Violent Videogames are Awesome

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Violent Videogames are Awesome

We shouldn't have to list the reasons they're awesome, but we're going to do it anyway.

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I can give you a clear benefit of violent video games. They provide a cathartic stress relief in a constructive way rather than a destructive one. If I've had a crap day, what can I do to mitigate that once I'm home? A movie is one option. But it lacks that sense of agency that a game provides. I use games as a release pretty often. I ball up all my anger and frustration (usually caused by people like Couric) and I get all those aggressive feelings out in a nice safe virtual world.

And ask anyone who knows me, I'm the nicest most well adjusted fellow among my peers. 41 years old and I've played EVERY violent video game ever made. And I've also never shot anyone, never punched anyone in anger (at least not thrown the first punch). Unless "snark" counts as violence, you won't find a happier bloke than I.

Solid piece Shamus.

Great article. It'd be nice if anyone who hadn't formed an opinion on this got a chance to read it.

Your fifth point really reminds me of what Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller says: Don't call it violence, there is no violence in video games there is the artistic representation of violence.

That, to me, is the point that none of these pundits seems to realize, when I shoot someone in Far Cry 3 NO ONE GETS HURT!

I will concede that violent videogames probably have the effect of desensitizing kids to violence... in videogames. Now, if someone wants to do a study to prove that this leads to desensitizing kids to actual violence, and then prove that this makes them more likely to perpetrate acts of violence, and then see if that effect is widespread and not just limited to "certain individuals" who likely have problems with violence regardless of how they consume it, and if you want to establish that this effect is any worse than the same thing in books and movies, and if you want to show that kids are playing these games in anomalously high numbers despite all the safeguards we have in place... well, you've got your work cut out for you. Get the research done (hint: you don't do research on talk shows) and then maybe we can talk about violent games being a threat.

This was perfect. Too bad it's more than 140 characters.

I endorse this article!

Shamus is right, yet again.

ZZoMBiE13:
I can give you a clear benefit of violent video games. They provide a cathartic stress relief in a constructive way rather than a destructive one.

Actually, in regards to rage and violence, catharsis does not work: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/08/11/catharsis/

The so-called cathartic relief of acting out violently is just some temporary satisfaction, that does nothing to reduce violent tendencies. The belief in catharsis is proven to make people want to seek it out, however. For what that's worth.

However, the one thing violent video games definitely do accomplish is distracting violent people. It occupies them so that they're not acting out violently. It's the same reason why after-school programs are the most effective means of curbing petty crimes, it keeps kids out of trouble (and kids are a high crime group).

I recall a study from many years ago that showed during the premier of violent movies, crime tended to drop in these particularly violent neighborhoods. The violent crime rate only dropped for the period the movies were playing, however, and then went right back to normal thereafter. The explanation? Violent people consumed the violent media, but then went right back to being violent with no change in disposition.

When you have an agenda, you can make anything look your way so long as you can find an example. As long as there are exceptions to the rule, you can always argue against it.

Amazing how general consensus can shift when you site something extraordinary, as in it is now de facto truth instead of an anomaly.

Also sensationalism sells. As if we all don't know that.

I think the problem with our media becoming more violent, and our real lives becoming less so, is that when violence does happen it's more frightening. We're becoming desensitized to virtual violence and more sensitive to real violence. That's a good thing. Real life violence should be rare (ideally non-existent) and therefore shocking when it happens. The problem is that people are lazy and go for the laziest solutions. We pick scapegoats instead of looking for real causative factors because that's just easier. I guess the bright side is that while the government may or may not be addressing the real problems, they also don't seem to be taking the alarmists too seriously.

I agree with the article but I was thinking the matter over the other day and there is to me, still a downside, to violent videogames. It's when it gets into your thoughts. For example, having played three assassin creed games I find that often when I'm walking behind a random person I get the mental picture in my hand of using the hidden blade to kill them.

Obviously, this isn't going to happen and I recognize that it's a similar impulse to wanting to jump off stuff and fly but I heartily dislike the idea of a game getting into my thinking that way. But I also would argue that this is just my opinion and I wouldn't want assassins' creed banned or anything.

I think its important though that we recognise that the media we consume does affect our thinking.

As much as I love this article, it's too bad we have to state and re-state the points made in it every time a tragedy occurs.

I gambled in Pokemon when I was 10
I drank alcohol in Mass Effect when I was 18
I took drugs in Fallout 3 when I was 19

I do none of these in real life, yet I have no problem with those who do (well, maybe alcohol). The idea that fiction and real life interlink in such a way is interesting but goes far beyond 'he shot that zombie, he's a killer I tells ya!'

