This House would ban the sale of violent video games/censor violent video games.

Since their inception and migration into homes during the early nineties, videogames have been about conflicts that need resolving. There are some that buck the trend, but the overarching plot in most games usually involves a protagonist and his need to defeat some villain. Further, over the past twenty years, most major console manufacturers have been focused on improving the realism of video games. The main method of doing this has been through upgrades to graphics engines. However, recently with the introduction of the Nintendo Wii, console manufacturers have been exploring new methods of game control beyond the traditional gaming controller.

Video games are similar to other forms of digital media. Their closest relative is film; however, where film has different genres based on the type of story told, games usually base their genres on the method of interaction with the game world. A platform game, for example, mainly focuses on a third-person perspective and entails characters jumping from one platform to another to reach the goal of the stage. By comparison, a first person shooter entails a first-person perspective and usually focuses on a single protagonist using a variety of weapons to fight through enemies to the end of a level or mission. Where one genre focuses on jumping and less on fighting enemies, the other focuses much more greatly on defeating enemies.

It is mainly games from the first-person shooter genre that have raised the ire of people seeking a ban on violent video games. As the medium has progressed, realistic depictions of gun violence have become progressively more detailed, resulting in concern from parties that such interactions will negatively affect the psychological health of those who do play. However, these concerns are not limited to the first-person shooter genre, with “sandbox” games such as Grand Theft Auto also causing concern due to behaviour options that allow a player to, for example, pay prostitutes for sex and then kill them to regain money lost.

Video games are typically more interactive than other forms of digital media, with players themselves controlling their characters and their decisions in games. Due to the interactive nature of the medium, some people are concerned that violent content within video games has greater potential for negative effects on the player than exposure to violent content in static media such as film.

This sense of fear has been fed by widespread media publicity about incidents where people killed or harmed others that were allegedly triggered or influenced by video games.

A full list is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_game_controversy#Publicized_incidents

The most well-known such incident involves the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 which was perpetrated by a pair of teenagers known to be great fans of violent first-person shooter, Doom. This fear has often been played into by members of the media and as such the topic remains a controversial one today.

Title 
Children See Violent Video Games
Point 

Whilst it might be agreed that violent video games in the hands of a person who is old enough to see them and be able to understand the context in which the violence is being wrought is acceptable, this may not be true of younger people who acquire games.

Games with violent content are often easily acquired by players too young to purchase them. They may also gain access to them at home from older siblings. Because children do not have fully developed mental faculties yet, and may not clearly separate fantasy from reality, exposure to violent games can have a large impact upon children. This has a greater impact than children seeing films that feature realistic violence because whilst a child might get bored with films owing to the lack of interaction with the medium, this is much less likely to be the case with, for example, a military shooting game, which a child might play over and over

As such, all violent video games should be banned to prevent their acquisition by young children either by accident, or owing to parental ignorance.[1]

[1] Anderson, Craig et al. The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2003, 4:81-110

Counterpoint 

This is empirically false

Again, the crux of opposition counter-argument is that the evidence in this regard is strongly behind opposition.

In April 2011, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission undercover shopper survey found that video game retailers continue to enforce the ratings by allowing only 13% of underage teenage shoppers to buy M-rated video games, a statistically significant improvement from the 20% purchase rate in 2009. By contrast, underage shoppers purchased R-rated movies 38% of the time, and unrated movies 47% of the time.

Given that children are able to easily access violent content in other visual media, and there is no evidence that video games are more harmful than other media, this argument falls. Further, there is a long tradition of exposing children to extremely violent content in the form of fairy tales.

Further, with greater education regarding the harms of videogames to parents (and with more parents having played video games themselves) many are becoming savvier about appropriate restrictions on their children’s video game play. Given the lack of evidence that video games are clearly or uniquely harmful, but acknowledging society’s interest in protecting vulnerable children, investing in additional parent education is a more logical response than attempting to ban all violent games.[1]

[1] Federal Trade Commission. FTC undercover shopper survey on enforcement of game ratings finds compliance worst for retailers of music CDs and the highest among video game sellers. News release, 20 April 2011. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/04/violentkidsent.shtm

Title 
Violent Video Games Cause Social Interaction Problems
Point 

Video games of a violent nature tend to fail to offer many solutions to a problem. Most military shooters have no form of negotiation with enemies; players are asked to simply kill as many nameless terrorists as possible. Given this, social interaction problems can be caused because people are presented with problems and then told that they must be solved with violence instead of other methods. In other words, physical violence is portrayed as the first-choice (and often only-choice) solution to a conflict.

