“Violence and video games has been an argument since… well, ever,” Drraagh comments and chuckles, “It really grew into newsworthy status with people like Jack Thompson when he went against the Grand Theft Auto games. However, most recently, there was a Illinois teen who had a judge declare that he was not allowed to play violent video games after making comments about a school shooting. The judge even stated the teen could play all the Mario Kart they want. My issues with this are many, but I will focus on only a few key points that this decision is bringing around possibly.”
Drraagh shakes his head and looks around the room, turning to his window. “The first thing that gets to me is that if we believe that video games are art, and both the US Supreme Court and the US National Endowment for the Arts consider it, then what this judge has done is limited what art forms this youth can be exposed to. Are we going to have wings of the history museums cordoned off by theme or content, like in Demolition Man where they have the Hall of Violence, a visual representation of the primitive behavior prevalent during the late 20th century, with all sorts of weapons located in a maximum-security armory exhibit. With that, we could put age limits on the type of art children can see, like are we going to limit access to Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2’ perhaps because it it of a nude even though it is completely tame compared to even pictures in Sports Illustrated?”
“Of course, the sale of access to adult movies and magazines and similar are limited by age, but then alcohol is also limited by age and over half of the states have laws allowing exposure within family home wand presence of a family member. It is no more illegal under current laws for an adult to buy a game and then let a young child play it, any more than it is to let an adult buy a pornographic magazine for their child or, as I said, buying alcohol for their child and letting them drink in their home. So, we start getting into a kind of murky area when we talk about rights with parental consent.”
“Some will argue that parents don’t know about video games and are not involved in their children’s playing of it, and I can agree that this generation is likely to be the last generation that will have little to no experience with gaming. The children of the current children will know at least something of gaming. It then becomes a question of will they be involved. Life just keeps getting busier so we don’t have time to get involved in their lives. We might end up with situations like in the UK with the Nantwitch Educational Partnership, a group of 16 schools, that sent out a letter to parents including a statement that read:
“If your child is allowed to have inappropriate access to any game or associated product that is designated 18+, we are advised to contact the police and children’s social care as this is deemed neglectful.”
“The second point,” Drraagh says as he walks towards the desk, pulling his chair out to take a seat, “How are they going to regulate the access this child has to video games. If the parents are not going to be involved, are we looking into monitoring activities. Since the guy could create a new username for Xbox or Playstation, they can’t just monitor his play records, same with Steam so forth. So, is this going to be a mod that they install to his system? We probably won’t hear about those details in the information through the news, but I can see a lot of questions occurring here. The press releases only state the parents will be responsible for ‘keeping him off those games’.”
“Third, is that this legislation is bringing up the question of the relationship between violence and video games. We had this discussion about cartoons back in the 80’s and 90’s. There are various studies, some confirming violent video games linking to individuals with increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive affect, aggressive cognitions and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy, and moral engagement, as seen in this American Psychological Association study,while others, like a study by Whitney DeCamp, an associate professor of sociology at Western Michigan University, shows that playing video games, no matter how bloody, did not predict violent behavior. DeCamp states that you cannot look at violence and video games in a vacuum, as kids who like to play brutal video games may have a predisposition toward aggression. Associate professor and co-chairman of the Department of Psychology at Stetson University, Christopher Ferguson supports this view, even stating that violent video games may help reduce violent acts:
“Basically, by keeping young males busy with things they like” — and this would include everything from playing sports and collecting stamps to playing first-person shooter video games — “you keep them off the streets and out of trouble,” he said.
“There are a lot of factors to be weighed in as we examine this topic,” Drraagh says as he looks at the collection of files and papers on his desk. “The psychology of the human brain is nowhere near fully understood yet, we cannot predict whether someone will be drawn to violence just because of the things they like. When it comes to the brain, it is more like shooting darts at a dart board with figuring things out. We can predict with certain percentages whether someone is at risk for diseases due to the genes for various traits they have, so we might be able to point out who is at risk for higher levels of violent outbursts but genetics is only half of the battle when figuring out if someone is capable of something.”
“This is the argument of nature versus nurture, where the science of a person’s genetics versus the experiences they had growing up can lead to different paths. If we take someone prone to higher outbursts of rage and have them be raised in a manner that finds other outlets for that energy from sports to meditation to various other hobbies, should that person be on some lists because they could be violent? The movie Minority Report talked about the concept that if you arrest someone for what they could do, instead of something they are going to do or have done, then is it not possible that they were never going to do that thing in the first place? It all becomes a bit metaphysical if we start talking about cause and effect and multiverses where everything is the same except for one change. Butterfly Effect showed that in movie form, but even before that, we had:
What if you could travel to parallel worlds? The same year, the same Earth, only different dimensions. A world where the Russians rule America… or where your dreams of being superstar came true… or where San Francisco was a maximum-security prison. My friends and I found the gateway. Now the problem is… finding a way back home.
Which is from the intro to Sliders, a show where people are stuck travelling through an infinite number of alternate dimensions as they try to find the one that leads them home.” Drraagh chuckles, smile growing on his face, “The concept of the show led for lots of outlandish stories, like a world where a virus killed most men and the survivors were locked into breeding camps, or another where women had positions of power and men were the relegated to stay home and cook. Both turned concepts of ‘gender stereotyping on its head in different ways.”
“I would also like to bring attention to a study done in February 2016 in the Southern Economics Association which states that there is general societal violence decreased in the weeks after the appearance of a new edition of a popular title. They do agree that it may not rule out long-term effects, it does show a cathartic release in the form of these virtual video games may be what people need to prevent them from reaching out into other things.”
Standing up from his desk, Drraagh starts to pace the room, footfalls thudding against the floor as he walks. “There is one other thing that I think might help add some color into this topic. While all my previous points have referred to the psychology, the societal factors and similar parts, even those metaphysical angles of reaction without action, we are also forgetting just about the student themselves. This all began from the teen who allegedly was playing a violent game in a February 23 Snapchat post where he wrote, “Y’all need to shut up about school shootings or I’ll do one.” While I was not privy to the trial and thus only going by the press releases, but my view is exactly what else is the child been like? Has he shown violent tendencies elsewhere? Without looking at the whole picture of the person, we have one comment which, while perhaps poorly chosen, is something a teenager could do in an attempt to be funny and have it backfire.”
“School shootings are no joke, with the South Florida school shooting being recent. Even back in 2007, this article in Ars Technica talks about a teen who was expelled from high-school for making a Counter-Strike map of his school. He never took anything to school or wrote any letters or made any comments to students or staff, but the creation of a map in a video game was enough to get him sent to a different school. There was nothing criminal in his belongings, no violent tendencies, but because situation was a political and media frenzy at the time just following the Virginia Tech massacre that people reacted based on fear. I hope that this is not going to be a spiraling ball of that same fear being built as we try and find monsters under beds to justify actions. That can lead to the Orwellian system controlled future, where the state can just declare you anything they so see fit. I believe it might be said best in a comic bit done by Dara OBrian where he talks about numbers. People will say things that are not true and can be proven by the numbers. For example, people say crime is going up, while the numbers show crime is going down. But when you confront them with the numbers, they reply that the fear of crime is up. His reply to that is that zombies are at an all-time low, but the fear of zombies could be incredibly high.”