Scaremongering. Scaremongering never changes.

Jumwa:

ZZoMBiE13:
I can give you a clear benefit of violent video games. They provide a cathartic stress relief in a constructive way rather than a destructive one.

Actually, in regards to rage and violence, catharsis does not work: http://youarenotsosmart.com/2010/08/11/catharsis/

The so-called cathartic relief of acting out violently is just some temporary satisfaction, that does nothing to reduce violent tendencies. The belief in catharsis is proven to make people want to seek it out, however. For what that's worth.

However, the one thing violent video games definitely do accomplish is distracting violent people. It occupies them so that they're not acting out violently. It's the same reason why after-school programs are the most effective means of curbing petty crimes, it keeps kids out of trouble (and kids are a high crime group).

I recall a study from many years ago that showed during the premier of violent movies, crime tended to drop in these particularly violent neighborhoods. The violent crime rate only dropped for the period the movies were playing, however, and then went right back to normal thereafter. The explanation? Violent people consumed the violent media, but then went right back to being violent with no change in disposition.

That was an interesting read. And I would never claim to have "all the facts". I can only speak to my personal experiences as I am neither a philosopher nor a psychologist.

Society still has a long way to go before we understand "everything" I suppose. Still, thanks for the link.

ZZoMBiE13:

That was an interesting read. And I would never claim to have "all the facts". I can only speak to my personal experiences as I am neither a philosopher nor a psychologist.

Society still has a long way to go before we understand "everything" I suppose. Still, thanks for the link.

My pleasure! I used to think the same myself, and am a very mellow person in real life.

However, over the years past I had issues with anxiety and anger. I thought distracting myself with violent games was having a cathartic release effect on me, but as I've moved away from those experiences and conquered my anxiety/rage, looking back, I can see how it's likely it wasn't doing anything for me.

I certainly never hurt anyone, but it perhaps made dealing with those feelings more frustrating rather than easier.

Life's a learning experience, and though I certainly don't see any evidence that violent games increase violent tendencies in normal people, I stick to more calming titles mostly these days.

Great article with a clear thought out statement.

I honestly wish that news pundits and talk show hosts didn't have the brain of a bloody mouse. All of this moralizing is just making it more difficult to actually focus on real issues such as social problems in high school, the ease of access to guns, and our abysmal mental health care. Instead, we would rather distract ourselves with these pointless crusades.

One can make the argument that games distract violent people from their impulses and I can argue that these meaningless crusades are coping mechanisms for the whole society afraid to take actions against the real causes

Here's an idea:

Since Couric only allows 140 characters or less in responses, let's give them to her:

Links to articles, videos and studies making counterpoints.

Every time some nutjob on a soapbox goes off on video games, a bunch of people write (and sometimes even *gasp* research) counter arguments to said nutjobs. So all we need to do is give her as many links to arguments against her bullshit soapbox logic as possible - 140 characters at a time...

Jumwa:

ZZoMBiE13:

That was an interesting read. And I would never claim to have "all the facts". I can only speak to my personal experiences as I am neither a philosopher nor a psychologist.

Society still has a long way to go before we understand "everything" I suppose. Still, thanks for the link.

My pleasure! I used to think the same myself, and am a very mellow person in real life.

However, over the years past I had issues with anxiety and anger. I thought distracting myself with violent games was having a cathartic release effect on me, but as I've moved away from those experiences and conquered my anxiety/rage, looking back, I can see how it's likely it wasn't doing anything for me.

I certainly never hurt anyone, but it perhaps made dealing with those feelings more frustrating rather than easier.

Life's a learning experience, and though I certainly don't see any evidence that violent games increase violent tendencies in normal people, I stick to more calming titles mostly these days.

I would still say there is merit to gaming as a tool though. It provides such a unique level of immersion, agency, and even if cathartic release isn't "ideal", it's different than punching a heavy bag because you're pushing buttons instead of undertaking the actions yourself. I'd posit that the repetitive action of pressing the buttons could have a calming effect in some cases.

Of course there is no way to say as statistics rarely speak to the individual. What calms one person can enrage another. It's an interesting thing to ponder though.

For my experience, I've had a very fortunate upbringing. We didn't always have a lot of money or anything, but I had parents who always told me they loved me and offered positive reinforcement. And in turn I've done that same thing with my children. That in itself could be why gaming, a medium that by it's very design constantly gives rewards and positive reinforcement has always had a calming effect on me in times of anger or adversity. I always just assumed it was my little tool to help me work through the tough stuff. I lose myself for a couple of hours beating Ryu to a bloody pulp while my subconscious cranks through the garbage rolling around in my head.

