As I’ve been playing the new Grand Theft Auto and working on my review, I’ve had to experience some very violent content. As a person who enjoys playing video games, it’s content that I am relatively used to seeing. Some people would tell you that this has turned me into some kind of monster that craves violence and wants to pick up a gun and murder everyone I see. Those people need to rethink their lives and remember one simple motto: correlation does not equal causation.
When a tragedy occurs, most major media outlets seem to take joy in finding out the person who committed the act played video games. It’s inevitable that they find that link to violent media. They need to show the damage these games are doing to our children. Let’s put it another way, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 made 500 million dollars it’s first day. That’s about 8,333,333 copies of the game sold on the first day. I think the more likely scenario is that so many people play the game it’s hard to find a household that doesn’t contain a copy.
The belief that violent media causes violence has been around for a very long time. People have blamed everything for causing violence; books, cartoons, music and even film have looked into the eye of the beast and come out clean as soon as some new thing came along to assume the role of societal scapegoat. If all of those other forms of entertainment are now free and clear, it doesn’t really make sense to believe that the new thing, video games, will cause children to become violent monsters.
The reason this bothers me so much is because I have the warning flags filling my life. I am technically mentally unstable, due to depression and anxiety, and I spend a large amount of time playing violent video games. I have never once had the thought to hurt myself or others based on my enjoyment of those games. They’re just something fun to do to pass the time.
They present worlds in which I want to immerse myself, stories that I want to get lost in, a mythos that is interesting and full of characters that I care about. I don’t want to plan a jewelry store heist like in GTA V. It was fun to play, but in real life I couldn’t see myself hopping on a motorcycle and outrunning the cops; it’s just not possible.
I do believe that violent media has an effect on those that experience it on a regular basis, but the link between violent media and violent actions really has yet to be proven. There are studies that back it up, but there are studies that say it’s all hogwash. There just isn’t enough evidence to prove the effect, one way or another.
Maybe someday games will have the same respect as film, or books or even comics, for that matter. By then something else will fill the whipping-boy role for things that we don’t want to deal with in a real way. I will feel bad for that new media as it struggles to gain a foothold in a society that would rather point the finger at something they don’t understand and respect. Until that day comes I will fight whole-heartedly against the notion that games cause real world violence.
I am the example that this theory isn’t sound, and that makes me pretty happy.