October 13th, 2005
I’ll give you ten thousand dollars if you can prove that video games are any more responsible for violence than the other random things in the world that make up our daily existence. You can’t, so my money is safe (of course, the offer is laughably vague, so essentially I’m just committing the same debate crime you’re using to get some attention). You’re a small person trying to make a buck off of the pain of others using the cheap legal notion of proximate cause, and trying to find any case where you can win in court using that idea.
I’m not going to argue that no act of violence in the history of the world hasn’t been affected by a video game, but that number is vanishingly small when measured against other things that are supposedly “good” in ways that games are “bad”. The most violent people I encountered as a kid were the athletes at school, testosterone freaks who enjoyed bullying weaker kids and who, being lauded as “upstanding young men” by faculty and parents, enjoyed a great deal of freedom and support as bullies. Does that make football something we should get rid of? Of course not.
Of the billion or so people who play violent video games, you would think that it would be easy to observe a correlation between video games and violence. Somehow, it’s actually very hard to find a correlation. Somehow, video game playing, including mostly violent video games, has continued to rise among kids over the past decade, yet youth violence has fallen over that same period. Logically, I have just as much right to draw a correlation saying that violent video games reduce real violence as you have of saying it causes it. Do I stoop to drawing such a conclusion? Fuck no, because I have insufficient data to back that claim up. I’m intellectually honest, not a cheap showman.
As a developer of several violent games, I’ve seen exactly the opposite of what you claim: I see vast communities of kids playing violent games, forming online friendships, learning highly technical skills required to modify games, and becoming part of a great, friendly, worldwide community. Childsplay was born out of a community significantly raised on video game violence and violent fantasy role-play, and it is a charity that has given so much more to the world than you ever will.
I have gotten emails from fathers, thanking us for providing them with our (violent) team-based online games, so they could play together with their sons, creating a new avenue for them to relate to each other when they couldn’t before. I have gotten many, many emails from kids eager to join the industry, inspired by some of the most graphically violent games in existence: these kids are spending every free hour learning applications of incredible sophistication (like Maya, 3D Studio MAX, or Photoshop), or learning to write code, so that they can someday work in games. I’ve seen firsthand how games (violent ones, even) can turn a despressed kid into an enthused, happy kid. Web communities of thousands of folks around the world have sprung up of people who are interested in playing and modifying games: what other activity inspires a young man in the United States to team up with people he’s never met from England, France, and Japan, to work together to create a new, fun piece of entertainment, and to give it away for the free enjoyment of millions of other people? As the former Third-Party Liason for a violent first-person shooter game company, I dealt with these sorts of folks every day for years, and it was inspiring. Game playing has so many more benefits than small people like you, Jack, could possibly imagine: there is a happy, quirky, funny, big-hearted world of people online, having very real, very caring, very human relationships, and a bunch of it grew out of some of the most violently-themed entertainment since Titus Andronicus.
Are there warts? Sure, but it’s because people are warty things, not because games create warts. Are games somehow duty-bound to not allow people to be people? That would be a thoroughly stupid, and impossible, goal. Are games an outlet for some? Yes. Are games fun entertainment for some? Yes. Are games the most satisfying social interaction in life for some? Yes. Are you, Jack, going to do anything to anything to fill the need in these peoples’ lives that game-playing currently fills? No, so shut up.
Developer of Some Violent Games and Some Non-Violent Games, Father of two, Non-Charlatan