With the recent spate of extremely violent acts in the news video games have once again come under fire from misinformed authoritative parties. They often cite many of the more conclusive studies (a synopsis of which can be found at http://kotaku.com/5976781/25-video-game-violence-studies-summarized ). Today’s rant focuses on these studies in particular as they are, in my opinion, flawed at a fundamental level, many of them lack proper control experiments, instead trying to pass off a second experiment as the control. Let me tell ya something, a control for a violent video game is not a non-violent video game, it’s no video game at all, these researchers should be taking measurements BEFORE, and after both the violent game, and the non-violent game, and then we need to study single player vs cooperative, and competitive multiplayer in both violent and nonviolent games as well, with sample sizes of well over 100 people of different age groups, how are young children affected vs teenagers and adults. Yes, money needs to be thrown at this if a serious study is ever going to be conducted, and a serious study is needed if actionable, constitutional legislation is ever to be drafted. Such as requiring that violent games have clear labeling as such, although the ESRB does a fairly good job of this already, not ALL games are rated by the ESRB.
My primary issue with these studies is that it seems many (in fact most) are allowing the subjects to choose the game that they play, and no baseline (before the game) measurement is taken. Most also don’t mention whether or not the subjects were playing together, and if they were, was it cooperatively, or competitively. Cooperatively ripping apart hapless victims, or competitively putting colored squares together may have the opposite effects as what may be assumed due to the nature of the acts.
It seems likely that humans are naturally more prone to aggression just following competitive experiences, violent or not. That being said, I think it should also be noted that a subject with a predisposition towards violence is far more likely to be attracted to the violent game, and vice versa. Human kind has a dark side, if it didn’t the violent games wouldn’t exist in the first place. The subjects playing the more violent games, if they weren’t doing that, would likely be off torturing innocent creatures like frogs, mice, whatever they could find as an outlet.
Furthermore a predisposition for aggressive and violent acts does not necessarily correspond to a predisposition for violent and aggressive acts towards other humans. These studies need to be constructed more carefully to avoid bias and skewing of the results in order to produce more academically viable statistics.
Regardless of the outcomes of these studies, there is no legislation that could be passed to prevent these games from being made and sold as they are (as they should be) protected by the first amendment the same way as violent movies, rap songs, etc are (and this is supported by the supreme court). Any crusade otherwise is a crusade against the constitution, and a fool’s errand.
To summarize, we need more information, more conclusive, and better conducted studies before attempting to regulate video games, and even then the types of legislation that are possible is (and should be) very limited. Leave parenting to the parents, the teachers, and the like, not the government.