This lack of portrayal of alternate solutions can stifle growth of other skills, especially amongst children and adolescents, specifically skills important to making friends and engaging in negotiation in times of conflict or pressure. Further, it encourages children to see people who oppose them as “others,” and thus presents them psychologically as enemies instead of as people who are simply different to the player and thus might have other grievances. This can lead to increases in aggression among players.

This is especially true given the relatively simplistic portrayal of conflicts within areas such as the Middle East and Afghanistan.[1]

[1] "Violent Video Games May Increase Aggression in Some But Not Others, Says New Research". apa.org. American Psychological Association. 27 September 2011.

Counterpoint 

The facts are against the premise again.

Research does not support the idea that young people who play violent video games have decreased social ability. This is refuted most notably in studies by Anderson and Ford (1986), Winkel et al. (1987), Scott (1995), Ballard and Lineberger (1999), and Jonathan Freedman (2002). More recently, Block and Crain (2007) claim that in a critical paper by Anderson (and his co-author, Bushman), data was improperly calculated and produced fallacious results. Additional meta-analyses (reviews of research that attempt to statistically combine data from multiple studies for more powerful results) by other researchers, such as by Ferguson and Kilburn (2009) and Sherry (2007) have failed to find any causal link between video game violence and aggression, as have recent reviews by the Australian Government (2010) and the US Supreme Court (June, 2011).

The question of whether violent games that only allow violence as a solution to problems could negatively affect young people in subtle ways deserves further study. However, there are many aspects of video games, such as puzzle solving, that are intrinsic parts of even the basest first person shooters. Many first-person shooters themselves require tactical deployment and thinking—all of which are able to stimulate thought in people, albeit in a different manner than negotiation might do.[1] Further, newer military games are more sophisticated, often requiring the player to take one side of a conflict and then the other in different levels of the game, or forcing the player to face moral dilemmas that affect the game’s storyline or outcome.

[1] Freedman, Jonathan L. Media violence and its effect on aggression: assessing the scientific evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. ISBN 0802084257

Title 
Violent Video Games cause Violent Behaviour
Point 

Video games exist as an interactive medium. The player has control over their character and many of their character’s actions whereas in a book or movie, the audience does not. This means that the player can become invested emotionally in characters to a greater extent because of the autonomy afforded to each character.

Given that this is true it becomes more difficult to ensure dissociation between the real world and the game world with which the player interacts. With the growing drive towards realism of videogame graphics, game environments are able to look incredibly similar to real life, further blurring the distinction.

If this is the case, then a person who visits violence upon another person within a game universe feels the same emotions as someone who does so within real life, and therefore may be desensitised to real-life violence. Whilst game producers would claim that is not their aim and that their games do not cause this desensitisation, many have been actively pursuing technologies that allow for greater immersion within their game-worlds.

If this is the case then acts of violence may fail to register the same level of shock or revulsion in a person than they usually do. Given that this is true, people who play video games become more able to harm others or less likely to intervene to prevent harm.

In terms of actual evidence, there is very little to back up this analysis. Most studies supporting the concept have been debunked by others.[1]

[1] Anderson, Craig  & Bushman, Brad. Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 2001, 12: 353-359

Counterpoint 

The facts are strongly against the Proposition’s analysis

The proposition’s arguments fail to stand up in the real world. Several major studies published in The Journal of Adolescent HealthThe British Medical Journal and The Lancet (among others) have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and real-life violent behaviour. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found no evidence linking video game use to the massacre at Columbine (or other highly publicized school shootings).[1] There is no evidence to support the idea that people exposed to violent video game (or other violent media content) will then go on to commit crimes.[2]

Further, if violent video games were causing violent behaviour, we would expect to see rates of violent crime increase as games with realistic portrayals of violence became more widely available on popular game consoles. Instead, violent crime has decreased in recent years. Some economists have argued (based on time series modelling) that increased sales of violent video games are associated with decreases in violent crime.[3]

In Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do, researchers/authors Lawrence Kutner, PhD, and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Mental Health and Media refute claims of violent behaviour increase caused by violent video games. The researchers' quantitative and qualitative studies (surveys and focus groups) found that young adolescents view game behaviour as unrelated to real-life actions, and this is why they can enjoy criminal or violent acts in a game that would horrify them in reality. They also found evidence that those relatively few adolescents who did not play video games at all were more at-risk for violent behaviours such as bullying or fighting (although the sample size was too small for statistical significance). The authors speculated that because video game play has gained a central and normative role in the social lives of adolescent boys, a boy who does not play any video games might be socially isolated or rejected.

