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The Video Game Fallacy

Stephen Markley

10:54 AM CST, February 4, 2013

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Sen. Lamar Alexander recently echoed the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre when he said, “Video games is a bigger problem than guns… Because video games affect people.”

This is so stupid one rolls his eyes at the need to write a column explaining why.

First of all, the idea that we need to abridge the First Amendment for video games but not the Second Amendment for assault rifles has some very obvious deficiencies.

Secondly, the evidence linking aggression to violent video games is, to put it kindly, highly contested. Most of the evidence comes from an Iowa State researcher named Craig Anderson who has spent over a decade trying to prove a link between the two and has come away with much-derided studies showing that young girls are more willing to administer “loud noise blasts” after playing “Street Fighter II” than after playing “Oh No! More Lemmings.”

Aha! That explains that Aurora movie theater massacre (minus the AR-15 you can buy on-line).

Furthermore, researchers like Christopher Ferguson of the International Society for Research and Aggression have grown irate at their findings being misrepresented by others trying to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion.

“We have done a number of studies of video game violence with both children and adults and find no evidence to support links between video game violence and youth violence,” Ferguson told PC Gamer.

Ferguson went on to point out that violence has declined to 40-year lows even as video games have grown in complexity to the point where it feels like they’re trying to give you PTSD in case you never got a tour in Afghanistan.

I think of the two years I spent playing “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” in college. And by playing, I don’t mean “completing the missions.” I mean bludgeoning hookers, going on Columbine-style shooting sprees across the digital Miami Beach and cutting up bystanders with chainsaws. That was just what we did in college.

Needless to say, this did not make me or anyone else I know remotely homicidal.

Video games have followed the standard arch of all new information technologies that become bugaboos of the Morality Brigade. The internet, television, movies, comic books, rock ‘n roll, jazz—at one point, all of these were decried as the preferred entertainments of sinners, jackals and perverts. When the novel began its ascension, no one thought all the snobbiest critics would one day despair at its decline because back then they were too busy fearing the immoral influence such a base art form would have on society. Hell, Socrates—yes, that Socrates—thought writing (as in, the written word, as in people recording literature, history and philosophy) was a terrible, damaging technology.

Therefore, the idea that a hilariously corny game like “Street Fighter II” could make anyone violent is laughable but only because Guile and M. Bison look so silly now that a few years have gone by. Give it a couple decades and we’ll be freaking out about a new method of popular escape and chuckling at today’s grandpas like LaPierre and Alexander, who once attempted to pin a haunting national tragedy on tomorrow’s equivalent of a gallant adventure-and-romance pamphlet from 17th Century France.