So unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Modern Warfare 2 has just come out. In honor of the release of a brand new video game in which people kill eachother with assault weapons, we’ve had the usual celebratory round of news stories about how the violence found in video games is destroying our children.
Specifically, someone linked me to the video below:
My favorite quote: “You bring a game into a house…nothing to stop an 8 year old from becoming a terrorist and shooting people.” And that’s from the anchor.
Now any gamer would be outraged by this, of course—but heaping scorn and ridicule on Fox News for their ultra-conservative right-wing media coverage is kind of like making fun of a midget for being short. What really outraged me was Jon Christensen. You let us down, Jon.
You must have known what you were getting into when you were asked to appear on the program—It’s Fox News. Poor Jon looked like they had called him up to ask for commentary 10 minutes before the show aired. He had the chance to stand up in front of the nation and tell everyone how violent video games aren’t destroying our youth, and what was his argument? That no one should be offended, because you weren’t pretending to be a terrorist—you were pretending to be a CIA agent who was pretending to be a terrorist?
Here’s what Jon should have said.
There has been no increase in violent crime to correspond with the increase in video game violence.
There’s no doubt that violence in video games is on the rise—any gamer knows this. What is frequently ignored is the fact that in the corresponding years, violent crime in the US has seen a massive decrease. Here’s the evidence, courtesy of Stubborn Facts:
The source on the numbers used to create this graph is credited to a study performed by the FBI. Now this is a pretty massive decrease in violent crime, and I’m proud of my country—but it’s pretty unmistakeable to watch that as video games have gotten more violent and more realistic, violent crime in the country has decreased.
For context, here’s Wikipedia’s list of video games released in 1991, the highest point on this graph. This is the year that brought us such incredibly violent games as Bomberman 2, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Game Boy Adventure, and Duke Nukem—not the one with the strippers, the original, in which Duke battles the nefarious Dr. Proton, and then retires to his home to watch Oprah. (Look it up, I’m not kidding.)
Here’s some gameplay footage from Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, one of the more violent games I could find on that list:
And a screenshot from the 1991 Amiga game Extreme Violence, to prove the point:
Here, meanwhile, is the list of video games released in 2005. This list includes such gems as Call of Duty 2, Crime Life: Gang Wars, and Viet Cong 2. Just to compare, here’s the video trailer for Battlefield 2: Modern Combat, which also came out that year:
I think it’s pretty easy to follow the line I’m drawing here. From 1991 to 2005, the amount of violence in games, as well as the visceral realism of that violence, has increased dramatically—and violent crime in the US has decreased just as dramatically. Case closed. As my brother pointed out in his own eloquent blog, Playing Columbine, “Small scale cause-and-effect studies don’t do much for your cause when correlational evidence is stacked so high against you.”