Video Games and Violence: The Connection

Video games contribute to violence.

That’s my contention, though I can almost guarantee not in the way you think I mean it.

As an avid gamer in my spare time and a believer in individual freedom and responsibility, I’ve neither seen a sign nor read a convincing argument that violence in video games makes an individual more likely to commit acts of violence. Those suspect studies which have managed to claim some link only did so in the most tenuous of manners were stacked in favour of turning up such results to begin with.

For many reasons, people who commit acts of violence will be drawn to violent video games. Coupled with the fact that most adults below the age of forty are video game players these days, there should be no issue finding violent video game in the library of any killer.

And far too complicated for me to grasp.

ARMA II – A game of military realism.

No, despite all the talk about a link between violence and video games, the rise of video games as a medium has occurred side by side with the decline of violent crime rates across the western world. Even in the US it has plummeted.

So where do I get off talking about a link between the two?

The violence that concerns me most is that perpetrated by the state. Today the west–though primarily the US–is engaged in many wars, mostly undeclared, across the world. Wars and extra-judicial executions.

Unmanned drones take out every possible suspect the US government can name, and all those innocent civilians around them. A systemized approach to their targeting has meant that countless innocents are massacred routinely. The US even has gone so far as to murder first aid rescuers who come to save the victims of their initial bombings; in fact, it’s a tactic they now employ regularly though was always decried as “terrorism” in the past.

Drones - further distancing us from the realities of wars inflicted suffering.

Drones – further distancing us from the realities of wars inflicted suffering.

At the same time that everyone is giving an outpouring of grief of Sandy Hook, the death of far more children at the hands of the US government goes unnoticed. Even though Sandy Hook itself occurred on the exact anniversary of the US murder of far more children.

So as US President Obama summoned game makers to a conference to address how to tackle violence, it might seem like the epitome of hypocrisy to see businessmen whose job it is to sell digital games sat beside a sociopathic murderer responsible for the death of countless innocents, many children among them. It’s of course the absurdity of politics that a cold-hearted man who routinely orders the systematic murder of countless children is seen as someone to look to in how to address similar crimes of a smaller magnitude.

However, I come more and more to believe that video games do play a role. The military shooter of our time is our modern propaganda feature. Even if they don’t convince one of the righteousness of any actual war, they do, I believe, contribute to the general feeling that war is something natural, normal and to be expected.

We live now in a period of perpetual war. The US itself has been in its longest war phase in history, and those of us in other nations are constantly pulled along or affected by it in one way or another routinely.

Yet despite this brave new world of endless war, opposition to these conflicts is at a startling low. Even during this period of economic depression, when so many are suffering, the topic of ending these self-defeating and financially exhausting wars is a muted one at best. War, it seems, is here to stay, and politicians are preparing for it.

I just can’t help but feel that video games, this new and startling effective opiate, has something to do with that. Especially as so many of the games are made in close concert with the military, who–regardless if we agree–do believe they make good recruitment and propaganda tools.

Tanks: the ultimate in military fetishes.

Tanks: the ultimate in military fetishes.

Video games are powerful tools to distract us from the stresses of daily life. I should know, I use them to unwind as so many others do. However they not only distract us from acting on the horrors of our governments against our fellow human beings across the globe, they also reinforce the notions that war is normal and expected, and that our nations are in the right.

Over half a century ago, in the ruins of World War II, the peoples of the world got together to make great strides towards curbing and ending war. The UN was an imperfect system for our flawed world, but it made a great deal of progress towards ending those absurdly destructive wars between great powers. Unfortunately, due to the nature of power dynamics, the preying upon weaker states continues unabated.

There are no laws to shackle the hands of the great powers in their merciless campaigns against the weak, and the only check to their assaults lay in the people who support them. The same people who have shown for over a decade they are more complacent, unconcerned and supportive than ever before. I can’t escape the feeling that these propaganda games are at least partially responsible.

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