Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, a new weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.
This week I posed the following question: “The whole debate surrounding violent video games has been rekindled in the wake of the recent tragic spate of school shootings in the US. Do you think there’s any truth to the argument that exposure to violence in video games can lead to violence in real life, or are games being used as a ‘boogeyman’ to distract from other contributing factors?”
Here’s what the devs had to say…
Social research shows that a non-gamer is more likely to go on a shooting spree.
I don’t think games in particular are a cause for it more than any other entertainment art form or entertainment activity. And I’m not sure any art from can be blamed for such tragic occurrences — not specifically anyway.
I will say though that people are never going to stop making art (nor should they), but as a creator I do think it’s important to be sensitive about violence and never be gratuitous just for the sake of it. Any sensitive human issue should always be referenced judiciously and on-theme to support the intention of the art.
There is no debate. Not even the fools around Trump believe video games are the cause of American street violence. What we have here is a symptom of political hucksterism meeting a crap media, nothing else. The US media is reliably unreliable and Trump’s method of controlling them is by giving them something outrageous to print every day, and where that fails, plan B is always to kick up a smokescreen. In the gun debate, the live issue is the NRA and the damagingly loose gun regulations they force Americans to live with. Secondarily, the issue is American society itself. The smokescreen is video games. We shouldn’t fall for it.
Having not really grown up with violent video games in any sense of realism, I can’t say that I know if it would or not. My son plays Call of Duty and games like that, and I don’t see him ever doing anything violent. I think it possibly could influence someone who is already at the tipping point.
I’ve studied this a lot since the Columbine shootings. I actually made a movie about it, when I was 16 years old, called Girl(Boy)14 which was exactly about this subject. My final project in elementary school was about school shootings, as well. My conclusion at that time, and today, is that there not one sole factor. Everything must be taken into account: how easy it is to purchase a gun in the US, the role weapons and war in the US collective consciousness, and movies and video games depicting ‘heroes’ who ‘kill for sport.’ Everything contributes. I wouldn’t say that video games are the sole reason. If that were the case we’d have things happening like this around the world, at all times, and that’s not the case. I think it’s mostly about the role of the media and culture/education in US, more than anything else.
I think if there were no video games, it would be something else. There is a deeper issue here.
Yes it can. People are influenced by everything they do. This is manifested in obvious and direct ways like eating too much food will make you larger. Also indirect ways, like seeing an advert for Colgate toothpaste enough times that you automatically reach for it in the supermarket. If a person experiences an activity enough times, it will become more commonplace to them. The norm.
It’s also important to remember that violence isn’t just in 18 rated games. The act of shooting guns at each other is violent. Whether they fire bullets from CoD, or foam from Nerf, or paint from Splatoon, is secondary. The normalizing part of the behaviour pattern is shooting guns at each other.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there’s a direct link between games and mass shootings in real life. However, normalizing violence certainly makes it easier for it to manifest off-screen.
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