Finally, although more study is needed, there is some evidence to suggest that violent video games might allow players to get aggressive feelings out of their system (i.e., video game play might have a cathartic effect), in a scenario that does not harm anyone else.[4],[5],[6]

[1] O’Toole, Mary Ellen, ‘The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment perspective’, Critical Incident Response Groupwww.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/school-shooter

[2] Editorial. Is exposure to media violence a public-health risk? The Lancet, 2008, 371:1137.

[3] Cunningham, Scott, et al., ‘Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime’, 7 April 2011, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1804959

[4] Kutner, Lawrence & Cheryl K. Olson. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. Simon and Schuster, 2008

[5] Bensley, Lillian and Juliet Van Eenwyk. Video games and real-life aggression: A review of the literature, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2001, 29:244-257.

[6] Griffiths, Mark. Video games and health. British Medical Journal, 2005, 331:122-123.

Title 
The Responsibility Lies With Parents
Point 

In the digital age, young people are almost certain to be exposed to violent media content, including violent video games, even if parents attempt to restrict children’s exposure to such content in the home. Parents therefore have an obligation to educate themselves about video games (many government, industry and private websites provide such information) and to help their children become “media literate” regarding the content and context of games.

The state places responsibility on parents for the welfare of a child and in doing so the state can allow things that would potentially be dangerous for children, anything from skateboards to R-rated films, as long as parents can supervise their children. Parents need not know how to skateboard to supervise such activity, but should know about potential risks and safety equipment. This same logic applies to video games.

To not confer this responsibility on parents is to further undermine their status as role models for their children, as it assumes that parents are incapable of ensuring the safety of their children.

Practically speaking, this could affect the respect they get from their children, with “The government says I can’t,” being a much weaker response when questioned about violent video games than an actual explanation of the harms behind them.[1]

[1] American Psychological Association. "Violent Video Games — Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects", 8 June 2004, http://www.apa.org/research/action/games.aspx

Counterpoint 

There is a generation gap

Children in this age have grown up with computers and digital media devices where their parents have not. Whilst some parents are able to readily adapt to new technology, there are a large proportion that are unable to do so.

Even if parents have adapted to the digital age, there are still lots of things their children know about that parents simply cannot keep up with. It is entirely feasible for a child to be able to keep the presence of a violent video game hidden from his or her parents through use of the various “Home” menus that all the major games consoles now possess. Further, on the computer, a user can simply Alt+Tab out of any application they are in to avoid detection.

Given there are many ways for children to avoid their parents and given the generation gap, it seems unfair to expect parents to be able to monitor their children in this way.

Title 
Video games Improve Skills
Point 

First, the claims of harm caused by video games have not been proven.

The most criticised violent video games are generally military shooters. However, these games generally focus much more strongly on multiplayer components of the game.

These multiplayer components often require significant levels of teamwork in order for one side to be successful over the other. As such, many of these video games end up teaching players core teamwork skills as well as often teaching leadership skills when players become part of organised gaming groups.

Further, numerous researchers have proposed potential positive effects of video games on aspects of social and cognitive development and psychological well-being. It has been shown that action video game players have better hand-eye coordination and visuo-motor skills, such as their resistance to distraction, their sensitivity to information in the peripheral vision and their ability to count briefly presented objects, than non-players. Video games also promote the development of intellectual skills such as planning and problem-solving, and social games may improve the social capabilities of the individual.[1]

Given then that video games provide these benefits, banning violent games would harm the industry overall, causing many of the developers of other games which encourage these kinds of skills to lose their funding from game publishers. Put simply, the banning of violent video games would lead to fewer games overall being published and if these games have the effects listed above then a great net benefit is lost in the process.[2]

[1] Green, C. Shawn & Daphne Bavelier.  Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 2003, 423:534-537. http://www.mendeley.com/research/action-video-game-modifies-visual-selective-attention/

[2] Olson, Cheryl K. Children’s motivations for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, 2010, 14: 180-187.

Counterpoint 

The skills learnt within video games are skills that could be learnt elsewhere without the negative problems that have been associated with video games.

