Are Games to Blame?

With the increasing grasp of the gaming industry over public leisure time at a global scale and the apparent increase in violence in society, it can be easy for the media to form the hypothesis that the two parameters are directly correlated. Gaming has persistently been subject to blame for anti-social and violent behavior in youths, and has even been targeted on regular occasions by the American National Rifle Association as the cause for gun orientated killing sprees. However, how much of this is truth based in imperial evidence, and how much is the media and organisations using gaming as a scapegoat?

Despite persistent criticism from experts which claim that no good evidence has been seen which links video games to violence, it is still a widely accepted belief by teachers and parents alike. Why does the media actively promote and cherry pick the theories which support the link between violence and games, despite there being a limited amount of evidence, which are fragile at best, which supports it? Is it just good reading? Is it because the public needs something other than themselves to blame for why these radical individuals exist? Is it a coincidence? Or is there a more sinister plan attempting to frame gaming? The later is highly unlikely, but it's always fun to throw in the odd radicalist conspiracy or two in order to exercise critical thinking.

My personal opinion is that the link between gaming and violence is hokum, supported by no statistical evidence and a science which I believe to be completely assumptive. This belief, however, is likely to stem from my own personal bias against psychology and my belief that it is a pseudoscience based on individualistic ideals and assumptions. The evidence which apparently "supports violence caused by games" appears to be based on short and bias studies which focus on blindly chosen parameters during the experiment.

When looking at global warming, it is scientifically proven that a rise in high atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane is the cause. However, if you look into the cause of why there is a rise carbon dioxide with only a select set of parameters you can get false results which may appear scientifically sound. Let's take the rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as one parameter and the population of parrots in Madagascar as another parameter, we might see a correlation where non exists - the results showed that the population of parrots in Madagascar has persistently increased over the last 30 years whilst carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has also shown a persistent increase over the last 30 years. It can be easy to say that parrots are therefore the cause of the increase of the carbon dioxide build up, when in reality we have been blind to other parameters and that actually fossil fuels are the cause, not parrots. The same can be applied to the link between gaming and violence - the results support what people want to hear, not what might be true.

In reality, I believe that it is likely that there isn't actually a link between the apparent increase in violence in youths and the increase in gaming. I believe that the apparent increase in violence in youths is actually due the ease of receiving global news, violence is probably decreasing in youths but due to the internet and TV more violence is being reported! Research into gaming and violence has not been around long enough in order to come to a sound conclusion on whether there is a link or not between violence and games. Until an experiment between two large groups, one group who plays video games and one group who doesn't play video games, there can be no real comparison of the effects of gaming on social development.

If anything, gaming could possibly be a fundamental improvement in development of youths. Games offer social features which cater to a much larger base of individuals, therefore children are able to communicate with individuals across the world and not be hindered by the oppressive ideals of a small community, such as a small group of friends or a school. Games have also been linked to better improvements of visual-spatial awareness key to the development of motor skills such as sports or driving. Games also offer controlled periods of active imagination where children are able to immerse themselves in imaginary worlds and develop key skills such as intuition and imagination needed for advancements in areas such as science, business, and more!

Are games to blame for the social short comings of youths? Unlikely. There will always be something to blame for stunting youth social developments which leads to their antisocial behavior, first it was music, then it was TV, then it was phones, and now it's gaming. Gaming has been made a temporary scapegoat for where society is failing our younger generations. Gaming industries shouldn't be taking responsibility for the younger generations failures, it should be the parents and society. The social paradigm is shifting, and we as a society are failing to keep up.

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