The argument has been made that violent video games lead to violent behavior. Setting aside for the moment the intractable fact that war and violence somehow existed thousands of years prior to the development of the first violent video game, violent book, or violent film …
If we accept the notion that violent video games, and other mass media, can lead to violent behavior,it is incumbent upon us to throughly understand exactly what such an idea means. What such an argument boils down to is the claim that that mass media can effect behavior. This seems patently obvious, but in focusing on the consequences of the violent aspects of video games, many of mass media’s most vocal critics seem to lose sight of more important considerations.
A lifetime of media consumption spanning thirty years and a penchant for gaming has allowed me to experience a diverse variety of video game content spanning single player text driven games to complex and expansive three dimensional universes shared between thousands of players. This experience places me in a good position to carefully weigh the aforementioned considerations.
Considerations such as puzzle games. Many puzzle games are, in fact, violent. Recall Tetris? It was focused around matching patterns to destroy blocks in order to accumulate points. Needless to say the pattern matching exercises of Tetris sharpened the minds and reflexes of millions. While arguably violent, these games present a different type of violence than what one might consider as a factor in recent acts of mass violence.
While critics don’t often make much noise about games like Candy Crush Saga and the like, they do tend to focus a deal of attention on games that portray violence between human beings or human like entities, titles such as Doom, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Quake, World of Warcraft, and such.
Ignoring the scientifically proven benefits of gaming such as improved hand-eye coordination and its other myriad advantages such as keeping consumers off the streets and engaged in legal fun, there is a social aspect to multiplayer gaming that offers its own battery of benefits.
I was socially awkward in my youth. Most of my personal gaming experiences have been social in nature. Learning to engage and interact with others more efficiently and effectively was just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of my gaming hobby, I’ve founded and cofounded several gaming organizations ranging from small groups of a half dozen to larger associations with memberships in the hundred plus range. Most such gaming organizations collapse after their founders leave meanwhile most of the organizations I’ve established went on to exist well after my departure with at least one going on to be incorporated as a non-profit corporation. I submit that as a testament to the social and administrative skills I’ve developed through gaming.
Leading a clan or a guild is no small undertaking especially in more competitive gaming environments. Often one is forced to balance the wishes of one player against another in both the short and long term. In that regard multiplayer gaming is much like life wherein we must perform the best we are able within the constraints of finite resources. This is even true outside of the social aspects of multiplayer gaming.
Consider the extremely popular Civilization or SimCity titles. Both games can played from end to end entirely peacefully. In fact, SimCity, one of the best selling titles of all time has no violence whatsoever with the exception of randomly occurring natural disasters.
The sandbox genre of games has become more and more popular. From The Sims to Minecraft to Cities XL, such games provide their users with a limited toolset and forces them to produce a positive outcome. In fact, this is true of all video games and even all games in general.
Even if video games and other forms of mass media have the capacity to influence us to do violence, they also have the capacity to have a very positive impact on our lives. Those who focus on only the violence are too often constrained to a negative point of view and ignore the countless benefits gaming, and other forms of mass media, bring to our lives.