A few days ago, I spoke to Fox News about the upcoming video game Bulletstorm and its connection to young people. Dubbed by this recent story to be “the worst video game in the world?”, two psychologists (who somehow survived handling Bulletstorm themselves) countered my argument with unsubstantiated views that it would make young gamers turn to violence and rape.
We’re close to ending these dangerous “save the children” stereotypes that deprive us of our rights, limit young minds and threaten to make our generation sheltered and dependent. The first big generation of gamers has grown up on some pretty immersive games without incident, and what’s more, soon they’re going to be the journalists. They know that even over-the-top games are fun and beneficial. Any decent developer will tell you that gameplay, not violence, is at the core of a good game…for that matter, I think I’ll buy Bulletstorm when it comes out.
Perhaps full public acceptance has taken a while for video games because enough old people haven’t been exposed to them. Some might brag about not understanding technology. Computers and cell phones have made their way into the business world anyway, but what better piece of youth culture to attack than something seniors never got to experience as kids or interact with on a regular basis?
Of course, any violent game article is old hat by now. We’ve already covered how the furor over Bulletstorm (and earlier games) is reminiscent of similar hysteria over movies, music, pinball, chess and most new forms of entertainment when they were introduced. In a few years, it won’t matter. Bulletstorm will make children into crazed gunmen about as much as James Bond movies or paintball does. It’s as if these psychologists claimed that after the Super Bowl, Americans couldn’t restrain the urge to tackle everything in sight.
Despite Bulletstorm’s shock value, there’s little difference in the effects of violence on young people whether it’s depicted in video games or in Saturday morning cartoons. Neither have been regulated because every credible study has failed to demonstrate a connection between games and aggressive behavior. Contrary to a central claim in the article, rape has in fact decreased over the past 17 years. We actually know that national crime rates have steadily dropped since the popularization of video games, and turned this into a sweet poster at our Supreme Court protest a few months ago.
One thing that Fox News and NYRA likely agree on is that we don’t need to introduce a federal agency to figure out the video game industry. Government oversight of any media sets an awful precedent. America leads the video game and entertainment industries partly because young people are free to buy and play the games that companies want to make, and eventually some even start to work in the industry themselves.
When young people know what’s offensive to us or others, we act accordingly. I had said that plenty of emotionally unstable adults will play this game and they’ll be fine. More importantly, the emotionally mature and independent young people (and aren’t we all) who purchase Bulletstorm will be no less well off.
Dr. Jerry Weichman fears that “experiencing” Bulletstorm will cause “significant damage” to youth. Certainly the censorship and disdain they have to avoid from overprotective authority figures is much worse, and much more frequent.