Gaming, Video Games

Games (Usually) Don’t Make Us Violent

Violent video games have a bad reputation in the non-gaming community. People are constantly criticizing gamers for playing violent games, and they especially frown upon kids playing these games. Their claim is that playing these obscenely violent games negatively influences us to the point where we feel the need to kill others in mass shootings. At the very least, they say that games make us more irritable and prone to violent outbursts.

Obviously, as a gamer, I disagree. Games don’t make me violent. I’m not going to go kill anyone, and I’m going to explain why.

First of all, here is a disclaimer: if I were to write down all my thoughts on this topic, I would be here writing this all evening, so this is merely a consolidation of my thoughts (well, somewhat consolidated).

One important thing to note is that games DO influence us. I sometimes feel that maybe I’m a bit desensitized to violence. Of course, when there is a mass shooting, I feel terrible for those involved, but watching a violent movie, for example, doesn’t really get under my skin. I can watch a gory film and (usually) be okay about it.

Does that mean I condone violence? Absolutely not. Violence toward another person is wrong in nearly any form, and I would never willingly find myself engaging in violent activities in real life. Do I kill virtual people? Yes. But they are virtual. I realize that there is a difference between fantasy and reality. I can slit a thousand necks in Halo and Call of Duty, but I will never, under my own power and will, slit the neck of another human being unless in self-defense. I know that video games are fake, and I seperate that from my view of reality.

Of course, there are some people who are incapable of separating reality and fantasy, and I feel that these are the people that should be closely monitored and restricted from playing violent games. (The same can be said for gun laws, but I’m not talking about politics here). Simply put, those with mental conditions such as schizophrenia should be monitored because they are the ones more likely to be negatively influenced by games to a point where they could commit a serious crime.

So, I thought I would get that out of the way first. Yes, any gamer can be influenced by games, even if the outcome is a slight change in behavior. However, there are some who cannot handle the responsibility that comes with being subjected to violent games. These few should not restrict the rest of gamers from playing these titles though. The same can be said for kitchen knives; nobody can have them because one out of one thousand (just pulling out a random number) murders somebody with a knife. Also, nobody should be able to drive, because there was that one guy on the news that ran into his neighbor’s kid.

That’s not how it works. I’m not trying to be insensitive; crimes are terrible, but when you say that I should essentially be punished by being barred from playing my favorite games because of the reckless actions of a mentally deranged individual, you’re overstepping your boundary.

The gaming community as a whole is not a violent bunch. I have many friends (including church-going individuals) who play violent video games, and none of us would dare murder somebody. We play the games because we enjoy the action, or maybe the graphics are amazing, or maybe the storyline is engaging. We don’t play these games to learn how to kill. We don’t play games to learn a new assassination; our minds aren’t constantly filled with violent thoughts every moment of the day just because we play these games. To think that people essentially think we’re being poisoned is absurd!

Now, I’m not going to bring religion into my blog posts regularly, but considering the topic, I somewhat find the need to bring it up. As I mentioned in the last paragraph, I’m a church-going teen, and so are many of my friends who play violent games. Quick backstory about me: I won a statewide preaching competition at a youth convention in my state’s capital city; I was able to minister to over 600 individuals that day, and it was great. I ended up with thousands of dollars in scholarship money to Christian schools and universities. As a result, I was invited to preach at a concert in my hometown a couple months later. But, what happened within a couple days after being back home from the convention?

I was back to playing Call of Duty. Seriously.

I love God, and he’s first and foremost in my life, however, I don’t think that he mind’s me playing these games. It’s him who I am ultimately trying to please in everything I do in my life. Where am I going with all this religious stuff? Long story short, is it possible to be a decent person with morals and religion while murdering virtual people in your downtime? Yes, because I choose what influences me; I don’t buy everything I’m told, and I tend to think I have good judgement. I can choose to have a heart that’s filled with compassion rather than violence because I don’t let the violence in the games I play influence me.

If it were to ever get to the point where I were to somehow become violent and immoral because of video games, I would hope that one of my family members or friends would step in and do something about it. I would hope that they would care enough for me to save me from the violence I’d be succumbing to in that situation. That brings up an important point.

When you have others around you to influence you in a positive way, games won’t be a negative influence. The lives, hearts, and minds of gamers (and nearly everyone else) are shaped by more than just the games we play; our entire lives define us. If we live out well rounded lives that include social interaction and other activities, we will have the clear judgement to realize that games are not everything, and their content is not what the real world is like.

If you have noticed, many of the mass murderers who have been in the news lately are reclusive. This isn’t to say that being introverted or reclusive is a bad thing, but occasionally there are those who put themselves in their own little world and gradually lose sight of how things really are. It’s not an instant change, and it’s not due solely to video games. Let me make this clear: The content of an individual is either instilled at birth, through a troubled childhood, or otherwise composed of a lifetime of influences, and many (and any) factor(s) can contribute to this. 

I mean that there are those that are troubled from the womb, others are heavily influenced by an unloving or unsupportive family, and others (as in the recluses I mentioned earlier) become the creation of a lifetime of influences that they subject themselves to: more than simply video games. Can video games contribute to that? Yes, I said earlier that video games do influence us, but games are not the sole influence, as it takes a barrage of negative media to form an insensitive individual.

