Monday, 30 January 2012

Violence and Scapegoats

One of the biggest controversies that surrounds gaming, and has done more or less since its inception, is the violence present in a large number of its games. The worry is that this violence has a negative effect on society, most specifically on younger people. I am not going to argue that games aren’t violent, even many casual games contain some form of violence, but I do feel that often there is an over-reaction to the violence, much like there is an over-reaction to the effect certain types of music may have on people.

Two of the most commonly cited games for their violence are Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, both are hugely successful, widely known series played by millions of people of varying ages all over the world, both carry hefty age ratings and warnings for violence and both are, undeniably, extremely violent. Really there are two questions I want to ask. Firstly, do violent video games make people more violent? And secondly is it not and should it not be the parents responsibility to judge whether or not a game might affect their child negatively?
Some say its the root of all evil.

I have been playing video games since I was about six years old and have been playing violent video games since I was about eight years old; I am now eighteen years old and am at university still playing (and now even writing!) about violent games. I hope that I am quite a well-adjusted and civilised person, I have only ever had one fight, and it wasn’t exactly a life threatening duel, and as far as I can be sure I have never gutted someone with a chainsaw a la Grand Theft Auto, nor I have gunned someone down with an M16 as you see happen so often in Call of Duty. Obviously though I am only one person so I’ll give some other examples of people that I know. I can think of over two dozen people that I know personally, and countless people that they know, who have been playing violent video games since a young age and, surprise, surprise, they aren’t violent either. It would seem that most sane people, be they young or old, are able to tell the difference between violence in video games being ok and going a killing spree in real life being bad.

But what about the children? Whilst I personally wouldn’t let my children play Grand Theft Auto at the age of eight, I was allowed to (to my parents credit I may have done it without them knowing – I honestly can’t remember) and it has not had a negative impact on my personality that I or anyone else has ever been made aware of. There are however certain cases of violence that have been caused by games. There are a minority of stories where someone copied the killer from Manhunt, or killed someone because of Grand Theft Auto but, let’s be clear, these are exceptionally rare and no more common or severe than violence induced by sport, or shopping or even love. It seems the only reason the scale of such instances is blown worryingly out of proportion is because certain well-to-do know it all people want some sort of scapegoat to use to make themselves look like saints. Aren’t they really missing the point?
Statistically more vioelnce inducing than games. Maybe we should ban it?

Games might make some people grow up to be violent so it is up to the parents to regulate what their children do and don’t play and at what age they play it, of course this isn’t perfect, every parent is going to make mistakes and sometime their children will play games that aren’t suitable, but that doesn’t mean all children who play violent games will turn into aggressive, hate filled sociopaths. Yes there will be a few cases of violence caused by video games, but there will be just as many cases of violence caused by other things. Sadly people need to except that violence is a part of human nature and although it should certainly be discouraged there are some cases where we just need to accept it is inevitably going to happen, regardless of how you try to create a scapegoat for it.  


  1. I was not allowed any underage games when I was under 18 due to have younger brothers and sisters. I was so envious of a lot of my friends who were able to play a wide variety of games I was left dreaming about. The only way I got round this was playing at my mates houses. I still felta bit bad about going behind my folks backs but hey I had to do something. I think if you are shown told what is right and what is wrong on the whole we all grow up not too bad. yes there will be those who dont but I dont think games or films for that matter are to blame.

  2. I think you have to grade your games so people know the age group they are intaended for. If they are under 18 then yes parents should be involved.Do they add to violence, if you are 50+ the answer is gonna be yes, if you're 30 - 50 the answer may be maybe. If your younger than this well you have more of an open mind.
    Doesn't it come down to knowing right from wrong?
    PS I luv grand theft auto

  3. Right and wrong pretty much sums it up yeah and if you're a decent/sane person then you can distinguish between the two when it comes to games and violence.

  4. Interesting thoughts here.

    Gotta come down to whats right and wrong and if your one of the many good guys out there it'll be ok

  5. Whether it be games, films (even toys, books etc )I think you need to grade them in order that people know the age group they are intended for. If they are under 18 then I do think parental guidance needs to be there and they should be involved.

    It does come down to right and wrong but people need to be aware.