This has been fun. Thanks for the discussion. :)

Since everyone else is making compelling and wholly correct arguments against the notion that video games cause violence, I'd just like to mention that this came as absolutely no surprise to me. Not because some talking head on the news is making things up about video games, but the fact that it seems to be news that Katie Couric is doing this. I mean, it's ABC for God's sake. These people wouldn't know the truth if it jumped up and down in front of them. And this story should tie directly into the other one on The Escapist (my favorite gaming website) about Joe Biden, considering how happily ABC licks this administration's boots.

Thumbs up for providing a nice set of arguments in favour of video games that make sense.

Video games are to me by far the least dangerous fun I can have.

ben---neb:
I agree with the article but I was thinking the matter over the other day and there is to me, still a downside, to violent videogames. It's when it gets into your thoughts. For example, having played three assassin creed games I find that often when I'm walking behind a random person I get the mental picture in my hand of using the hidden blade to kill them.

Obviously, this isn't going to happen and I recognize that it's a similar impulse to wanting to jump off stuff and fly but I heartily dislike the idea of a game getting into my thinking that way. But I also would argue that this is just my opinion and I wouldn't want assassins' creed banned or anything.

I think its important though that we recognise that the media we consume does affect our thinking.

I may be wrong, but that just sounds like an intrusive thought. Regardless of whether or not you play games, you'll still imagine yourself throwing babies down stairs and such. The fact that it's game-related just means you've been thinking about a certain game lately. I really don't see that as a game getting into my head in any insidious way.

I get so depressed when I read articles like this.

The logic and argumentation is so flawless, and so simple. I just fail to understand why other people cannot grasp these facts. Why are there so many god damn idiots on this planet? :|

ZZoMBiE13:
[quote="Jumwa" post="6.408003.17036678"]I would still say there is merit to gaming as a tool though. It provides such a unique level of immersion, agency, and even if cathartic release isn't "ideal", it's different than punching a heavy bag because you're pushing buttons instead of undertaking the actions yourself. I'd posit that the repetitive action of pressing the buttons could have a calming effect in some cases.

Of course there is no way to say as statistics rarely speak to the individual. What calms one person can enrage another. It's an interesting thing to ponder though.

For my experience, I've had a very fortunate upbringing. We didn't always have a lot of money or anything, but I had parents who always told me they loved me and offered positive reinforcement. And in turn I've done that same thing with my children. That in itself could be why gaming, a medium that by it's very design constantly gives rewards and positive reinforcement has always had a calming effect on me in times of anger or adversity. I always just assumed it was my little tool to help me work through the tough stuff. I lose myself for a couple of hours beating Ryu to a bloody pulp while my subconscious cranks through the garbage rolling around in my head.

This has been fun. Thanks for the discussion. :)

Likewise, thanks. : )

Yeah, there's a definite difference in hitting a punching bag and playing a game, no argument there. And I saw a study not too long that had kids play violent games then tested them in mild ways to see how they responded verbally, and that it increased their "aggression levels". Though in this case the manifestations of "aggression" were incredibly mild, which made the supposition that violent games led to violent behaviour silly.

Like as pointed out in the article, aggressive sports would trouble me far more than video game violence ever could.

I think the individual-factor is something everyone is quick to overlook in the race to come up with broad ranging catch-all rules.

It's a shame that when someone makes a reasonable, well thought out and polite argument like this, it gets too little attention. Keep writing this stuff though.

To add to the "you have your work cut out for you" part-there's probably no way we will ever get conclusive research data as to whether or not games make children violent in a closed experiment because then we would have to, y'know, test to see if a child is violent. Which we can't do.

Y'see, to test if children respond differently to game violence, we'd have to expose them game violence and real violence(a good study would also compare other mediums with violence, but that's beside the point)and compare the two. They would then have to find a legitimate manner in which to test that the child is more violent. You can't make that into an ethical study. There is no way that any respectable scientific body would perform that kind of research, and if they did, the results would almost certainly be thrown out.

Which, in turn, means we can only go by societal observation, which is outright refuted by the lack of correlation between violence and videogames. End of discussion.

Very few he says, but the grin on the slimline, bearded and bespectacled chap on the top of the article looks too smug for it to be just a few...

People actually care what talking figure heads in news stations think? I thought this generation has actually evolved and noticed the utter bullshit and lies that circle that particular profession.

