As we approach E3, there’s a lot of excitement and mystique that builds up to the unveiling of next year’s Big Two. Previously unseen graphics and processing power are new benchmarks touched by the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and the tech-savvy fawn over not only the specs but the impressive line-up of games that both are confirmed to have. Some people are intimidated by these new consoles. With the Newtown massacre fresh on people’s minds, critical parents and media figures everywhere are scratching their chins at the thought of yet another Call of Duty… one that’s even more “real” than its predecessors. But this is modern day expression: This is what freedom of speech is in 2013.
Lazy parents around the world would see this level of entertainment boggled down, regulated and practically stripped away because the media’s constant blame-peddling never warrants enough of a backlash to put someone aside from the shooter at center stage for the events of Sandy Hook. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein calls these video games murder simulators, and NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre admonishes the industry as a whole despite the fact his organization put out a shooting game one month after the Newtown massacre happened. But who’s the real failure when it comes to situations like these? Is it Halo or is it the parent that cries on national television because “they didn’t know?”
Let’s be fair: There are studies that connect violent video games to acts of aggression. One study conducted by Iowa State University on 227 juvenile delinquents in Pennsylvania concluded that video games were a strong risk factor. However, it’s worthy to note that twin and adoption studies published on the MEDLINE database maintained by the National Library of Medicine reveals that socioeconomic status and functions of serotonin in the brain are also risk factors for antisocial and aggressive behaviors. This isn’t the first time a dysfunctional mind has been linked to these kinds of behaviors either. A separate study in the United Kingdom turned up a psychiatric condition known as ‘conduct disorder.’
In this study, children were tested using advanced MRI scanning known as functional magnetic resonance imaging. They were shown pictures of sad, angry and regular facial expressions while scientists studied the activity of their brains through the MRI scans. Some kids responded less than others, which led to the conclusion that those kids were unable to empathize as well as their contemporaries. Dubbed ‘conduct disorder,’ it’s recorded that five in every one hundred kids in the United Kingdom suffer from this affliction. Even with proof that a brain abnormality is possibly one of the causes for antisocial behavior, the media would rather jump to weakly supported claims in a full-fledged support of common ignorance than sniff out all possible leads. Why haven’t they examined the parents?
An Australasian study linking video games to aggressive behavior in 2007 concludes: “Efforts should be made to educate the parents, as there is evidence that parental monitoring is a protective factor.” Many of the parents in the thick of this violent media outcry will be the first to tell you “Don’t tell me how to raise my kids.” If they won’t listen to reason alone, maybe they’ll listen to science. The University of New Hampshire found that strict, overbearing authoritarian parents are more likely raise juvenile delinquents than parents who exercise their authority with reason. A more extensive study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence took data from 12,505 kids ages 12-17 who participated in the Add Health study. Findings revealed compelling evidence that parental attachment impacted delinquency and vice versa, redefining the magnitude of parental involvement and other such factors in a child’s life.
An absence of reason is an absence of integrity when searching for solace after tragedy. Many members of the media won’t acknowledge a study done by the Social Science Research Network that points to a 0.3% decrease in violent crime during the sales periods of violent video games. Some won’t acknowledge the positive facts brought to light when it comes to video games at all. But regardless of what the media chooses to spotlight, we need to remember Justice Antonin Scalia’s ruling two years ago: “Like the protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas — and even social messages — through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection.” These are our rights, and even in the worst of times they should always be respected.