Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione thinks young adults play and act out games that reward murder and rape.
Videogames are often targeted by political figures looking to justify social statistics, and Australia's Police Commissioner for New South Wales is the latest personality to attempt to link gaming to violence. Andrew Scipione recently stated that he blames violent videogames for an increase in knife crime, but several researchers have stepped forward to debunk his comments.
Scipione gave his comments to conservative Australian tabloid The Daily Telegraph, saying that young adults were growing up in an era where carrying out violent acts for hours at a time was "almost praiseworthy". He believes that teenagers have become desensitised after heavy exposure to violent media and, as a result, young adults are prepared to do the same in the real world.
"You get rewarded for killing people, raping women, stealing money from prostitutes, driving cars crashing and killing people," he says, presumably drawing upon a number of common tropes found in the Grand Theft Auto series.
Researchers were quick to disprove the Police Commissioner's claims. Dr. Christopher Fergusson, Associate Professor of Psychology and Communication at the University of Texas, stated that the comments were "irresponsible" and that Scipione had "no idea what he was talking about."
"In fact, in most countries youth violence has reached 40 year lows during the videogame epoch," Fergusson explained. "Although many videogames do allow players to explore a range of moral choices both good and bad, they do not typically set up rigid reward structures to reward antisocial behaviour. Many games have considerable consequences for the moral choices players make."
Dr. Jeffrey Brand, Professor of Communication and Media at Bond University, commented that the Police Commissioner failed to take into account several major studies that found no conclusive evidence that games were responsible for inducing violent tendencies in people. He didn't consider videogames to be a helpful common denominator, since both criminals and non-criminals in Australia played them.
Statements that attempt to attribute teen violence to games are counter-productive, and take the focus away from more serious social issues that may be responsible for crime amongst young offenders. It's not the first time these comments have been made, and it's unlikely that they'll carry any weight now.