I would add a sixth point:

Violent games are not actually about violence. Nobody loads up a game saying "Yeah! I'm ready to shoot/decapitate/murder someone!" because that's not the experience its meant to deliver. They're more about problem solving, overcoming challenges, etc. Anyone who asks "Why would anyone want to play a game where you do these horrible things?" is asking the wrong question.

The thing that I always point to whenever someone says that videogames turn people and kids into killers (I do believe they can cause violence , but not at the level that people say they do) is the population of the United States. If what Katie, or any of these other people, said was true, the U.S. would be a waste land. There would be no one living here because we would have killed each other off looooooooooong ago. The sheer volume of people who play games is staggering, and thus there should be all out wars going on constantly if what Katie said is true. However, that doesn't seem to be the case.

tzimize:
I get so depressed when I read articles like this.

The logic and argumentation is so flawless, and so simple. I just fail to understand why other people cannot grasp these facts. Why are there so many god damn idiots on this planet? :|

It's because there's an agenda that these media puppets are following either knowingly or unwittingly. That goes for political figures too. If you follow the money trail used to fund this nonsense I bet it will provide us with better answers to why they scaremonger the public. But this kind of crap worked better in the 90s with the whole Mortal Kombat controversy as an example. Nowadays gaming is so mainstream that these kind of arguments are just looking more and more foolish to more people. Give it 30 years and the media will have found a new scapegoat because there will be noone left alive who will believe their bullshit.

I sincerely hope someone sends Katie the link to this article. But something gives me the feeling that deep down she doesn't believe that games cause violence either.

DragonStorm247:
I would add a sixth point:

Violent games are not actually about violence. Nobody loads up a game saying "Yeah! I'm ready to shoot/decapitate/murder someone!" because that's not the experience its meant to deliver. They're more about problem solving, overcoming challenges, etc. Anyone who asks "Why would anyone want to play a game where you do these horrible things?" is asking the wrong question.

Incorrect. I many times feel that I want to shoot things. Pretend shoot things, but shoot things none the less. Maybe you don't, but I sure do, and almost everyone I've talked to (that plays games) gives the impression of enjoying seeing things explode into bits because they pulled the trigger.

Shamus Young:
Get the research done (hint: you don't do research on talk shows) and then maybe we can talk about violent games being a threat.

But but but... research takes time, money and has ethical constraints, not to mention best put through trial-by-ordeal via peer reviewed publication (anything not peer reviewed may as well have been scrawl on a toilet wall). That's a lot of resources that wouldn't be put into generating moral outrage for ratings... plus you can't trust that the findings will be suitable for, or twistable to, your needs.

I know I've banged this drum a few times on the forum but this is where the maor players in the industry have let themselves and, more importantly, gamers down - they should have been funnelling some money into this sort of research years ago. When the Moral Outrage Brigade really started setting its sights on video games, there should have already been a moderate stack of peer reviewed research papers by creditable professionals to slap them down with. Instead these handwringers show up with their pet academics (Andersen, Bushman and co.) and shoddy science (stuff an undergrad should be too embarassed to submit) and get to just run with it. The industry hasn't just been caught with its trousers down, it's been caught with its trousers in the wash... and of course, as usual, they'll ust pour millions of dollars into the coffers of law firms instead to cope with any issues that arise. Foolish, IMO.

6 was really all you needed, but I'm glad you voiced these points. Especially stuff about the regulation of games, something people seem to keep missing. a shame it only will fall on the ears of the choir.

You Can't Take the Sky From Me:
Your fifth point really reminds me of what Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller says: Don't call it violence, there is no violence in video games there is the artistic representation of violence.

That, to me, is the point that none of these pundits seems to realize, when I shoot someone in Far Cry 3 NO ONE GETS HURT!

Indeed. I'm a pretty nonviolent individual. I will fight to defend myself, but even then I'm worried about harming an attacker. I'm not sure my psyche could actually handle it if I killed someone, even if it was justified or accidental.

I still play and enjoy a lot of violent video games. Why? Because I'm not actually hurting anyone. They're pixels on a screen. They're an artificial representation of various things; people, aliens, animals. I don't go around hitting dogs, either, but I will shank a dog in a game with no compunction, too.

Even PVP, where there's an actual human on the other end, nothing that happens to the character or avatar happens to the player. They might get angry, but that's far from being hurt.

Now, I'm not saying I am your typical gamer. I am not saying I am common. What I am saying is that this "violence" is acceptable even to my sensibilities.

And honestly, with one of the other issues...

I don't think I was ever sensitive to video game violence in the first place. I don't know, they've been arguing desensitivity since the days of Space Invaders, and I was never really thinking about the horror of eating ghosts and shooting alien blobs.

All great, valid points. Well done!

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