A Letter to Senator Hilary Clinton on Video Game Violence

While browsing the internet yesterday, I stumbled across an article centering around a $90 million study you have proposed on the so-called "effects of video game violence." Please realize what a huge waste of not only taxpayer's dollars this is, but also how simple the answer is to all of this. It has nothing to do at all with the content of these rated video games, but everything to do with lackluster parenting.

Studies like these have been conducted already, multiple times actually. There have been countless books published on the subject. There is no need for anything further. These studies have shown both sides of an argument that should not exist, much like the war against comic books in the early 1960s, Dungeons and Dragons in the 1980s, and rap music in the 1990s. Those have of course been dropped and the focus has been shifted simply because video games are now a major (and rapidly expanding) industry. Oddly, comic books, D & D, and rap music do still exist. Why is there no mention of these "evils" any longer?

This is nothing more than either a blatantly political move to attract votes from the older demographic (while completely shunning those who play the games) who do not understand the video game medium or yet another attempt to blame something on the country's woes. This is wrong, plain and simple. We have become a country filled with citizens who absolutely refuse to put the blame on themselves for their actions. Instead, they look towards the entertainment medium.

A video games content is no worse than a feature film with an "R" rating, which can also be picked up at a local video store. Why does this study only apply to video games? Why are movies not coming under attack? Why are books not a part of this? I have read countless books which feature decapitation, sex, drug use, and all-out violence with more graphic depictions of said actions than any video game, and I've played those for nearly 20 years. The same can be said for feature films.

The big question here, one that even studies that supposedly prove a link cannot prove, is how a series like "Grand Theft Auto" can sell 25 million+ (estimated) copies worldwide, yet all of .000001% of game players actually commit violent crime. That's common sense and logic at work, something no $90 million study can possibly provide. As a side note, I've played "Grand Theft Auto," "Mortal Kombat," or the soon to be discovered by politicians "God of War." Never once have I been involved in a fistfight, handled a gun, or even have thoughts of doing so. The same can be said for the millions of people around the world who play video games everyday.

Should a child be playing "Grand Theft Auto?" No, of course not. The game features a rating, on both the front and the back of the box in bold lettering, stating it is intended for an audience over 18 years of age plus showing exactly what is contained in the gameplay. So, why are children playing this game? Parents either don't care or are uniformed. That's not the fault of the game makers. For instance, while ringing up a mother (and her child whom I estimate to be 10 years old at the most) at my place of employment, the child seemed overly enthusiastic about the new Harry Potter book we have available for pre-order. The mother refused, instead buying him a copy of "Splinter Cell," a rather dark title with countless acts of violence and an "M" rating. Even after I explained the content to her, she simply shot a slow glance at her kid briefly, and then purchased the game for $50 instead of the $45 book. I see this everyday.

That's just bad parenting. So, if a link was proven by some slim chance between video game violence and real life violence, who is at fault? If the child who now has the violent game in hand commits an act he sees in the game, why is the game maker at fault? A child should be raised not only with values, but the ability to see right from wrong and fantasy and reality. Too many children are brought up without these values today, and that's exactly where the problem lies, not with the game makers who have been recipients of countless lawsuits blaming them for the downfall of our society.

If anything, the $90 million should be spent on two things: Either to help educate parents about an excellent rating system that has been in place since the mid-90s or to figure out just what has happened to the guardians of this countries children. It's blatantly obvious this is where the problem lies, and there's not a single argument, study, or theory out there that can prove that wrong.

Comments (6)

I agree. Spend the $90 million on advertising for the ESRB. Oh, and Chaos Theory rocks. But I am over 18, so it is OK for me to buy it.

Sean:

"...yet another attempts to blame something on the countries woes."

It should be "country's woes."

Otherwise, a nice bit on the joke of the "blame anyone but me mentality."

Yeah, you're right. It should be "attempt" too. I'm sure Hilary gets worse than that though. =;) Changes being made..

