“Research in this area clearly suggests that the impact of violent television, film and video games on aggression is moderated by viewers’ aggressive characteristics.”
“The impact of video games on violent behavior remains to be determined.”
“Encouraging and facilitating parental monitoring of children’s access to media (for example, V-chip legislation and advisory labels on music and video games)…”
The last quotation should raise an eyebrow, because the gaming industry has already adopted a rating system in order to prevent younger children from purchasing or playing these kinds of video games without their parents’ permission and knowledge. That means the gaming industry has already acknowledged and complied with the recommendations in the Surgeon General’s report.
This is an important detail that should not go unnoticed. In an effort to help parents perform the difficult task of parenting, the video game industry voluntarily adopted a rating system that makes it easy for parents to determine whether or not a game is age appropriate for their kids. The fact that many games, such as Call of Duty 4 and Doom 3 are rated M for Mature by the ESRB rating system used by major retailers such as Best Buy. In case parents are unsure, places like Best Buy will even help you determine what those ratings mean. And this is helpful because they’re not the same as the MPAA ratings used for movies; in fact, they’re more detailed and comprehensive.
But is there any evidence that supports the Surgeon General’s claims that there is not a generation of super predatory youths? After all, Walsh’s article claims that “This is a new violence which corresponds directly to the distribution of specifically designed games to our youth.” Well, if you think the Surgeon General is an idiot or a liar, check out Myth #10 at MSNBC.com or The List. School shootings occurred before there were violent video games (unless there was a version of Doom out in 1979 or 1987). Furthermore, none of this even takes into account terrorist actions conducted inside the borders of the United States during just one year, 1970, which included 3,000 bombings and 50,000 bomb threats. Not only that, but La Rouche’s writers must have a short memory because they’ve forgotten about domestic terrorist organizations such as the Weathermen, who were composed of members in their early to late 20′s when they began to use violence to pursue their goals.
The great irony here is that 20-somethings in the 60′s and 70′s conducted many more violent acts within the borders of the United States than either the school shooters who have become famous or Al-Qaeda (though, to their discredit, Al-Qaeda has killed more people, from more countries, in more countries, than either the school shooters or groups like the Weathermen). Perhaps the Surgeon General isn’t an idiot or a liar, as Walsh claims.
There is also another disturbing implication in La Rouche’s attempts to claim that violent videogames cause youth violence. If the Surgeon General is right, and youth violence hasn’t really increased, then the famous school shootings in the media are just famous cases that do not represent a good sample of school violence. Interestingly, you’ll notice that the famous school shootings in the United States, like Columbine, are located in predominately white communities that have a higher standard of living than, say, inner city schools. As disturbing as it might be to express, it’s possible that school shootings, much like cases of missing young girls, are made famous in the media not because of a change in the status quo, but because of a media bias in favor whiteness and middle class income. If I was feeling unfair, I might accuse LaRouche and his writers of being biased in terms of race and class; it’s perhaps more likely that they’re just shortsighted and unable to see past shallow media representations.
So, not only is there no clear causal link between violent video games and violent youths, but to assume that there’s a new breed of predator is to fall into a flawed perception of reality that assumes certain priorities of race and class and their relation to media. But what are we to make of claims that videogames teach players how to use firearms? While I was preparing this portion of my essay, I was advised by a good friend of mine that I should just post, in big, bold, letters: they do not and cannot teach anything about marksmanship. I was tempted to agree with him; after all, he has only been back from Iraq for about two years, where he was deployed with his Marine Corps Reserve Unit, whereas my knowledge of Marine Corps marksmanship is at least eight years old (or ten years, if you only want to count the time I spent teaching marksmanship and coaching shooters on a rifle range).