Are Video Games A “Public Health Problem”?
It’s been a while since I’ve written an editorial regarding any particular talking point within the video game industry, and usually it’s positive. Not today. Unfortunately I stumbled upon a ridiculous Fox News article series citing some astounding studies that conclude, violent video games are a “public health problem”. Although the term “violent video games” puts some video games into an extremely general group that under-minds their entire context we will use it for this article. Fox News is seemingly running a campaign against violent video games, as over the past several days many condescending videos and articles on their developers were made. This isn’t the first time some mainstream media outlet regurgitated some babble letting us know us how horrible video games are in general; if it isn’t Super Mario making you obese it’s Call of Duty turning you into a domestic terrorist.
While I’d rather not bore you with the typical journalist’s superfluous rhetoric, these days it seems necessary to prove this very simple point. Video Games have absolutely nothing to do with violence in the real world. The notion that gamers are so empathetically disconnected from reality when they enjoy gaming experiences (violent or non-violent) is extremely false however Fox News would argue otherwise. On their site, a four-part series explaining how terrible violent video games has been written with tons of he said/she said citations to back this irrelevant idea. One major co-signer of violent video game’s “negative long-term effects” include the American Psychological Association, who believe: “when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques … five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts and affect; increased physiological arousal and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.” [seen here]. Now we can admit, everything they have just discovered is 100% accurate. When you’re as competitive as I am, you tend to be aggressive in the heat of a domination match with 40 seconds left and a 7 point difference between you and your opponents, not to mention your increased focus (physiological arousal?), and decreased desire to help others. I’m sorry, my Call of Duty W/L ratio is a lot more important than killing the spider sitting on the bathroom door that my girlfriend is afraid of. Sorry for being such a horrible person…
Regardless of whether someone “gets off” on the idea that you can kill people with no repercussions in video games, or “train to kill people”, anyone in society who believes violent video games are to blame for some individuals’ actions ignore fundamental liability for one’s actions. Fox News’s primitive perspective of the video game industry shows when the author, Mike Jaccarino, says “and many games now employ so-called “cinematics” – movie-like sequences that advance the storyline and plot.”. So called cinematics? Wait…that’s not all. David Ryan Polgar a tech ethicist, being paraphrased by Fox News said: “video games rarely have a strong storyline equal to that in a book or movie. This creates a lack of empathy in the gamer for that character. He says the added realism of next-gen consoles makes this more problematic” [seen here]. How is violence in entertainment media subjectively more evil when it’s video games other than let’s say…a movie? I’d also like to add collectively the video game community should send Fox News and David Ryan Polgar a catalog of games that at least includes the entire Metal Gear and Uncharted series.
Mike Jaccarino goes on to quote the webpages of games such as Gears of War, and Duke Nukem’s official websites and trailers. With video games gone it won’t be the first nor the last stimulus for such insane actions by deranged people. There is still music, movies, and literature to an extent; but not to Fox News, video games deserve all this credibility. The redundancy of this topic has absorbed anything new that I can say to explain why this belief is wrong; but what if it wasn’t, what if violent video games did cause violence and negative repercussions in people? Should the TSA grope more thoroughly as I pass through airport security if they’ve seen Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 in my carry-on luggage, or should the NSA tune into my PSN/XBL lobbies to prepare for my next move? Perhaps we should impose legislation backed by the US Department of Health to ban these games. Maybe, just maybe, we should stop throwing lunatics in our society a scapegoat at the expense of video games. I find it incredible that repor who feel there should be more legislation or warnings with the purchase of video games completely ignore the ESRB rating system that has been around for so long. You wouldn’t allow your child to purchase bullets…right? Of course not, it isn’t even legal. Not saying it is impossible, but it is difficult for adolescents to get a hold of M-rated (violent, sexually suggestive, vulgar) titles anyway without flashing ID. Why should video game developers be held responsible for minors getting hold of these “violent” video games; content control is ultimately a guardian’s responsibility, however that isn’t even the argument! Fox believes the gaming industry should be held accountable for deeply manifested lunacy within past mass murderers like James Holmes of Aurora, Colo. movie theater shooting. Game developers are hard-working men and women just like all of us; the belief that violent video games are terrible for people preemptively concludes that their makers must be terrible people. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I have often had debates with my colleagues about whether certain games deserve artistic merit or not. We can all agree that there are plenty video games, as violent as even Grand Theft Auto, that are a satirical representation of society; the artist’s and developers perspectives of the world in a world that they created. The perspective of which someone views video games place in society is strictly subjective. Ultimately your actions as a result of playing video games, good or bad, are your decision — has common sense become that scarce?
Discussions such as this are very ironic when games like Grand Theft Auto V has satirical undertones that explore the well known media consolidation and exploitation in our society. I learned more about the active Fukushima nuclear crisis with 3 minutes of GTAV’s in-car radio as opposed to 60 minutes of Fox News television. “Sure, your government would never lie to you about such a thing”. Mainstream media outlets would rather tell us about how horrible our video games are but won’t tell us the truth about the physical reality we live in. As the Editor-in-Chief of Dual Pixels it would be a journalistic sin for me to write here regarding such topics. On the contrary Fox News feels “big brother” obligated to intervene on video game publishing as an ally to “public health” when they’ve failed advocate for the removal of the toxic fluoride in the NYC water supply I regrettably drink. We’ll one thing’s for certain, I can blame my poisoned water supply on any grammatical errors found in this article.
Please Fox News, keep your thoughts away from our video games.
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