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Violent Video Games, Church Edition

November 8, 2007

This article about churches using Xbox 360s and Halo 3 to bring children back into the fold got me thinking. Many family-oriented interest groups have argued that video games have gotten too violent in recent years, perhaps best exemplified by the success of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. But these churches have balanced that argument against their potential value as a recruiting tool, and have decided to use them. One church minister justifies it as a lesser of many evils, and sees the games as a way to bring kids together:

“We have to find something that these kids are interested in doing that doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol or premarital sex.” His congregation plans to double to eight its number of TVs, which would allow 32 players to compete at one time.

The argument against violent video games as I understand it goes more or less like this:

Violence in video games desensitizes children to violence in real life, and cheapens the worth of human life. A video game that valorizes drug dealers and killing police officers makes these unacceptable, illegal actions seems “cool” to children who should be learning the exact opposite. Children are unable to separate fully separate fantasy from reality, and these influences in their formative years will have very negative consequences as they grow up to become adults. It is no surprise that the incidence of school violence has increased as the prevalence of violent, antisocial video games has also increased.

Intuitively, I think that’s a decent argument. I would like to see some data to back it up on increased overall levels of violence in children (especially children who not otherwise be violent were it not for the video games). It’s probably unfair to blame video games for tragedies like school shootings, but I think the overall argument is decent: Children should not be playing violent games like that.

However, I do not think the answer is to get rid of those games. The problem as I see it is that parents don’t know (and often times, don’t care) what their kids are playing. It’s not the video game company’s job to monitor what games children buy and play. In theory at least, children cannot buy these violent video games without their parents. Parents cannot outsource the policing of their child’s video game experiences to the game companies.

The real question I guess, is how to encourage indifferent parents to start caring about the games their children play? And who should be doing the encouraging? Government, or the video game industry, private groups, all of the above? And should churches be encouraging teenagers to play these violent video games?

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Keri permalink
    November 8, 2007 2:44 pm

    Well, if they’re in the church playing, they’re not out committing those crimes and what better platform to say – this is a game, you would NEVER do this is real life, right? You know the difference…

    Honestly, I don’t think children are more violent on a long timeline. Just perhaps compared to the past century. I would argue that since we live longer, childhood has been elongated and we have also tried to shelter our children from things they may have had to do in centuries past – like marry and have kids by 14 or fight in a war at 15. We’ve been able to shelter our kids from these things. But sheltering them from it and detering those actions does not mean that they don’t have the same potential. I think a murder has the same potential at 15 that they do at 40. Kids just have access to more things now -more guns in the homes, etc. I don’t think life is imitating art, I think art is imitating life – but I could be wrong.

    Also – shooting 10 people is very different from stabbing them – it’s more removed. It’s not violence in the way it would have been committed before the gun or rifle – it’s not as personal as putting a sword through someone’s body. I’d even argue that the detached nature of it allows us to be less “violent”, so to speak and just more efficient. It is already really hard to train soldiers to shoot to kill – that’s why they have to degrade the enemy and why they had to drastically change training methods. Imagine if you had to train people to use a sword to slash or cut up the enemy. I have a feeling we are so sensitive that the failure rate would be staggering. Even more staggering than the numbers in WWII (before the revised training methods).

  2. andy permalink*
    November 9, 2007 11:28 am

    The problem with studies on linking violent crime to a history of violent video game play is two-fold.

    First, there are millions (if not billions) of people who play violent video games. Most of them do not commit violent crimes. If you try to tell me that Random Kid killed his friend because some cops cased his house and found Grand Theft Auto, I’m going to chalk it up to coincidence.

    Let’s say I’m out on Sunday morning eating breakfast, and I order a glass of milk to drink with my meal. Then we go back to my place afterwards and you open the fridge, and you see a gallon of milk. Are you going to be like “OH MAN I FUCKING KNEW IT!”? Obviously not. It’s not causation, it’s not even correlation, it’s just 2 facts married by coincidence: few people order milk at a restaurant, but a lot of people keep milk in their fridge at home.

    That was probably the worst analogous situation ever contrived.

    Anyway, the 2nd problem. I remember a few years ago, some 15 year old kid killed his friend with a gun or something. Cops searched his place and found some violent games. What happened? [[Imagine sarcastically heroic musical intro]] Jack Thompson, the only retarded person to ever pass the bar, showed up and claimed that GTA had caused this kid to murder. Any study that can link these kind of things is going to be performed with such an agenda that it really can’t be trusted. Violent games are kind of like cigarettes in that people crusade against them just because they think it’s the morally heroic thing to do.

    Moreover, the parents of kids playing games rated for 18 year olds deserve most if not all of the blame. Please fucking pay attention to what your kid is doing. I don’t want to be flayed open waiting at a bus stop by some 12 year old kid who watched too much Naruto or Bleach and thinks he is a fucking ninja master.

  3. Keri permalink
    November 9, 2007 12:15 pm

    Another thing to consider – there was far more crime in the 80’s than there is now (it’s just reported 300% or so more in the media), yet there more graphic violence depicted today. So, that doesn’t really add up either.

  4. November 23, 2007 8:07 am

    Very interesting… as always! Cheers from -Switzerland-.

  5. December 29, 2007 11:11 am

    Happy Christmas !

    I like your blog articles !

    I will be also making a blog about the video game releases and would like to exchange links with you if you like the idea.

    Thanks a lot ,

    Have a great day.

    Your friend,

    Mike

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