I love to play video games. It’s something that lets me forget about the stresses of life and interact with friends, wherever they may be. I play enough video games to consider myself a bit of a gamer and noticed that popular culture tends to portray gamers as violent because of a supposed link between video game violence and gamers. However, the connection between violent video games and violence has yet to be fully proved.
Law & Order, there is none in Gaming
In early 2015, an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit portrayed white male gamers as terrorists against the diversification of the video game community. To set the scene of the episode, two white males walk up to a female booth host at an FPS gaming event. Later, they attack her when she walks into the empty bathroom.
A female game developer, Raina, is kidnapped, beaten, and raped by three white males in the name of anti-female gamers. The episode shows the three kidnappers sexually abusing Raina and streaming videos of the abuse over the dark web. The first stream shows Raina being tied up, withgreen text that says “Game on NYPD”.
The next video shows one of the kidnappers ripping open Raina’s blouse and slapping her across the face. At the end of the video, text fades in that reads “level completed”.
The next stream ends with Raina being thrown onto a pile of pillows with the three kidnappers taking off their clothes around her. It is implied that the stream continues as they rape her.
In the end, Raina was rescued. She left the game industry saying “women in gaming… What did I expect?” (Law & Order).
H3H3Produces an Analysis
The episode got a lot of backlash from people saying how unrealistic the episode is. They felt the writers of the show took the recent gamergate issues and blew them out of proportion. Four people of the gamergate group threatened three females involved in the gaming industry. While the threats were illegal and horrific, the three victims of gamergate were never harmed the way Law & Order portrayed. Below is a satirical review of it, by H3H3Productions.
I must note, the man in the video – Ethan Klein – is acting more upset than he really is. That’s his format; he tries to discredit the plot of the episode while acting as outrageous as possible. However, Ethan does point out the wild assumption that gamers are violent.
In the video, Ethan says the episode “berates and belittles” the gaming community. Soon after, he points out the cinematic psychological effect of putting flashes of chanting/cheering and a sexual assault together. This connecting of scenes can cause a connection in the audience’s minds. Flashes of white men cheering and white men attacking a woman who is part of the game industry can cause the audience to connect the idea that white men enjoy the assault of female gamers.
Ethan watches a scene where the woman who was attacked is telling the detective that the assailants were pasty white and skinny. The detective then says that the description fits “80% of the crowd.” This sets in the portrayal of gamers being white male. However, violent gamers are not always locked into while males. The reason Law & Order used white males in their episode is because the demographic of the broad video game community is mostly white male.
Bernie, Hillary, & Donald
Political figures have a loud presence. They speak about popular issues, and what their opinions are. They tell us they can make our lives better. They rally the masses to support them and their ideals. Political figures have been able to get everyone to believe that video game violence causes violent people. The following video is from a YouTube channel called NerdAlert. The host, Kim Horcher, discusses the views of the top three runners from the 2016 presidential race.
The most popular government figures of 2016 see violent video games as influential to people. Hillary Clinton made “five major proposals” to make buying video games more difficult (NerdAlert). Most of what she wanted to do was to ensure the current laws on age-ratings were being upheld. Nothing wrong with that. But then she went on to say, “’we need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco, alcohol, and pornography’” (NerdAlert). That feel pretty extreme to me. Bernie Sanders mentioned video games with television and movies in saying that they desensitize people, specifically to death and killing. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted “Video game violence and glorification must be stopped – it is creating monsters!” (NerdAlert). These three all believe violent video games can cause violence in gamers. They, being a part of popular culture, encourage and support the portrayal of violent gamers even though the research says that video game violence does not cause people to act violently.
Violent Gamers, it’s just Science
A TIME Health post, written by Alexandra Sifferlin, summarizes research that answers the question: Are violent video games linked to aggressive behaviors in players? According to the TIME article, the research says “that playing violent games is linked to aggression, but that there’s insufficient evidence to link the games to actual criminal violence” (Sifferlin). So it seems that research from 2003 to 2015 has concluded that young adult gamers are more aggressive than those that don’t play video games but they are not more violent.
Here is a video from 2014 discussing the popular controversy in the news on the correlation between video games and violence:
The video, published by YouTube channel Health Triage, mentioned how there have been more news coverage and articles on research that linked video game violence to violent players than research that did not link video game violence to violent players. This doesn’t mean there are more studies that determined violent video games cause real life violence. It just means that they were discussed more over popular media, making them more popular in our culture. The popularity causes more people to see a gamer as violent.
The host specifically covered research conducted by Dr. Chris Ferguson. He “studied 103 young adults” that were randomly split up into four test groups; (1) could not play any video games, (2) could only play a nonviolent video game, (3) could only play a violent video game where they played as a “good guy”, and (4) could only play a violent game where they played as a “bad guy”. Then, the young adults had to do “frustration tests… they had to engage in some activity which would make it more likely that they would get frustrated and perhaps aggressive. And [Dr. Ferguson’s] study shows no link between video games and aggression” (Healthcare Triage). Dr. Ferguson also wrote that the test subjects that had previously played video games had “fewer hostile feelings” during the frustration tests (Healthcare Triage). What is interesting to note, is that Ferguson’s research showed the people who have played video games over time were harder to enrage or frustrate than those who recently began playing video games. In all of the studies that Health Triage analyzed, there was no data that adequately proves video game violence causes gamers to be violent.
A survey that the host talked about covered the studies that gathered data on the test subjects’ thoughts after playing violent video games. The studies could only gather thoughts that lasted “4 to 30 minutes.” Out of the thirty or so surveys conducted, only twelve gathered data over extended periods of time. Of those twelve, only one could prove a connection between violent video games and violent tendencies. The rest either didn’t have “any data on family relationships or mental well-being” or they concluded that the family relationships or mental well-being played a larger factor in the violent tendencies than video games (Healthcare Triage). By not gathering data about each test subject’s family relationships or mental well-being, the correlation is not valid because there could be underlying reasons why the subjects were easily angered.
So we hear gamers are violent. It’s on television. It’s in the news. It’s in our government. Popular culture has done a great job at portraying gamers as violent people. Yet, research says otherwise (well, research that holds credible statistics). I know I am not a violent person. I play video games, especially now that I got my hands on a Nintendo Switch and spring break is upon me, and I have yet to see myself (or my gamer friends) become more violent as they continue to play violent games. I have no doubt that I will not become a crazed man and start swinging swords or stealing cars or ram into things and drive up the side of a mountain, because violent video games do not make violent gamers.