All of the benefits listed are thusly moot in this context because things such as team sports are able to develop many of the skills team shooters do, whilst also improving fitness and other areas of well-being. More tactical sports can have a great impact on somebody’s intellectual well-being as well as their physical well-being.

Additionally, videogames in general might be able to improve some skills, but we are discussing violent videogames in particular. There are other, much less violent, videogames that allow people to further increase their skills.

Title 
Violent Video Games Prevent Violent Behaviour
Point 

In most people’s lives there are instances where they might like to react to a situation with a level of aggression. However, owing to a number of reasons such a solution is often impossible and undesirable.

It has been theorised by psychologists that pent up frustrations with the world are the root of many psychological problems. Given that this is true then, an outlet for frustrations is required in society such that aggressive behaviour in individuals can be avoided.

Video games in this situation provide such an outlet for aggression and frustrations. Firstly aggression is dealt with through the simple act of defeating enemies within games and frustration is dealt with through the completion of goals within the video games, allowing players a sense of satisfaction upon their completion.

Hence, one could argue that this may result in comparatively lower levels of aggressive behaviour among video game players. This is supported by research conducted by Dr. Cheryl Olson and her team at Harvard. Studying a sample of 1,254 students aged 12 to 14 years, she found that over 49% of boys and 25% of girls reported using violent games such as Grand Theft Auto IV as an outlet for their anger.

She suggests that instead of a blanket ban on M-rated game use by young adolescents, parents should monitor how much time children spend playing games and how they react to specific game content.[1]

[1] Olson, Cheryl K., et al., ‘Factors Correlated with Violent Video Game Use by Adolescent Boys and Girls’, Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol.41 no.1, pp77-83, July 2007, http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(07)00027-4/abstract

Counterpoint 

Video games teach people to deal with frustrations in the wrong way.

In dealing with frustrations and aggression by using video games as an outlet, players of these games often assume that the problem is gone or dealt with.

This is often not the case, with many sources of frustration being ones which repeat day in and day out.

Given that this is the case, video games prevent people from dealing with the root causes of their problems and thus leave people more susceptible to frustration in the future.

Further, playing back into the first point on proposition, they teach players only one method of dealing with their problems, which is resorting to violence, so should they seek to deal with their frustrations in the real world, often the solutions they do engage with are ones which are suboptimal.

Bibliography 

Anderson, Craig & Bushman, Brad. Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 2001, 12: 353-359

Anderson, Craig et al. The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 2003, 4:81-110

American Psychological Association. "Violent Video Games May Increase Aggression in Some But Not Others, Says New Research". apa.org. 27 September 2011.

American Psychological Association. "Violent Video Games — Psychologists Help Protect Children from Harmful Effects", 8 June 2004, http://www.apa.org/research/action/games.aspx

Bensley, Lillian and Juliet Van Eenwyk. Video games and real-life aggression: A review of the literature, Journal of Adolescent Health, 2001, 29:244-257.

Cunningham, Scott, et al., ‘Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime’, 7 April 2011, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1804959

Editorial. ‘Is exposure to media violence a public-health risk?’ The Lancet, 2008, 371:1137.

Federal Trade Commission. FTC undercover shopper survey on enforcement of game ratings finds compliance worst for retailers of music CDs and the highest among video game sellers. News release, 20 April 2011. http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/04/violentkidsent.shtm

Freedman, Jonathan L. Media violence and its effect on aggression: assessing the scientific evidence. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002. ISBN 0802084257

Green, C. Shawn & Daphne Bavelier.  Action video game modifies visual selective attention. Nature, 2003, 423:534-537. http://www.mendeley.com/research/action-video-game-modifies-visual-selective-attention/

Griffiths, Mark. Video games and health. British Medical Journal, 2005, 331:122-123.

Kutner, Lawrence & Cheryl K. Olson. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do. Simon and Schuster, 2008

Olson, Cheryl K., et al., ‘Factors Correlated with Violent Video Game Use by Adolescent Boys and Girls’, Journal of Adolescent Health, Vol.41 no.1, pp77-83, July 2007, http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(07)00027-4/abstract

Olson, Cheryl K. Children’s motivations for video game play in the context of normal development. Review of General Psychology, 2010, 14: 180-187.

O’Toole, Mary Ellen, ‘The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment perspective’, Critical Incident Response Group, www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/school-shooter

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