Poll Question 317 – Does playing violent video games make players violent?

To be honest, I am surprised we haven’t dsicussed this exact question before.

The only previous poll I can find close to it is from August 2007: Poll Question 043 – Are Single Player FPS games too violent? (for some reason the actual resulst are not visible and I have decided to find a plugin that will keep the poll data on the site, instead of outsourcing them).

I got the idea from a BBC article entitled Do video games make people violent?. Its headline is: More than 200 academics have signed an open letter criticising controversial new research suggesting a link between violent video games and aggression.

It’s an incredibly delicate and complciated subject and I suspect that most voters will say NO as we all consider ourselves well-adjusted people who can seperate gaming from reality.

I would like to make a few points beofre I hand over to you for your thoughts.

ANYTHING can make certain people violent. These people are probably going to be violent not matter what they watch, read or play.

The United States of America obviously struggles with this issue due to the constant and sould-destroying shooting they have. So it’s not hard to find videos like the one below (it’s completely safe for work – it’s not a shooting but somebody talking about a shooting).

What amazes me si the routine voilence seen in regular TV shows.

As I have said before on this site, I truly believe that everything we see, watch, read, listen to and play has an effect on us. We need to be more careful about what children have access to as they are the ones they can be affected the most by inappropriate things. Once you are an adult, and by adult I personally mean at least 25, you are more able to contexualise everything and remain unaffected or at least know what you should interact with.

As the saying goes, “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”.

Do I think we need to stop children playing violent video games? Yes, I do. Not because I believe it will turn them into killers but because in the long term we may be creating a society more accepting of violence – although not necessarily perpertating it themselves.

Specifically to Half-Life

I’d like to talk quickly about Half-Life. I have never installed any mods that increase the amount of gore in the games and I am more than happy to not see any blood or gore in the games. That aspect does not interest me.

For me, it’s fundamental that the protagonist is saving the world not on a personal vendetta mission. Of course, everything could be twisted to see righteous but I feel that needless violence is avoided in the Half-Life games.

A polite warning

Finally, let me warn readers that as much as I want an open debate about this but I will remain extra vigilant for ANY comment that I feel breaks the Commenting Rules and will not hesitate to edit or even delete comments which I feel are inappropriate

Vote if you want to

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  1. I don’t think games are any more influential than any other medium in terms of affecting behaviour. I think that the catharsis of violence is an aspect of human nature and I feel like people who don’t understand the satisfaction from killing in games is probably not being entirely honest with themselves or simply fail to recognize a significant difference between fantasies and intentions.

  2. I’ve always sided with the Oxford study they cited, which said that poorly designed video games were more likely to bring out aggression than violence in general. Because we can see that everyday. You encounter a game with frustrating mechanics and cheap deaths and you want to strangle the person who thought it was a good idea! We all have our Angry Video Game Nerd moments. Maybe not as crude or animated, but the emotion is just the same.

    I think as far as the U.S. is concerned, we are a socially diverse and complex country born from a million different backgrounds. However, we are cursed with a sensationalist media and politicians who are incapable of the critical thought, pragmatism and compromise required to lead this group effectively. There’s too much demagoguery, too little common sense.

    So, they spring for the easy answer. A nice sound bite. Video game violence. Yeah! If we ban that, then all of society’s ills will be solved! And the traditional media loves that story, of course, because they have a vested interest in seeing video games fail. Eats into their ratings, see. We’ll go and attack those gamer nerds because they can’t defend themselves. They are all loners, right? Societal outcasts who live in their parents’ basement with horn-rimmed glasses and bad hygiene! Tired cliches, but probably what they think of us.

    The thing we have to keep in mind is that this too shall pass. Some of you surely remember Jack Thompson, the infamous (now disbarred) lawyer from Florida who went on a personal crusade to censor video games. He had the ear of many influential politicians. But we survived him and he ultimately fizzled into nothing. Before Thompson, there was Wertham, who did the same thing with comics. He was a bit more successful at censorship, leading to the creation of the Comics Code Authority, but we look back on him and laugh at how stupid and misguided his crusade was. And now, I would argue, there is Sarkeesian. Who might have meant well initially, wanting greater and better representation for women in the game industry and the games themselves – a goal I think we can all agree with – but who eventually decided that browbeating censorship was the best way to achieve this. Last I heard, she moved on to criticizing video game violence just like Thompson did. Have fun with that. I’m sure she’ll use the APA’s study as ammunition without recognizing any of its faults.

