Violent video games, it's a topic that has been discussed to death over the past several years. Do they lead cause aggression? Do they cause violence? Do they mess up your mind? Are they okay for children? This and many other questions have been asked, and continue to be asked, on the topic, and the fact of the matter is that there are definitive answers. A panel at this year's ScrewAttack Game Convention headed by Adam Sessler and others discussed this very topic at hand and I was lucky to check it out at the convention.
While the panel may have just been a few people discussing their own personal opinions, I think a few things that I took away can also be taken away as definite truth. For example, yes, violent video games may lead to a temporary heightening of competitive aggression and/or aggravation. You can't deny that; it's a fact. However, almost anything in life can do that as well. I get mad driving, talking to stupid people and when I stub my toe. Furthermore, Madden is rated "E for everyone" and I get more aggressive from that than I ever have from playing a brutally violent game like The Last of Us.
Ultimately, it comes down to not just the content of the material, but the presentation, environment and consumer themselves. If a blood-thirsty psychopath played Manhunt, it would probably draw out his desires to kill people. Someone in the audience brought up the fact that playing Call of Duty may have improved his ability to fire a gun. It doesn't teach you how to deal with kickback and how to physically operate the weapon, but it does heighten your reflexes and simulate aiming the firearm. Adam Sessler responded to this point by conceding that yes, first-person shooters do probably make you a bit more comfortable and capable around weapons - but it doesn't make you want to use them to kill people.
The most important thing that can be taken away from this panel (and this entire topic in general) is that, as gamers, we should not focus on the bad things. Don't give certain media outlets and the Negative Nancy people of the world the attention they crave. Who cares if an already mentally unstable person that should not have been allowed to play those games in the first place decides to kill somebody. Instead, look to all the good things games bring to our society. As the most expressive and interactive form of art, games allow players to become a part of their favorite stories, not just passive consumers.
With so many great charities, causes and messages within and around games these days, I'd rather see more focus on those types of things. People should be contributing to improving the image of the gaming community, not degrading it. Ultimately though, the responsibility does not fall on game developers, on retailers or even players to protect vulnerable minds from the consumption of inappropriate material; the responsibility falls on parents.
In the words of Adam Sessler speaking on Fox News, "Games are not made for children. If a game has the name of a felony in it, it's probably unwise for your children." This is the biggest thing that parents need to realize: just because your child wants it, does not mean they should have it. Games like Grand Theft Auto, Killzone, Assassin's Creed, Battlefield and several others are not only rated M for gamers age 17 and above, but their names alone are pretty clear indications of their content. Parents should be informed about what their children are doing, or as one panelist suggested would be even better - play it with them. Explain to them that it's only a game and explain to them that it's not real.
As one of the panelist stated so eloquently, "Arm yourself with knowledge, open your mouth and speak up." Couldn't have said it better myself! What are your thoughts on the topic? Let us know down in the comments below.