It's my pleasure to welcome Ian Boudreau to the Breaking Time with this intelligent piece on shifting away from the old "gaming causes violence" mess to deal with real problems in the subculture and industry
This isn't a social problem
Writing about video games after a violent tragedy like the one late last year in Sandy Hook is a delicate thing. One doesn’t want to appear too reflexively defensive, but at the same time, it’s important to express the frustration caused when some well-meaning politician or advocate suggests that video games may have had a hand in a massacre.
Video games simply aren’t the cause of violent behavior. There’s no evidence suggesting they are – and a set of data provided by the Washington Post helpfully illustrates this. In a set of ten developed nations, per capita spending on video games – including violent games – roughly correlates with a slight downward trend in violence. The only clear outlier is the United States – suggesting our problem with violence has its roots in something other than Doom or Call of Duty.
A fellow blogger suggested to me that the science does indeed show that a relationship exists between games and violence – that valid research has been done and that it shows “spikes in aggressive thoughts and expectation” after playing sessions of violent video games. (A good summary of this research, and the counterarguments, is provided by gaming site Kotaku.)
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Vice President Joe Biden met with top industry brass from across the media spectrum, including the big video game publishers. On his recommendation, President Barack Obama announced a $10 million grant to the Centers for Disease Control to study the effects of video games and other “violent media.”
“We shouldn’t be afraid of the facts,” Biden said in a subsequent Google Hangout on gun violence.
Indeed not. However, it’s a shame that this discussion – and the grant money – are focused on a problem that doesn’t exist rather than one of the many that do within the games industry and community.