Wednesday 31 August 2005

Does Video Game Violence Lead To Real Life Violence?

I am an avid gamer. I have played many video games that feature fantasized violence and stimulated killing of in game characters. In recent years, much media attention has been paid on linking video game violence to real life violence, especially in teenagers and young adults who are the primary consumers of video games. Reports of real life teenage and gang shootings have repeatedly cast blame on violent video games because of their potential to desensitize gamers to the murdering of human beings.

Scientific studies that attempt to establish a linkage between video game violence and real life violence have so far been inconclusive, and it is doubtful that a study can ever be done to conclusively confirm or refute this association. Even in cases where the accusers have claimed that the murders have been directly inspired by violent video games, isolated examples such as these cannot be used to establish an epidemiological association between video game violence and real life violence. A recent example is the highly publicized murder of three police officers in Alabama, US by a teenager who later confessed that he was inspired to kill after playing Grand Theft Auto from Rockstar Games. This is because it is not possible to exclude other factors that may be the true underlying causes of violent behaviors in these individuals or other factors that may confound the relationship between the two phenomena of interest.

We should be reminded that long before video games existed, classic works of literature also existed that were filled with stories of violence and murder. If we are to cast blame on video games, then we must also cast blame on these works of literature for promoting violence in our society. The fault thus lies not on whether violence should be portrayed but on whether violence is portrayed responsibly. If violence is accurately portrayed with due moral consequences, then individuals who are exposed may also absorb the moral value that keeps them from acting irresponsibly, regardless of the medium where the violence is portrayed. Blame should not be cast only on individuals who have committed the murderous act in real life; blame may also need to be cast on game publishers that choose to sell video games that portray violence in an irresponsible fashion.

By Philip Jong • At 11:23 AM • Under Column • Under Life • Under Play • Under Tech
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