My thanks to Jonathan Heier for giving me the idea that inspired this post. Now go follow him, OR ELSE!
In this statistics-filled article from Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs blog, Beth Winegarner discusses the history of the legislature banning the sales of M-rated games to minors. She also cites numerous studies and their findings on the ever-touted link between violence and video games.
Although her article has a slant towards the positive (she mentions none of the studies that did find a correlation between violence and video games and provides no links to the studies), it contains a lot of good information that is not normally mentioned in the news about violence and games.
Statistics and studies
Perhaps most surprising to me was the fact that the FTC’s secret-shopper surveys found that the video game industry has a high enforcement rate (much higher than the movie and music industries in the same study) of their voluntary ratings.
Least surprising were the results of the study showing neutral correlation between violence and video games. All of us that play violent video games know that it did not turn us into violent killers. I know many people who just liked to play for fun, and I know a few people who, like me, played to escape stress for a while.
I would even go so far as to say that any studies showing that violent video games DO have a correlation to aggression (contrary to what news reports would have you believe, these studies tested for aggression, not violence, which could be as bad as yelling at someone or snatching a Pop-Tart out of your cousin’s hand) may not take into consideration the fact that aggressive people are more likely to play violent video games versus non-violent video games, which would skew the results of many surveys.
I have always played violent games. My mother kept good track of what TV shows and music I listened to (we were banned from having rap in the house, and she covered my eyes during the male flashing scene in Braveheart) but video games were unknown territory to her. I got away with playing games as violent as I wanted. Just as the youngsters in Beth’s argument mentioned: I knew my limits. I didn’t play scary games, because they were scary. I didn’t play (and still don’t play) realistic shooting games, because I don’t like guns.
I do, however, love fighting games. I played Bushido Blade, Mortal Kombat, War Gods, Tekken, etc. During that same time period, I read books about people fighting (usually orcs or elves or something like that), played dress-up as a super strong swordswoman running around the land killing people (I was a bad guy a little more often than I was a good guy) and fawned over shows like Xena and movies like The Red Sonja. I also got into numerous fights, begged to be allowed to box and, eventually, when I grew up, I began to do Muay Thai.
So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did my aggression make me like violent video games? Did violent video games make me aggressive? Or was it simply stress relief? Was it my mother’s fault for not understanding what was going on when she looked at video games? Would it have mattered if she stopped me?
What about you?
What do you think? Should M-ratings be legally controlled instead of voluntarily monitored? Should parents not let children play M games? Does it matter? Is the answer 42?