I’ll close by saying this; I’m a teenager, and I like to think that I know what I’m talking about most of the time. With that being said, I also realize that there are MANY things I don’t understand yet; things that I will only be able to learn as I grow older and gain more life experience. It’s completely possible that I have no idea what I’m saying, and I’m so far off the mark because I don’t have the “lifetime of influences” I mentioned earlier. Secondly, I’m pretty worn out and I’m not quite thinking straight, but I felt the need to publish something, given the great enthusiasm my last post saw. I might come back to this in a day or two and revise it when I’m running on all cylinders.

For now, what do you think? How do games influence you, and do you think that games alone make a violent individual, as the media would like to make you think?

Off To Get Sleep
Matt Shiflet

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7 thoughts on “Games (Usually) Don’t Make Us Violent”

  1. I’m going to take a different approach to responding to this post.

    It is impossible to say that we are unaffected by the goings on in our surroundings unless we were truly sociopathic. This means that video games can have a profound affect on people and do have a profound affect on people, something that I don’t think we should begin to deny. But should we really go so far as to think that of everything else we encounter in our day-to-day existence that video games are what drive people to violence? It’s somehow video games and not the utterly uncaring society that we are a part of, nothing at all about the culture and everything about the game?

    Anyone who truly believes that video games have a more profound impact on the behaviour of other people is a complete fucking moron. Video games can move us and impact us profoundly, but they pale in comparison to the way our family, social, economic, religious and political circles impact us. After all, video games ultimately step from these circles and not the other way round. The only real way a video game can have some a remarkably negative influence on us is if that game was truly the straw that broke the camel’s back and, again, the great weight breaking the camel down didn’t come from the game but everything else outside of it.

    It’s the height of irresponsibility to refuse to look at our own cultures and, even more, to not examine why other cultures outside of the United States seem to not have the same problem while having the same games.

    1. “After all, video games ultimately step from these circles and not the other way round.”

      Should read:

      After all, video games ultimately stem from these circles and not the other way round.

      1. Exactly. It’s kind of like the cliche statement about video games that says that there have been violent people and wars for thousands of years, and now apparently video games are the cause. What made them violent? Like you said, it could be the straw that broke the camels back, but just like violent people thousands of years ago, there was always something more aside from just video games.

        I definitely think it’s true that games influence us, both negatively and positively. I think in the end it comes down to making a conscious decision to either let the positive or the negative influences make a difference in your life. If you’re the kind of person who can’t do that to begin with, then it’s not the fault of the violence in the games, it’s the violence inside of you that the games just magnify. It’s a person problem, not a gaming problem.

      2. I’m cautious when I say that I agree with what you’re saying here, that it ultimately comes down to us making a conscious decision to let them affect us. Some people have greater emotional control and, as such, can allow themselves to be swept up and others simply can’t help it one way or the other. A solid example is Amnesia: the Dark Descent. I followed the developers’ directions and allowed myself to get caught up in the story, allowed myself to be afraid, while others simply can’t help but be afraid and still others won’t feel a damn thing.

        I respect the notion of personal responsibility, yet in a culture as ultimately uncaring as what we have in the United States I can’t help but think that it has a significantly larger impact than we are aware of -and larger than we, as a culture, are obviously willing to investigate. Even though it comes down to personal responsibility at the end of the day it should be clear that, along with plenty of other examples of acts of violence having nothing to do with video games, the culture we come from is particularly devastating.

        Does this exempt personal responsibility? No, it doesn’t, it just allows for a fuller perspective. In being responsible individuals we need to accept that violent video games aren’t just a skill challenge or functional art, they are an outlet for us to purge ourselves of these negative behaviours in a safe environment and they can exist because we are mature enough to direct these behaviours here.

        Maybe after we’ve played through a level of Doom, allowed ourselves to feel, utilise and let go of those nasty emotions, we could refocus on the various problems at hand. That’s the hope, anyway.

  2. Well, I suppose I should clarify. When I said “…in the end it comes down to making a conscious decision to either let the positive or the negative influences make a difference in your life,” it should have read more like “at the end of the day, you decide whether or not you’re going to pick up a gun and shoot somebody or not,” to put it literally.

    I get what you’re saying about how everything influences us more than we realize, (believe me, I know this to be true) but on an extreme scale, as in killing somebody due to what we’ve learned in a video game, it comes down to us making that decision for ourselves. We can’t choose to be influenced, but we can usually choose whether or not to react radically and recklessly in response to those influences, I suppose is a better way of saying it.

    I like the twist you put on the end though; how games might actually provide an outlet for our anger as opposed to a way to harbor it and build it instead. I would have to study and look into that more, because it’s definitely worth knowing. Maybe that, too, comes down to every individual; maybe we all react differently to the violence in games.

  3. “We can’t choose to be influenced, but we can usually choose whether or not to react radically and recklessly in response to those influences, I suppose is a better way of saying it.”

    I can get behind this completely.

  4. I agree with everything you guys are saying. I don’t think games are the main cause of shootings obviously, but a collection of negative things that can break a person down can definitely contribute.

    The Voice – using Amnesia as an example was perfect simply because when i played it, i was able to be terrified but still be able to separate myself from it when i stopped playing. Awesome game by the way. Have you played the new one?

    Some people who are more susceptible to these kinds of violent outbursts should be monitored as you stated. The other thing that bothers me though is that most people aren’t paying attention to the age restrictions which I think is a major factor at times.

    It really is a shame that this still happens but unfortunately it is going to keep happening, every medium gets nailed for it. lol

    Anyway, awesome read as always.

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