    But it’s the same old song-and-dance. We’ve seen this number before. The more times we prevail over it, and the more precedent we set, the stronger we become. And I think you see that here, with 200 academics signing on to criticize this study-of-studies (which is a ludicrous, lazy concept if you ask me). The anti-gaming side is not long for this world. And that’s a good thing… because the sooner we get them out of the way, the sooner we can get back to focusing on more important issues that are really at the core of all this. Broken family structures. Failing public education. And other things that led to the circumstances we find ourselves in. Tough things. Difficult things. Things we aren’t going to solve with soundbites.

  3. Zekiran

    I don’t think so. What I do think is that violent tendencies exist in some number of people, and whatever tips them over their personal edge might be a game, might be a show, might just be that they didn’t have their coffee in the morning.

    The overwhelming evidence is that people who play video games, watch violent shows, or movies, or whatever else – there are hundreds of millions of those people who do NOT then ‘become violent’.

    It’s obviously not a linked behavior.

    Can any of those be triggers FOR someone who is already likely to perform violent acts? Certainly. But missing the bus or losing a sock in the dryer, or being looked at the wrong way by that guy in the deli, or *anything else under the sun* can also be a trigger.

    For my part, I would say that violent video games may actually PREVENT other forms of violent behaviors, since it plays the role of surrogate reality. Keeping people occupied and ‘believing’ they’re getting whatever jollies or engaging their angry side, that’s very important. Because otherwise there might be a lot MORE violent incidents without it. Boredom breeds frustration.

  4. Heinz

    I think people who really get violent through games, already had a damage in their brains.
    Me playing violent computer games since the early 80s, watching violent videos and listening to music with violent phrases, without any changes.
    Yes I think about that all, and at most of the time you learn something new.

    What really makes people violent are for example FACEBOOK, Smartphones etc.
    People get dumber and dumber and ignorant and forget where we come from.

    It is the time to stand up and fight this progress or the world will be dead soon.
    Watch North Korean president, a kid who is childish and has the power over nuclear weapons and military or is he a stooge (acting as a front man)?

    I will give it 20 years from now and everything what we love can be destroyed!

    Heinz from Germany

    1. People get dumber and dumber and ignorant and forget where we come from.

      You know, I was going to dwell on this point in my reply, but I felt it was a bit of a tangent.

      I personally feel like there’s been a terrible societal change that coincided with the rise of social media. And that is, the concept that “I’m a special little snowflake and everyone should care about what I think.” It’s basically the “Me Generation” of the 1980s on steroids, people who are only obsessed with themselves and who totally lack compassion, humility, and the capacity for critical thought.

      It does no good to worry about things that one ultimately can’t control, but I do honestly wonder about our future and where we’re going with all this unrestrained ego. Violent crime may be down, but the nasty, hateful way some people treat others is alarming to me.

      1. Heinz

        I totally agree with you.
        You found the words I couldn’t find, English is not my mother language.
        It is nice and a little bit satisfying to see that there are people who understand me, although my English isn’t the best 🙂

        Thank you for your answer to my comment

        1. lj4linux

          People get dumber and dumber

          Watch IDIOCRACY, my friend. That’s about the future of humanity… well… in a comic way

          1. That was my idea of a true horror film!

  5. I see a lot of people have the same opinion as me on this issue. Violent video games do not cause violence in STABLE players. It’s the minority of people who already have some form of mental instability, deep rooted or otherwise.

    In the past, every single medium has been made the point of interest when concerning a mass killing or series of attacks. Music, TV, movies, pornography and games is simply the most recent and fastest evolving entertainment medium there is.

    If I may use myself as an example, I played games like Doom and Duke Nukem 3D back when I was 8 years old. Those games were cutting edge back then of course, so my parents drilled it into me that they were just games. In real life, now age 28, I can recall throwing a total of 6 punches, all while in school, all in self defence. I’m not a violent man, despite seeing a lot of simulated violence.

    It’s people who have experienced REAL violence that can snap, and I agree that videogames, movies and music might help tip the scale. That then takes us back to mental instabilities.

    You can’t tar everyone with the same brush.

  6. lj4linux

    Sometimes you must have a so-called violent behavior to annihilate your frustrations. Some people go to a football match (shouting and swearing). Some others play (violent) games. In Japan people smash things (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC15uSdv3PA)…
    My point of view is that violent games (as Zekiran said in a post above) is a form of prevention. If you are violent by nature then you will start a fight at the stadium or things like that but to play violent games will be the last of your concern.
    I’m not a psychiatrist but I know a lot about people behavior.
    BTW the other posts and their relevant opinions: there are two movies that I liked a lot: “Falling down” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106856/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1) and “Idiocracy” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387808/) . WATCH THEM IF YOU CAN!

