Week 4.2 – Violent videogames (due before class on Jan 30)

One of the most common debates in video games studies centers on whether violent video games lead to violent behavior. BBC outlines this response to APA findings released in a report on this issue in 2015. Media events, like the NRA press conference that took place on December 21, 2012 called us to reflect on this issue. Here you can find what some industry CEOs say about violence in video games. How do you balance the NRA’s perspective with Henry Jenkins‘ first debunked myth about video games, which is “The availability of video games has led to an epidemic of youth violence”? What do you think?


  1. The subject of violence in video games is an age old discussion, to which I feel we will never truly discover a concrete answer. I find myself agreeing with aspects of both positions (the NRA and Henry Jenkins). There are many games and mods that are designed explicitly to be murder simulators, and are especially so if the entire concept is to take life in a realistic manner and be rewarded for it. It’s improbable to imagine that the creator’s of such a game, such as Manhunt, conceptualized it for any other reason than to live and act vicariously through the playable fantasy of murder; however, as someone who has played Manhunt, though I do not have murderous tendencies in reality, I must admit it does create a dark joy that appeals to the power associated with taking life. The creation of a platform that provides users the experience of murder without consequence, I believe, has the potential to awaken or stimulate people who are already prone to such ideas or vices.
    I do agree with Jenkins in that there are a variety of other real-world factors that act upon these dark ambitions, but I do not think that each is mutually exclusive. He uses school as an example by addressing that many of “these murders have tended to occur in schools and we need to look at real-world factors to discover what triggers such violence” (Jenkins quoted, Egenfeldt-Nielsen, 167). School is mixing pot of controversial personalities and cliques where the personality and spirit of a young individual is more susceptible to frustrations and acts of depression or rage due to the development of their psyche. While such situations as bullying, victimization, harassment and discrimination are more likely social triggers, violent video games can still promote the accentuation of such feelings, and potentially become catalysts.
    While neither is an acceptable reason to act violently, I do believe that violent video games have the potential to work in tandem with bad situations and weak or misguided consciousness. Socially stressful situations such as school, the workplace, or home can create an environment that brews discord, while violent video games offer individuals an outlet which rewards the violent venting of their frustrations with a calm and satisfaction that some may begin to seek in reality. While not the case for the masses, it is impossible to say that violence in video games has not contributed in some manner to at least a minute percentage of real-world acts of violence.


  2. I think these types of accusations that video games cause violence need to provide more sufficient evidence before jumping to conclusions. If an organization of people believe video games cause harmful behavior, they need to provide more than just a hunch. As Henry Jenkins points out if video games caused violence we would see more violence in places like arcades or movie theaters where the medium is practiced, and not so much in schools (167). Though I do see weakness in Jenkins argument I think he makes good points.
    Furthermore, it is nothing new for people to use video games and other forms of media as a scape goat for a lack of “good parenting”. The music industry has also taken heat over the years for having the power to influence teens into violence. These types of articles and readings are of no surprise and of course should be explored with critical theory and thought. Williams writes how “conservative fears” of new media creating anti-social behaviors and other social problems becomes apparent (167). Ultimately if forms of media had the ability to “brainwash” someone to kill people or perform violent behaviors we would see it more often. As the population grows and people’s relationship with technology change it is not surprising things like school shooting will happen more frequently. I think these violent acts of school shootings etc are not simply caused by video games or new media, but probably have many underlying factors which would include a lack of family guidance (parenting) and lack of health resources.
    Additionally, as more people participate in video games and more research is done, we will further understand how video games effect behavior. Though like anything I can guess the many positives and negatives that will be explored and discovered. I am curious to learn more about the “why” people play and what effects it has on humans as a species. Till further evidence, Video games don’t cause violent behavior and parents should start taking reasonability for the way their kids are raised.


  3. I have always disagreed with statements like what Lapierre says about how the video game industry is a “corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people” (Lapierre 2012). As Jenkins thoughtfully points out, if video games were the leading cause for murderous rampages, we would see more shootings “in movie theaters or video arcades where the direct stimulus of game playing would be most acute” (Jenkins sensu Egenfeldt-Nielsen et. al 2016).

    Instead, society should shift their focus to other more prevalent problems that may better link the killer to their hostile emotions, things like unstable family relationships, mental illness, and “serious psychological and social problems that predate their engagement with [games]” (Egenfeldt-Nielsen et. al 2016). Games are an easy scapegoat as, at first glance, they can appear graphic, violent, and seem to promote bad behaviour. They’re easy to vilify. What’s harder to vilify are broken families or bad parenting.