Stephanie:

While I agree that we do not need to spend $90 mil on the game research, I disagree with your uninformed statements claiming that violent gaming is not detrimental to our youth.

This is NOT the same as watching a violent movie. There is a proven link between participating in video game violence and being desensitized toward violent behavior. I invite you to look at the following which are actual studies that show some relevant facts.

EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AGGRESSIVE COGNITION, AGGRESSIVE AFFECT, PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL, AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature (PDF)

Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions

Violent Video Games Produce Violent Behavior (About.com)

As a parent, I monitor what my children play and watch. I know there are parents out there that allow their children to play the M rated games-mine do not. While I do not think these parents are completely without blame, the entire burden of fault can not be placed upon their shoulders. The children that have issues with violence most likely have a predisposition to violence or perhaps an underlying psychological problem that is exacerbated by being rewarded in a game for behaving violently.

While parents contribute greatly to the adult their child will become, other factors are relevant as well. Some children are just the way they are. When you have children of your own, then you will understand how completely off base you were with this one.

FIGHT! Thanks Stephanie. I hope you don't mind that I edited your comment to make your links clickable.

No, there has NEVER been a PROVEN link between video games and violence, ever. There never will be. I've seen reports like yours before. Many a time, actually. I've read books on the topic. What they usually fail to miss are two very important and obvious points that kill anything they suggest:

1. How millions upon millions of kids each day play video games and only a ridiculously percentage actually ever commits a violent crime. If they did affect kids, then why don't they all start shooting their classmates? Simple. A parent does not take an active role in the child's life early on. They do not understand real life versus fantasy. Where were the parents of the Columbine shooters as they re-coded an entire game to match their school halls (this takes a LONG time)? How about when they built bombs in their garage? Everyone blamed Doom, but not a single person ever looked into the home where the parents failed to even remotely take a role in their child's life.

My personal favorite is the story of the "addicted" Everquest player who killed himself when someone stole his gold in the game. Here's a kid who quit his job to play the game full time, hours a day. Who paid for the internet connection? Who paid the fee to play the game? Who had the power to pull the cord? Mom. Why didn't she? Oh, she wasn't paying attention or didn't care, then slapped Sony with a multi-million dollar lawsuit. Oh, and she lost. Wonder why?

2. Why exactly has juvenile violence decreased ever since video games have become so "violent?" You can look at any chart here, but look at the third one specifically. Look at when the major increase started, 1985 or so. Why? Video games certainly weren't violent back then and it could be argued that until 1992 or so, they weren't anywhere near as bad as they are now. Were kids playing Pac-Man and trying to chomp on classmates, starting that increase in violence? Uh, no. You don't need a report to tell you that. What's even better about this stat is how since video games have picked up a steam and become a multi-BILLION dollar industry, that number has taken a significant decrease (even though more people than ever are playing them) while criticism has taken a significant increase. Money is the one and only reason that games have been targeted and it's just something new for politicians now that movies, comics, and rap have run their course.

I love this quote by the way:

"The children that have issues with violence most likely have a predisposition to violence or perhaps an underlying psychological problem that is exacerbated by being rewarded in a game for behaving violently."

Ok, so who bought the child the game? Where did the predisposition come from? Why is a child with a problem like that playing a game like this? Who is with the child when they purchase a $50 video game and who gave them the money? If the parents didn't give them the money, why doesn't a parent know the who/what/when/how of where that cash came from? Why do parents come back into my store infuriated when I refuse to sell their kid an M rated game? And, is it the video game makers fault if the kid has these problems? You can look up any of these school shootings or tragedies and throw them at me. Deep down, the problem started at home, every single time.

This comment is even better:

"Some children are just the way they are."

So, let me try and get this straight... a child is born with the idea to go out and kill someone? No. That idea comes from someplace else, and if it was video games, I hope you can explain just why .01% of kids have issues with it.

I'm glad that you're taking an active role in your child's life and took the time to understand the ESRB. Unfortunately, you seem to be part of a minority.

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