Not too many years ago it was commonly perceived that violence portrayed through video games would directly correlate towards encouraging a more violent society. In many ways this attitude was born from a similar debate held over movie classification and the belief that the more adult themes in these (violence, sex, bad language) were degrading social morals. The big difference is that with video games, back then they were largely the preserve of kids. Few adults played video games with any regularity, and as such the violence within games was thought to be directly corrupting youth and spurring them onto violence.
The good news is that with hindsight we can see from today that such sentiments were at best misguided and at worst simply scaremongering. Years of study and effort has gone into determining whether games make society – and especially children – more prone to violent behavior, with the conclusion being a resounding no. It’s a fascinating paradox. While games have blatantly become much more violent and adult themed, all presented with cutting edge graphical detail, worldwide violent crime and behavior has been falling especially in western countries which are the major markets for video games.
While the statistics back this up for western nations, it’s all to easy to be biased as after all many people reading this article will themselves have grown up enjoying the likes of GTA, Call of Duty and Resident Evil. Instead let’s take a look at Japan. The Japanese have one of the lowest rates of violent crime on earth, yet when it comes to violence in video games they have absolutely no restrictions. There aren’t even enforceable age restrictions, merely a suggestion on the very violent games that they might perhaps not be ideal for sensitive eyes.
So even though people around the world are increasingly able to mow down prisoners of war, destroy civilizations and callously massacre defenseless peasants – people are becoming less violent. The conclusion of a series of major studies published over the last couple of years is that if anything violence in video games serves to in fact place these acts into a context. Not in the sense of taming some brooding inner psychopath, but simply that in the act of perpetrating violent acts in a video game the ridiculousness of such behavior somehow becomes more ingrained.
Of course violence in video games has never had any influence on violence in greater society. Much of the downturn in violence can be attributed to a general improvement in economic, social and educational availability many times more than it can be shooting down a few bad guys on a screen. Bear in mind also that many people who grew up with these games continue to play them well into their adult life – the video games industry is now pretty much on parity with Hollywood. It’s just that only now has society finally accepted that playing a violent game is no different to watching a violent movie – and they’ve been around far, far longer.