to the Home Office Statistical Bulletin – Crime in England and Wales 2008/09 (page 23), a summary of trends in crime shows this not to be the case. Violent and vehicle-related theft hit a peak in 1995; Since then both of these crimes have decreased year by year, until 2008, where they levelled off. Interestingly, one of the video game industry’s most influentual consoles hit the market a year before the violent crime peak: Sony’s PlayStation.

Perhaps my short time looking into this entry has meant that I have missed something major, or that I am misinterpreting the figures. There is surely some counter argument to my counter argument, and I am just as sure that there is a counter argument to the counter argument to my counter argument. I imagine that people will continue to have their opinions about video games, and it will take a long time – if it ever happens – to change public opinion.

Our earlier quoted Dr Craig A Anderson has some words to the wise, to help protect us from video game hell:

How can you tell if a video game is potentially harmful?

1. Play the game, or have someone else demonstrate it for you.

2. Ask yourself the following 6 questions:
* Does the game involve some characters trying to harm others?
* Does this happen frequently, more than once or twice in 30 minutes?
* Is the harm rewarded in any way?
* Is the harm portrayed as humorous?
* Are nonviolent solutions absent or less “fun” than the violent ones?
* Are realistic consequences of violence absent from the game?

3. If two or more answers are “yes,” think very carefully about the lessons being taught before allowing your child access to the game.

N:B: At the end of writing this entry, I found a scarily similar article on GameRevolution, the difference being that figures and statistics were taken from the mighty U.S.A.