Data, data, tralala.

I was never allowed to play violent video games. Nor was I allowed to watch violent movies. My parents are pretty Catholic, but that’s neither here nor there. What strikes me as fascinating about Ferguson’s article is that there is the data to show correlations between exposure to violent games and higher aggression in the gamers. What I want to know is how psychologically prone someone must be for the games to inspire violence in the real world? It seems to me that McGonigal and Ferguson might have an interesting debate. Exactly what is it that we learn from videogames? I don’t think that I would be able to play a violent war game or something of the sort because I don’t handle the sound effects of guns and the stress of violence very well, nor do I find it fun. But from those who do play, do games like Halo or Assassins Creed desensitize you enough that violence in reality doesn’t phase you? McGonigal would say that games teach problem solving, and creative thinking. They lead to goal-oriented people who work industriously to achieve the next step towards a better character or a better player. Personally, I would like to believe that if someone isn’t innately a sociopath, a violent videogame wouldn’t bring out the murderous personality in all of us. It seems too simple to me to place the blame of a violent society on gaming. If games can instigate aggression and violence, why can’t books? Movies? Music? All forms of media have their violent and aggressive types, and I’m sure that people who are more violent and aggressive probably enjoy them. But so do people who just like games. And even though I’m not included in the violent game tastes, I’d like to see the numbers for the violent videogame players who aren’t aggressive. And perhaps the data for a correlation of aggression in those who like violent movies, books, or music. All I’m saying is I like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, but I’m pretty sure I’m not going to break out my bow and arrow.

Ferguson mentioned another possibility for the outcome of violent games: the catharsis hypothesis. By playing a violent game, you can release aggression, not brew it. People who play violent video games are less aggressive, just as those who watch pornography are less likely to sexually assault someone. I’m not saying that violent video games and porn are the answer for ending violence in America, I’m just saying that we should probably take another look at what’s causing the problem here. I have difficulty placing a be all end all reason for violence. We have violence in America because of hundreds of reasons. Let’s talk mental health issues, gun control, and other topics that all influence violent youth. I appreciate the data, Ferguson, but let’s broaden the scope a little.

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One Response to Data, data, tralala.

  1. cstabile says:

    I think I understand you to be saying that even though Ferguson disputes a simple causal connection between violent video games and violent acts, he doesn’t help us understand what the other causes of violence are. In fairness to Ferguson, the purpose of his essay is to challenge the common sense belief that violent media make us more violent IRL. And I think he’d also suggest (and I hope I’m not putting words into his mouth) that the search for simple causal explanations is misguided. As he points out, there isn’t a lot of research on how violent video games affect violent boys (for reasons that he details in the essay). Also, why would we assume that violent video games are the determining factor even among this small subgroup and understanding that in the case of some actual shootings, the perpetrator did not play video more than anyone else did?

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