The recent Oregon shooting had me browsing news articles, scouring for just a little more information, hoping to find the answer to everyone’s question “Why?”. I don’t know what to say about that case, other than I’m very sorry it happened. It’s horrific to even imagine.
I always end up in the comments section. Sometimes there are corrections, other sources, or even just commentary of the accuracy of the journalist. The comments section allows a collective response to a formerly very one-sided piece.
It wasn’t long before I saw several comments accusing video games of being a direct causation to this horror. It seems like human nature to search for answers. We hope there’s a clean cut explanation for every case. We’re trained by the rhythm of story structures and character arcs. We search for patterns like gestalts. To think one person would just hurt other people with zero justification or aggravation seems foreign to us, but if humans are anything, they’re unpredictable.
There are thousands of videos explaining the lack of peer-reviewed evidence on the subject of video games and aggression. Let’s think about it from a logical standpoint, though. If video games caused violent behavior, it would be a MUCH scarier world. Have you seen how many GameStops there are?
The often cited Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment is the reason many people worry about video game content. Essentially, Bandura took children and placed them in a room full of toys and an inflatable Bobo Doll. The kids were then shown a video of an adult woman hitting the inflatable doll with assorted objects in the room. Many of the children then emulated the behavior by hitting the Bobo doll, imitating the woman in the video. That experiment doesn’t apply to video games; it didn’t even use a video game. This was conducted a decade before Pong was even created!
A decade ago, Hillary Clinton decried “If you put it just really simply, these violent video games are stealing the innocence of our children.” A decade before that Joe Lieberman shared similar sentiments of youth corruption. A decade before that it was Tipper Gore and heavy metal music. Has society really been collapsing into decay?
Crime has been on a plunge in the past couple of years, while video games are played by 42% of Americans 3 or more hours per week. And when people aren’t playing, they’re watching. People view Twitch 16 billion minutes per month and that doesn’t even consider the incredible amount of gaming videos on YouTube, or even mention the increasing graphical capabilities, VR, and more immersive gameplay.
It’s just a silly accusation that video games inspire, encourage, or create violent, aggressive, or mentally unstable people. Rather than video games, Bandura’s study more accurately suggests that viewing violent imagery, for example a news report of a violent shooting, would inspire imitation. Watson’s Little Albert might even suggest that media coverage encourages and rewards real violent behavior, while simultaneously blaming the inanimate object, video game software.
So what effects do video games have?
Ohio State University found that games with “violent content” (it’s all 1’s and 0’s when you think about it. I’ve never met a violent 1 or 0. Though I’m not a big fan of math) don’t cause aggression but rather, increase cooperation between players. Further, University of Rochester found that action video games actually increase your ability to learn. They also found that playing games improved vision and reaction time. There’s also all of the fun you can have playing games with your friends and family.
Often it is alleged that games are a solo experience, but sales charts and industry trends suggest the opposite. In fact, there are several anti-troll, anti-grief, and anti-cheat mechanics implemented in many competitive multiplayer games. Not only is it expected that you play cooperatively and to the best of your ability, but that you will behave and not become a toxic burden on the community.
In my personal life I learned how to build and fix computers. I lost weight playing Dance Dance Revolution. I’ve made several friends from all over the world because I play online. And right now, I along with the rest of the Kingdom Games Team are employed by video games.
Violence has been a human problem since the existence of man; let’s not blame entertainment and art.
Your Most Humble Community Servant,
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