A friend pushed me in the direction of a couple of interesting statistics. Since Doom was released in 1993, violent crimes in the United States have to 40% of what they used to be. Coincidence? Possibly, yes. However, the year Quake and Duke Nukem 3D were released, violent crimes fell by 4%, and a further 2% when Grand Theft Auto was released.
I don’t take that as mere coincidence. A simple Google search brings up countless articles citing experiments and analysis on how a child’s mind gets affected by the violence and gore in video games. Here’s an excerpt from one I particularly liked:
Studies measuring emotional responses to playing violent video games (compared with emotional responses to non-violent games) have shown that violent games increase aggressive emotions. Adolescents themselves often seem to recognize this. When asked to name the “bad things” about computer games, many students reported that they make people more moody and aggressive (Griffiths & Hunt, 1998). In this study, students who were more “addicted” to video games were significantly more likely to be in a bad mood before, during, and after play than were non-addicted students.
Is this the critics of the video game industry’s dirty little secret? An interesting analogy is the United States national drinking age, known to be higher than most countries in the world. Why? It’s easy to justify based on the fairly blatant statistics: in 2005, the total of people killed in alcohol related car accidents has fallen 32% since 1984 (the year the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed). While I realize the opposition to the act is strong and convincing (I believe it should be 18), it is difficult for the government to argue against such strong statistics. If Jack Thompson were to provide me with such strong statistics, maybe I would be inclined to agree with him a little more.
Understand that I do take all statistics with a grain of salt—I haven’t looked into the methods of collecting data, the reliability of my sources’ source etc., but it raises interesting questions nonetheless. Why do critics of video game violence focus on this so much? The devastation of a child’s mind is one of the major talking points of most of these studies. I personally feel the authors who write the reports should be working somewhere else: there seems to be a great use of emotive language to compel mothers and people like Jack Thompson to stop people from having fun.
Let’s talk about the kids for a moment. Or not: the average game player is 33 years old, and the average game buyer is 40 years old. In computer games, 93% of gamers are over the age of 18. Console gamers follow closely at 83%. The source has a great list of interesting statistics—I don’t want to list every one—which are well worth a read.
I’m not saying that the 7% of gamers under the age of 18 (87% of whom get their parents’ permission to play those games anyway) aren’t important enough that they don’t deserve the respect of being looked after, but it seems to be that the whole critics movement is based around blowing their analyzes way out of proportion. Social critic J. C. Herz puts it brilliantly:
That’s what we do in America: glorify autonomous individualists. What else would we possibly glorify? The autonomous collective? One can only imagine the kind of arcade game that would pass muster with the leather-elbow-patch set (leap over the running dogs of capitalism, liberate the oppressed proletariat, and accumulate enough petition power to defeat the evil Murdoch). (Herz, Joystick Nation, 1997).
At the end of the day, (as the Virginia Tech. shootings taught us), some people are just messed up in the head. I think it’s a bigger leap to say that a criminal’s behavior is the cause of playing violent video games than to say that Doom started a shift in the climate of the United States (and probably the world over) in reducing violent crimes.
What do you think?