Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On Video Games: Reducing Violence OR Increasing Immediate / Delayed Violence?

The latest Economist magazine issue had a cover entitled: "Breeding Evil? The real impact of video games". It openly declared that it is in defence of the idea of video games. Take the following description for example, using quantitative analysis from sources, not explicitly mentioned.

"Most of the research on whether video games encourage violence is unsatisfactory, focusing primarily on short-term effects. In the best study so far, frequent playing of a violent game sustained over a month had no effect on participants' level of aggression. And, during the period in which gaming has become widespread in America, violent crime has fallen by half. If games really did make people violent, this tendency might be expected to show up in the figures, given that half of Americans play computer and video games. Perhaps, as some observers have suggested, gaming actually makes people less violent, by acting as a safety valve." (Economist, August 6th 2005)

Such data itself was interpreted by the Economist on a positive manner, insisting eventually that the divide between the Yes and the No group for Video gaming is essentially a divide between the under 40s and the over 40s. Afterall, most of the people playing video games are under 40. Those who opposed video games are mostly over 40. Moreover, using the example of Rock n Roll, the Economist simply pointed that over time, people will come to accept Rock n Roll as a part of life to be lived with, and even be embraced. Afterall, they insisted that video games actually reduced the number of violent crimes. Clearly, there are always two sides to the coin. Data can always be interpreted either way.

Firstly, assuming the data provided by the Economist is accurate, that violent crimes has actually gone down with the use of video gaming, it is too simplistic to place a direct link between them. How about poverty, dysfunctional family background, drugs & bad influence, cultural idiosynchrocies etc?

Secondly, even if it is true that video gaming keeps violent crimes at bay, what happens when these people are NOT playing video games? If there is indeed a link between playing video games and reduction in violence, wouldn't it then be the responsibility of government and law enforcement agencies to start investing in video games companies to ensure a perpetual supply of video games (violent) to keep these people off the streets?

Thirdly, somewhat related to the second point above, what happens when the people are deprived of their video games diet? Will it then lead to withdrawal symptoms, resulting in possible physical violence patterned after what they have learnt from the violent games? I have heard of cases when children become violent when deprived of their video games diet.

Fourthly, the article defended video gaming on the basis of the reduction of number of violent crimes. It is far too early to declare that one has fully apprehended the positive or negative effects of video gaming. Games are constantly being changed. One thing is for sure. Consumers are buying more gory, bloody and violent games. Must we wait for an actual violent crime to occur before we realise that these video games do more harm than good? Simply put, one crime is one too many.

Fifthly, measuring human behaviour merely over one month grossly underestimate the ill-effects of violent video games. More time is needed to be more conclusive, as human behaviour is often measured in terms of a few months or even years!

As a Christian, we are not concerned just on the exterior but on the whole person. What good is it to preserve a good outside, when we allow the inner side to rot? Afterall, isn't it true that what happens on the inside, eventually gets manifested on the outside over time? It seems that with the report, the Economist merely attempted to address the symptoms and not the inner soul. Perhaps that is not within their purview. Perhaps this soul-talk is reserved more for the religious groups, Churches, social help organizations etc. Perhaps the Economist is merely trying to provide another point of view to the general objections of such violent games. However, by publishing this report as is, it is an unnecessary form of 'support' for the propagation of violent games. Games are generally ok, but when it come to violent, sensual, nonsensical images, we have to draw the line.

Christian, be careful what you feed yourself with! (*Remember to read the previous article on Two Wolves as an illustration)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." Philippians 4:8 NIV

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