There’s a general misconception that seems to be on the rise with the general public in regards to violence and video games. Let me clarify this: I believe it’s a misconception, but I have no actual proof besides some thought experiments and some violence statistics. Well, actually no links to speak of, but I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that violence is in a decline over the past decade, something around 13%. That’s pretty significant if you think of them as numbers and not just a percentage. Say there were something like 10 million violent crimes in 1993, and in 2003 there were 8.7 million – 1.3 million less instances of needless pain, anger and sorrow. Yet if a kid picks up a rifle and starts picking off people in a manner that’s characteristic of a video game, suddenly video games are causing violence in children.
Something’s not right here.
I suppose if we are to examine this issue, we should have a better understanding of what violence really is, and why it occurs in our society. There are all kinds of violence – domestic violence, pyschopathic violence, religious violence, patriotic violence, bar fights, road rage to name a few. There is a common thread throughout all these forms: they are predominately initiated by men. Sure there are instances of violence from women but statistically the vast majority comes from the male half of the population. Why is this?
I believe that violence is a genetic leftover from our animalistic evolution, pure and simple. There is a case for nurtured violence – abuse by parents, teachers, clergy, etc. However the common theme of male tendancies towards violence is what I consider unifying evidence of a genetic predisposition. Women are abused probably as much as men yet that does not seem to carry over (as much) to new generations violent women.
The evolutionary path that humanity has taken was wrought with the need for hunters, protectors and warriors. In order for us to have gotten to this point in time now our tribal nature and hostility towards strangers was a powerful evolutionary tool – it allowed dominate genes to reproduce, it contributed to the tribal society which allowed specialization of tasks by different people, it created a sense of safety and security in a wild and dangerous world. So there’s no arguing that we as people would be where we are today if we hadn’t used the violence inherint in the male half of humanity to allow us to grow, evolve, learn and provide us enough spare time to contemplate ourselves, our surroundings and our place in the world.
That violence that helped us so in the past has become a hindrence in the present. We are living in an increasingly smaller society where our scope of tolerance and understanding of the rest of the world is ever decreasing with it. As more and more people are crowded into smaller and smaller areas friction from close quarter living can be a frustrating experience for many men. Violence is the natural result of these conditions, but violence is not tolerated in our society. Violent people become ostracized further feeding their anger and hostility towards the world and the people around them. They see people who are different and automatically create antipathy towards them. They see their girlfriend being chatted up and they automatically bring up the defences and muscle the would be suitor away in the only way they know how: violence.
So if violence is genetic and inherint in the male half of humanity, how do we get rid of it in order to meet the standards of the society that we live in? Well I believe it’s already taking place, the violent agression that has dominated many male’s for the entirety of human civilization is slowly being siphoned away into a harmless, digital domain: video games.
Surely violent men aren’t a seething, unending cauldron of potential violence? If a man is violent does that mean he is violent from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to sleep? I believe that men have a figurative bucket of violence in their genetic makeup that can be emptied by violent actions. Why not dump it into a video game console? Can you substitute a visceral, real violent act for a harmless digital one? I believe you can.
I think back at how many times I’ve killed someone in a video game. How many times has a head exploded in the goriest detail in the sight of my digitized assault rifle? At least 6447 times. Do I ever have an inclination to witness that event in real life? Absolutely not. Today I was playing a game called Black and White where you are god, you have people worship you and you also have a servant creature that you train to do your bidding. I was feeling a bit put out so I started slapping it around, and you know what? I felt better afterwards. I cannot speak for everyone else though, but I believe that I’m not alone. I figure that there are a lot of people out there who ordinarily (ie pre-video game era) would have had violent tendancies but have since substituted the actual act of violence itself for virtual killing, goring, slaying of hundreds of different people, races, nationalities, animals and various fictional creatures.
Some video games are non violent, but most video games have some element of violence, whether it be the graphic depiction of gunshot wounds to fender benders in a racing game. All of these events siphon off that inate violent nature in men and make them more docile, less willing to actually extert real violence. I think that although you may have some school shootings influenced by video games (and even that’s a stretch – I’d say the easy access to actual firearms is a much more likely culprit), the 1.3 million (in our theoretical example) less violent acts by far makes up for it.
So to all you lawmakers, you congressmen and MPs, you parental associations and religious groups, please leave video games alone. They’re helping us males vent our frustrations and our angers in a fashion that leaves nothing but a few thumbs hurt.