Week Three, Violence and Society

            As our ex-President George W. Bush did so many times, I’m going to go with my gut on this issue, and to paraphrase Stephen Colbert, there are more nerve endings in your gut than your brain, so what you are about to read is rock solid in its foundation, just a heads up. 

            While everybody’s favorite doctor (Doctor Phil) may be correct about many things this is mainly because he hides behind vague and general statements.  One of my friends summed up Doctor Phil when stated that Doctor Phil would likely tell someone who is burning alive that, “you need to get fire OUT of your life.”  I hope that you read that in his voice, because that’s very important to the joke.  By extension people claim that violent people need to get violent video games out of their lives.  This is merely another example of technophobic scapegoating.  It was nice to see that Furguson was making an attempt to give an honest look at video games and their relationship to violence.

            In a TED talk, Daphne Bavelier examined the various ways that games can affect people and claimed that they (specifically Call of Duty type games) can help improve vision (especially with regards to tracking multiple objects), quicken decision-making, and help improve certain aspects of one’s ability to focus.  These things could conceivably improve one’s ability to execute modern violence however no more than a physical education class would help you to run down your victims.

            I certainly think that the relationship between video games and violence is a valid concern for people to have; this is because I consider violence in general to be of concern and does not change the fact that I consider many of the commonly believed relationships between video games and violence off base.  Hopefully this post does not start to sound too similar to my previous post when I say that people need to be nicer to each other.  I am not claiming that we are any meaner than we have been in the past but I think that there is a much more fundamental and complex reason or set of reasons for violence than many seem to be claiming.  I think that through things like bullying and the individuation that has broken the support structure that once existed in society and isolated us from each other acts as the basic building blocks for violence.  The idea that a shooter played video games and was angry is too easy and too simple to be the reason for violence.  

            To the contrary, I think that violent video games can and likely do act as a release for tension that is safe and controlled.  I think though that many people allow themselves, and are allowed or pushed (or think they are being pushed by others) to a point where conventional outlets for aggression are no longer enough.  Add the precedent of shooting sprees in our collective memory to the rage that blinds the individual to the value of life and we have violence.

            In much the same manner that people hoped that sports would keep the youth out of trouble, I think that video games perform much the same function.  For whatever reason, violence has kept its appeal, be it tackling in rugby or no-scoped headshots in whatever fps is the flavor of the month.

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One Response to Week Three, Violence and Society

  1. cstabile says:

    Love the Dr. Phil example, although I’d extend that to much of the mainstream media, especially what passes for news. There’s a book by French philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault called Discipline and Punish. It begins with an account of the public torture and execution of a man who attempted to kill the king of France at the beginning of the 18th century. It’s a good example of how Western culture is not as violent in the same ways as it was two hundred or even one hundred years ago. Violence isn’t natural — it’s historically and culturally contingent and it changes over time. Think about corporal punishment in schools (e.g. paddling or caning) — in the UK, it’s been banned since 1987; it’s banned in Canada; and in the US, 31 states have outlawed it (nearly all of the states that permit it are in the south, where murder rates and state executions are also high). As criminologist Lonnie Athens points out, we can’t ever eradicate violence entirely, but as history shows, we can reduce and limit it.

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