A hot debate over the years has been whether or not video games make children more violent or not. Even in the days of the Super Nintendo there were questions of whether or not video games such as Mortal Kombat made children more violent. A UK study carried out at the University of Glasgow used surveys of mothers for over 11,000 parents in order to track children’s behavior over time. The key findings of the study were as follows.
Exposure to video games had no effect on behavior, attention or emotional issues.
Watching 3 or more hours of television at age 5 did lead to a small increase in behavioral problems in youngsters between 5 and 7.
Neither television nor video games lead to attentional or emotional problems.
There was no difference between boys and girls in the survey results.
This is one of the largest studies every conducted on the issue of video games effect on behavior and is interesting because it conflicts with other studies done in the United States. Do you believe playing video games can make a child more susceptible to violence?
Bob Iger, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company, has announced that the company will take a closer look at violence in their video games following the Newtown school shooting. Iger says that the team at Disney will take a good look at everything they’ve got that could be considered near the line or over the line with regards to violence. He conceded that Disney titles very, very, rarely feature violence, but he still wants to make sure that they’re asking themselves the right questions in terms of that standard.
“[We will} take stock in everything we’ve got that can be considered near the line or over the line”
“Fortunately at Disney there’s very little [violent content], but I still want to make sure we’re asking ourselves the right questions in terms of that standard, and also [ensure] we’re willing to be a part of a dialogue in today’s world that I think is pretty necessary in terms of what our role is and what our role should be.”
Based on international data, The Washington Post concludes that the use of video games doesn’t relate with an increase in gun violence. And, as a matter of fact, countries where video game consumption is popular have significantly lower firearm-related murder rates. Also, because countries in which video games are popular are most likely stable and developed, countries where video games are popular tend to be the safest in the world.
It’s true that Americans spend billions of dollars on video games every year and that the United States has the highest firearm murder rate in the developed world. But other countries where video games are popular have much lower firearm-related murder rates. In fact, countries where video game consumption is highest tend to be some of the safest countries in the world, likely a product of the fact that developed or rich countries, where consumers can afford expensive games, have on average much less violent crime.
That video game consumption, based on international data, does not seem to correlate at all with an increase in gun violence. That countries where video games are popular also tend to be some of the world’s safest (probably because these countries are stable and developed, not because they have video games). And we also have learned, once again, that America’s rate of firearm-related homicides is extremely high for the developed world.
Epic Mickey producer Warren Spector says that the ultra-violence that we saw displayed in a number of games at this years E3 event has to stop. Spector believes that developers are now fetishizing violence and combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality.
“This is the year where there were two things that stood out for me. One was: The ultraviolence has to stop. We have to stop loving it. I just don’t believe in the effects argument at all, but I do believe that we are fetishizing violence, and now in some cases actually combining it with an adolescent approach to sexuality. I just think it’s in bad taste. Ultimately I think it will cause us trouble.”
“I left Eidos in 2004 because I looked around at E3 and saw the new Hitman game where you get to kill with a meat hook, and 25 to Life, the game about kids killing cops, and Crash & Burn the racing game where the idea is to create the fieriest, most amazing explosions, not to win the race… I looked around my own booth and realized I just had one of those ‘which thing is not like the other’ moments. I thought it was bad then, and now I think it’s just beyond bad.”
“We’ve gone too far. The slow-motion blood spurts, the impalement by deadly assassins, the knives, shoulders, elbows to the throat. You know, Deus Ex had its moments of violence, but they were designed – whether they succeeded or not I can’t say – but they were designed to make you uncomfortable, and I don’t see that happening now. I think we’re just appealing to an adolescent mindset and calling it mature. It’s time to stop. I’m just glad I work for a company like Disney, where not only is that not something that’s encouraged, you can’t even do it, and I’m fine with it.”