  7. Lots of things can cause violent behaviour. Seeing something you don’t like on TV might break an unstable mind. Causing the person to do something he or she will regret.

    People pick Video Games when talking about this because we are in control of the actions we do. In some games we don’t have a choice but more and more games allow the freedom of choice. We can choose to kill or not kill.

    I won’t go into depth here. My short answer is No, Video Games do not make us more Violent. There are studies that prove they do and there are studies that prove that they don’t. But there are studies that tells us that Chocolate makes me good-looking and that toilet paper is a sign of Illuminati.

    I try not to think about it too much.

    1. Zekiran

      If violent video games made us violent, wouldn’t stealthy games make us able to sneak around?

      Wouldn’t surgery simulator make us all into surgeons? 😀

      I mean, the logic is so very, very flawed. 😀

      1. When talking about video games, people tend to only mention the violent parts. They left out the stories, characters and emitions. More than once I cried during the Mass Effect games. Same goes for the Walking Dead games.

        Video Games has left me with some great memories wich will always be with me. Its not when I shot a zombie in the head or when I blew up a building full of enemies. Its that incredible plot twist in that one game or the emotional conversation between two characters. Some video games are mindless violence, but most are interactive stories wich we follow and enjoy.

  8. Hec

    Well, it’s an old dilemma, but my thoughts about it are that it just depends of the social context if a PERSON is violent or not.

    We just can’t blame a videogame, that’s just a silly argument, blame other reasons rather than the people who is violent.

    I guess as I said, context (home violence, intrafamiliar violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, etc…) those things can make one person men or woman violent… Many times and sadly from a childhood age.

    There are some pretty violent. Even sadistic games, but I think that is just not the reason for people to get violent, and possibly in America is because of their bland and flexible institutions regarding gun possessions.

    For example and in my case, I just love the “BRUTAL HALF-LIFE” mod (Give it a look: http://www.moddb.com/mods/brutal-half-life) , is just gore as hell…. But that doesn’t mean I’ll get out to the street and dismember persons… You know…

    1. Well, pro-gun activists have always invoked the same logic. It’s crazy people who kill other people, not guns.

      That said, the Second Amendment is a linguistic mess. Have you ever read it?

      A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

      Depending on how you interpret it, you can arrive at two completely contradictory conclusions. And we’ve been having this battle ever since, as the mile-long Wikipedia page demonstrates. Who are “the people?” The Militia? Or people in general? What does “well regulated” actually mean? And why were the authors so deathly afraid of periods?

      To me, we need to apply more common sense than try to parse out poorly-written 300-year-old scripture. Common sense says that mentally disturbed people – people with anger management issues or who have a history of suicidal or homicidal tendencies – should not be able to own guns. There is no conceivable benefit to letting them have guns. We can certainly debate over who gets to define someone as mentally disturbed – perhaps it’s a conflict-of-interest for the government to be making that diagnosis – but to me, it’s irrational to argue against this general concept.

      Common sense also says that we already regulate guns, and such regulations really haven’t been a massive inconvenience, nor have they led to the slippery slope that gun advocates fear. Which is not an entirely irrational fear, but let’s give credit where credit is due – we’ve done a pretty cautious, responsible job of regulating firearms already. We’re not blind to their concerns.

      I just think we have to find some reasonable middle ground and we need to have an honest, rational debate. As long as politicians continue to demagogue the issue, we will continue to endure these terrible mass shootings and tragedies.

      1. Hec

        As long as politicians continue to demagogue the issue, we will continue to endure these terrible mass shootings and tragedies.

        Absolutely agree on this…

        You know, here in Mexico powerful firearms are forbidden, and get a legal one is so complicated…

        Nevertheless, you can get’em illegally quite easy, or at least join mobs who can have brutal firepower, and because of that we have a brutal amount of deaths is so sad and disturbing…

  9. If I were walking down a dark ally with a crowbar and a zombine jumped out from the shadows, Half-Life would save my life as I am well trained for just that situation!
    But HL has no relevance in reality.
    The American military uses combat gaming to train teenagers in actual combat skills on their Xboxes and Playstations. Make of that what you will…

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