    Also, as Dmitri Williams points out, video games “show the same historical progression of anxiety that other media before them have suffered” (Egenfeldt-Nielsen et. al 2016). Because they are newer media, people who do not know much about them may fear them and the effects they might have. It’s the same way that people now fear smartphones, self-driving cars, or VR; they do not know if these new technologies are more beneficial than harmful. Video games should stop being considered catalysts for violent tendencies as there has been no conclusive evidence for this.


  4. As long as there is media depicting violence this debate will live on and video games are no exception. I don’t believe that any type of media causes more or less violence. With the lack of hard evidence and studies it’s hard to say that video games cause violence. Along with what Jenkins’ states in his first myth that “juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low” shows that even through the growth of video games violent crimes it hasn’t been going up.
    LaPierre states in his in his press conference that media is cause these violent acts, which completely contradicts Jenkins’ myths. I believe when Jenkins says “young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players” its the basis to the whole debate on violence. As well as violence, people believe video games cause isolation problems. For these people who do have violent tenancies and isolation, video games are not causing these problems but are the easiest medium to use for these people.
    So video games are not causing these problems, but are connected to these people purely by convenience.Call of Duty is not trying to shoot and kill but it is merely trying to create a competitive game between you and the community. Video games are not here to brainwash us to be violent but to let us escape from our day to day lives.


  5. In light of the essays, Henry Jenkins states, “according to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low.” Also, the group of 230 academics of universities around the world indicate that “youth violence in the US and around the world is currently at a 40-year low” (BBC News). At the same time, the video games have continued growing and have become the most profitable section in the entertainment industry around the world. Therefore, because the rate of violent crime has reduced while the production of video games has increased, it does not make any sense that the ratio of violent crime is linked to violent video games.

    As far as I am concerned, there are still many other factors that may contribute to the violent behaviors but are yet to be answered in these researches. For instance, the demographic information of subjects who got involved in the research findings published by the American Psychological Association (APA), was not covered in the BBC news. The high rate of occurrence of violence may be highly related to the gun-right supporting regions rather than violent video games. Therefore, the long-existing issue of the high accessibility of guns should be solved immediately, which is more important than arguing the relation of violent video games and the violent behavior.

    Moreover, people tend to be aggressive when they make impulsive decisions, which is affected by their social supporting system, education, parenting and the Cerebral neurological system. In other words, these elements will affect a person’s violent tendency more than a video game. This is because the development of personality is a product of a long-term cultivation. It is subconscious and built by emotion, feelings, habits, patterns, and relationships. Overall, the exposure to violence in video games does not mean individuals have the motivation to make the conscious decision to harm others.


  6. After the 2012 massacre in a Connecticut elementary school, Wayne LaPierre, representing the National Rifle Association (NRA), stated that the video game industry operates in the shadows selling and stowing violence against its consumers, the people. It is at least controversial how such an avid gun rights advocate can rush to blame the violent video games as one the main reasons for a terrible act of violence when it is executed by the very tools he so avidly defends.

    Less than three years later, in 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) released studies demonstrating that, although there is a recurring relation between the use of violent video games and aggressive behavior, there is no single factor to blame for crimes.

    Also supporting the claim that violent video games are not a direct influence on crimes committed by its users, Henry Jenkins uses federal statistics to inform that the majority of gamers have not engaged in any violent activity. Jenkins also points to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, which acknowledges the most influential risk factors for school shootings are centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, and not media exposure.

    That leaves me to believe that the direct association of the act of playing violent video games to real life crimes committed by players has proven to be incredibly flawed and superficial over the years. That relation has been used over and over by the mainstream media as the tool to provide shallow answers and motives for the crimes in question. Offering the major public such information can be seen as an extremely irresponsible and reckless practice of journalism with doubtable or even made up sources to support its aggressive and imperative claims against the video game culture, community and industry.


  7. Too frequently, society blames artistic mediums for tragedies that happen, especially when it comes to a school shooting. The Columbine Shooting had a killer who played with the level editor in Doom, and when local media got wind, they pounced on the opportunity to politicise the game.
    Jenkins comes at the issue from a non-critical standpoint, citing violent crime statistics to prove his slant.


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