Column: Video Games ≠ Violence

Chris Bower

Illustration from The Columbian. Do violent video games cause real life acts of aggression? This illustration shows the flaming anger that some say is caused by games.

Parents often scold their children for playing violent video games. But how much of this scolding is really necessary?

Many times we have heard that playing these types of games will cause the player to become more violent in real life.

I’ve played “Call of Duty” and “Assassin’s Creed”, both rated “M” games who carry the “violent” moniker. Am I now going to go shoot a whole bunch of people? I’m not, for a variety of reasons.

One is that I simply don’t get angry that much. I’m not hot tempered in most respects. It’s just not my personality.
The other is that the video games  don’t affect us as much as the media says.

Yes, studies have shown that playing these do make for more aggressive behavior in the short term, but nothing so extreme as a elementary school massacre.

The people who commit these heinous acts aren’t just avid gamers. They have a serious mental problem. With all due respect, they aren’t normal.

Another study (described in the New York Times) tracked the connections between violent video game sales and crime rates.

First off, there is a reverse connection between the rise and fall of the two items. Crimes often hit their high in the summer time, while game sales spike in the winter, because of the holidays. Second, there were instances when sales went up but crime went down.

Case in point: “between 1994 and 2010, the number of violent youth offenders fell by more than half… While video game sales have more than doubled since 1996” (New York Times).

There is the idea that partially explains why crime rates go down.
It says that those who play the games are using them as an outlet for the aggression, not taking it out on society. I, for one quite like that idea. It nicely wraps up the counter-intuitive trends we’ve been seeing.

So what’s the final take away here? Yes, playing violent video games can make for short term aggression. There are other factors in play in extreme crimes. A mental condition or a social situation.

But the “Call of Duty” battlefield alone is not enough to spark a mass killing. It just won’t happen on that alone.