Ban this sick filth? Video games are a hugely popular pastime in Europe. Among young Europeans aged 16-24, fully 80% of young men and 61% of young women say they play games regularly. And, particularly as technology develops and games find a bigger audience, critics argue that gaming can be an important cultural medium, and should be considered as expressive as films, television and literature.
But video games are all about shooting and killing things, right? Well, it’s true that some (in fact, a small minority) of video games contain graphic violence. But there are also violent movies, books and TV shows out there. Is the fear of violent video games yet another moral panic, of the same sort that blames all aspects of pop culture for the disintegration of society? Or is there something specific in the medium of gaming that can make the impact of violence more tactile and ‘real’?
As part of our Debating Europe Schools series, we’ve been taking questions from students from across Europe to policymakers and experts for them to answer.
So, what do the experts say? We had a question sent in from Alexter, a 4th year student from the Athneée Royal Victor Horta in Brussels. She wanted to know if there is any evidence that video games make teenagers violent.
To get a response, we put this question to Tom Chatfield, a British author, commentator and designer whose work focuses on games and technology. Here’s what he had to say:
To get another perspective, we also took Alexter’s question to Daphne Bavelier, a cognitive researcher at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. How would she respond?
Finally, we spoke to Christopher Ferguson, an Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at Stetson University, Florida, who specialises in the psychological effects of violence in video games. How would he describe the current research into video game violence?
Perhaps the evidence that video games make people more aggressive is inconclusive, but is there any evidence that they make people more antisocial? We had a comment sent in by Nando, who was concerned that video games in general (i.e. not just violent games) might harm the development of social skills in children. Is there any evidence of this?
We asked Christopher Ferguson to respond:
Do violent video games make people more aggressive? Do video games in general harm the development of social skills in children? Or do they improve creativity and help people unwind after a stressful day? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Sam DeLong