This time around I thought I'd share with you something I wrote as a formal article. my sources are outdated, but I think my conclusions are still relevant. It's about atourney jack thompson. If you're unfamiliar with him, type his name into google.
Florida attorney John Bruce Thompson has been active in his feelings about violent and/or sexually explicit entertainment media and its effects on children, claiming in particular that violent video games 'train' potential perpetrators of various violent crimes. He cites every school shooting or similar event since columbine, pointing out that the perpetrators had played some manner of violent video game at some point before committing whatever acts they committed. Thompson's intentions may be benevolent, though I'm sure the fact that his career is entirely known for his campaigns against violent media doesn't hurt his motivation at all, but his facts and his ability to comprehend the full story behind his so called proof is lacking.
Thompson certainly builds himself a fine target for his accusations. People recoil at the thought of violent anything, and are quick to blame something simple like music, movies, television, or video games. That is certainly more comfortable to accept then the idea that the individuals committing crimes are responsible for their own actions, or some part was played by the parents and or schools in the whole thing. Thompson simply looks at the violent game and exclaims "AHA!" violent actions resulted from this. He fails to see that teenage boys, the population that makes up his every case of blame, do indeed play video games. In fact 92 percent of teenage males play video games (media awareness network). So chances are if you picked a teenage male at random, he does play video games. If you picked an active teenage charity worker that was a teenage male at random, would he play video games? It is terribly likely. If you picked out a violent teenage male criminal at random, would he play video games? That is also likely. Thompson fails to see both halves of this.
Of course this doesn't account for the violent aspect. Perhaps innocent children are playing innocent games. 89 percent of the top 70 best seller video games in the year 2001 were violent in some manner (safe youth.org). So if a popular video game were selected at random, would it be violent? Probably so. If a teenage male were selected at random, would he play violent games? Doing the math, roughly 82 percent of all teenage males play violent video games, so it would be a good bet. So we have a lot of violent game players in this country that much is clear. But how many individuals do we have acting violent in reality and not fantasy? The cases Thompson cites are clearly not the majority. When a school shooting happens it is a major deal, because we don't have them often. The level of violence among teenage males is likely high; I have no doubt of this, and likely rising. I even concede that correlations have been found between violent media and violent action. This is not the issue here.
What Thompson is proposing is that violent video games train violent killers or encourage them to violent acts. I am willing to concede that humans are capable of being desensitized to violence through over exposure, but I am not willing to concede this causes such acts. A violent culture may have many violent people, and violent media may correlate with violent action, but it is not the cause. It is perhaps a factor however. A naturally violent person may enjoy violent media as much or more then a person who uses violent media as an appropriate outlet for their feelings of aggression. Removing the media not only fails to change the violent person, it will also remove the acceptable outlet for the person who required it. Being exposed to violent media as a child may lead to a skewed view of violence as a way to solve conflicts and diminished ability to feel sympathy for victims of violent acts or even understand the victim perspective, and I agree that children should not be heavily exposed to such things at early and integral points in development, but the particular games cited by Thompson are all intended for adults. I concede that this doesn’t prevent children from playing them, but this responsibility rests with the parents. The media cannot be blamed for its misuse.
Thompson and other opponents of video games argue that the content of many games such as those Thompson cited justify violence, place violence in a context that makes it humorous, and feature very few characters or plotlines of virtuous qualities. I concede all of this and more. That is what sells in most media types, and it is because those things are entertaining and it is a game’s purpose to entertain. Sometimes they do educate and the better ones should challenge the mind and the reflexes, but their main purpose is to entertain. Children or adults should not be seeking role models in fictional characters of any kind for the most part, let alone in games, or looking for positive values. Just as the inferno is the most entertaining part of the divine comedy, people enjoy things that are dark and amoral. Games, movies and television are the element that people use to indulge what is not acceptable in their daily lives, and this should be their correct use. These things should certainly be regulated, but in the case of children that falls to the parents again, but not censored or removed.
Does seeing violence or experiencing it in fantasy make an individual wish to commit violent acts? This may be true in some cases, but in such cases the individual had a much more valid issue to begin with in that they could not divide fantasy and reality, and the media element was just the catalyst. Just as you do not blame the murder weapon for the murder, if you are a reasonable person, you do not blame a tool for misuse. Video games are merely a tool for entertainment, and if an individual uses them to learn to be a more efficient killer, as Thompson alleges then they are abusing said tool. We don't stop selling hammers because someone uses one to commit a murder do we? We recognize that tool has been abused. So too do we have to understand that any form of media is a tool of entertainment that can be abused also. If we remove tools that can be abused, then where does it end?