It is intrinsically linked to video games and how we play them. Oftentimes, the whole point of a videogame or really any media is to see how our stomachs can handle how much blood is on the screen. It has always had its detractors with news pundits and other sources of concern always saying that videogames are making people more violent. Well, it’s been literally decades since that claim and we have tons of data. What does it all say?
Most studies say it does almost nothing but should be looked into further. There will hopefully be a list of some of my sources online.
So much for the scientific method— Please listen to science and not some random pissants online for your medical inquiries. Seriously, what the fuck? So most of the conversation regarding the studies seem to tout both positives and negatives for playing video games but, more importantly, is the kind of games that they discuss. They say that generally, an increase of aggression does not happen but does for specific genres of video games, most notably, online multiplayer games.
The study I refer to here is, “The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence,” which looks into how competitive video games affect the people that play them. The most noteworthy data picked up from this study states that while video games in general don’t induce violence, the competition that comes from video games like online shooters or really any online environment like, “Mario Party,” does induce an increase of aggression. Almost any competitive setting will do that, video games or not. The study even says at the end that the video games shouldn’t be studied, but the effects of competition in video games should.
Even studies that say that video games cause violence have enough asterisks that they could fill the night sky with them. They always skirt the line into actually claiming that the video games themselves make an individual more aggressive. Some even say that video games of any nature can act as a therapeutic source of comfort rather than bloodlust. However, none of that actually matters to the people who believe that it’s a source of extreme violence.
While it’s a touchy subject, it has to be addressed that school shootings are not caused by video games. That is so stupid that I wish it could be left at that but, more importantly, is the kinds of games these people played. From “DDR” to “World of Warcraft,” none of these games are really what a normal person would consider violent but that’s why it is rarely brought up. In particular “Dance Dance Revolution,” it’s laughable. Adam Lanza, the school shooter of Sandy Hook was aggressive, violent — and most importantly for our story — an avid video game player who played tons of video games, often four or five hours a day. The news media at the time identified this as definitive proof that violent video games make people violent. At the time, many news sources reported on his love for video games and how long he played them. What they rarely mentioned was what he played. It would completely shatter their narrative and therefore couldn’t bring up that his favorite game was “Dance Dance Revolution.” Not to say that news sources didn’t try. Some did, in fact, bring up the game and made claims that this should put “Dance Dance Revolution” into question as a source of violence. Adam Lanza is a monster. Simply put, his aggression and contempt for the school had nothing to do with games but his irrational hatred of the place that he believes ruined his life. It’s more of an indictment of the way he was raised, rather than the very normal hobbies that he partook in.
Video games in general have had a checkered history with violence. It came ahead when a game used its violent themes and visuals to cause a moral stir to raise awareness for their new project.
“Hatred” was an isometric top-down shooter with an emphasis on shooter. You play as a generic man who has so much hatred (ha) for the world at large that we would personally lower the population one bloodsoaked boot at a time. It was comically violent with intensely graphic images of people getting mauled by this man. News outlets at the time covered it as they usually did but, frankly, this time I don’t blame them. This game was practically daring anyone to come out and defend it. And defending it people did, causing yet another moral panic giving the game a ton of exposure to groups of people that wouldn’t have even known of the game’s existence if not for their marketing.
The game itself was considered lower than average with clunky controls and terrible AI. Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, creator of “Zero Punctuation,” mocked the game’s general lack of polish and quality saying that the game could be a positive message that shootings aren’t worth it. Others lambasted it for it’s obvious baiting of the news media to cover it as the next violent step for video games. Nowadays the game itself is hardly covered besides this reason.
As long as the strategy works, there is no reason for people not to do this. Dead Space did a similar marketing campaign bringing in conservative women to watch gameplay for their new game and showing their shocked expressions on screen for the world to see.
The actual cause of violence isn’t the games, but the competitive nature of the person who plays it. That increase in aggression can come from literally anywhere that individual expresses passion or interest. It’s hardly something to consider an issue exclusively related to video games. That’s why people should focus on more wide-scale social issues that are scientifically known to cause issues like this instead of something like video games causing violence. God, imagine if someone made parallels like that for other things.
Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major. EP909756@wcupa.edu