A panel at Siggraph 2006 takes on violent video games.

The folks at this year’s Siggraph had a panel asking the question Are violent video games really a problem?

“Mature-rated video games only account for 15 percent of games sold. Over half of the movies sold by Hollywood are R-rated. The FTC, which does annual reviews of retailers, said that 50 percent self-policed when it came to minors trying to buy M-rated games, compared to only 7 percent of retailers who restrained minors from buying R-rated DVDs. Both youth violence and crime are at a 40-year low in the U.S,” Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, and a panelist, said in his opening remarks.

“These numbers quantitatively prove that (the idea of violence caused by video games) is hype-based and not based on any actual statistical progression toward violence. It’s not supported by real-world data. It’s more a soapbox for politicians,” Rocca said.

Most of the panelists and audience members agreed with Rocca’s assessment that video games today are simply what rock and roll and Elvis’ gyrating hips were to 1950s conservatives.

Short answer is: No. Bigger concerns should be on issues of privacy and diversity. The CNet News article is short, but worth checking out.

8 thoughts on “A panel at Siggraph 2006 takes on violent video games.

  1. Probably not since the topic was violent video games, but that brings up a good point.  Can bad parenting be worse for children than violent video games?  I think most people would answer yes, but of course no one in Washington is campaigning against bad parenting.

  2. Personally, I love FPS—gives me the opportunity to blow the crap out of someone who richly deserves it. But then, I’m an adult. I don’t think little kids should have access to this stuff and that’s what I think most researchers would argue.

    There’s good evidence that violence in the media makes people more fearful. reduces sensitivity to the pain of others, and yes . . . makes kids behave in more aggressive ways toward one another. None of this is to say that kids grow up to be mass murderers as a consequence.

    The problem I personally see with with video games is that they put the player directly in the role of the aggressor and yes, that does increase agressive thoughts and actions and reduce sensitivity—video game-like simulations are widely used as a training tool by the military for just this purpose—because it works.

    Again, however, this doesn’t mean that people go out and become mass murderers.

    These numbers quantitatively prove that (the idea of violence caused by video games) is hype-based and not based on any actual statistical progression toward violence. It’s not supported by real-world data. It’s more a soapbox for politicians,

  3. This quote was in today’s Information Week Daily and seems appropriate somehow cool smirk

    “Seeing a murder on television can help work off one’s antagonisms. And if you haven’t any antagonisms, the commercials will give you some.”
    —Alfred Hitchcock

  4. Not to sound like I’m ripping on you Shelley (that’s not my intent), but…

    There’s good evidence that violence in the media makes people more fearful. reduces sensitivity to the pain of others, and yes . . . makes kids behave in more aggressive ways toward one another. None of this is to say that kids grow up to be mass murderers as a consequence.

    I completely fail to see how this is a problem limited to video games. There are plenty of activities that cause an increase in aggression in kids that participate in them. One good example is dodge ball in gym class. Another is football or baseball or basketball. Pretty much any form of competition is going to cause an increase in aggression in the people who engage in it. Hell, I knew a guy who used to get all worked up playing Monopoly.

    Too many people immediately associate an increase in aggression as leading inevitably to an increase in violence and for most people that’s not the case at all.

    The problem I personally see with with video games is that they put the player directly in the role of the aggressor and yes, that does increase agressive thoughts and actions and reduce sensitivity—video game-like simulations are widely used as a training tool by the military for just this purpose—because it works.

    I’ve never read a single interview with a military representative that claimed they used video games because it reduces sensitivity and increases aggressive thoughts. It’s always because it allows them to simulate a hostile environment safely and promote tactical thinking. Being overly aggressive is counterproductive to tactical thinking.

    And, trust me, as someone who has stared down millions of virtual gun barrels, I can say with some authority that it does nothing to prepare you for staring down a real one as I learned first hand a couple of years back. As a means of preparing someone for the emotional shock of real combat, video games aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Life doesn’t have a respawn button.

    Well, Rocca is being reactionary and political here too. Researchers are arguing that the games increase aggression, not violent acts. The evidence is solid, and it seems to me that it is a good idea to keep this stuff out of kids hands.

    Rocca didn’t say anything about researchers, he was speaking about politicians.

    And again I fail to see how games that increase aggression are a bad thing that kids shouldn’t be exposed to. That would mean banning all forms of competitive play for children as they all will increase aggression to some degree.

    Aggression is an emotion like any other emotion and part of raising your kids is teaching them how to deal with those emotions in a positive way. If your kid can’t handle the feelings of aggression brought on by a particular game than you, as a parent, shouldn’t allow your kid to play that game —be it Doom 3 or Little League Baseball—until they learn how to channel that aggression properly.

  5. It’s always because it allows them to simulate a hostile environment safely and promote tactical thinking. Being overly aggressive is counterproductive to tactical thinking.

    That’s a good point Les; but I think that is a good example of where this issue is, culturally speaking anyway.

    My brother is in the Canadian military, and this is what he told me; ‘In the Canadian military, if we have to clear a house we bust down the door and throw in a smoke granade.  The rest of the team waits by the windows to get the people coming out.  If a single person on this six man team dies, the cost of it was too high.  The Americans on the other hand doing the same thing will bust down the door and rush the building, and if five out of six of this soilders die the mission was a success.  They were acceptable losses.’

    I don’t think video games can really be blamed for perpetuating this mode of thought; as anyone who enjoys FPS knows the mad rush will get you killed in a second.

  6. I hear you, Les, and remember, I’m a fan of FPS myself. However, please see the following:

    I completely fail to see how this is a problem limited to video games.

    It is absolutely not limited to video games at all—I think I referred specifically to the media, but watching any kind of violence encourages aggression and suppresses responsiveness to the suffering of others.

    Pretty much any form of competition is going to cause an increase in aggression in the people who engage in it.

    Not exactly—but much of it certainly does. The argument being made by researchers is more complex than, “video-games leads to violence.” As I said earlier, watching violence also increases kids fearfulness and reduces empathy for the victim. Dodge ball is a great example, but I’m not sure that you can really compare Doom3 and monopoly.

    It’s always because it allows them to simulate a hostile environment safely and promote tactical thinking.

    Not really. It is because they don’t want any thinking at all: They want a conditioned, automatic response to target in combat situations and they want to depersonalize the enemy and put psychological distance between the soldier and the target.

    On this topic see “On Killing: The psychological cost of learning to kill in war and society,” by Lt. Col. D. Grossman. I personally think that he goes too far with some of his conclusions from research, but it is interesting stuff nonetheless.

    Aggression is an emotion like any other emotion and part of raising your kids is teaching them how to deal with those emotions in a positive way.

    This is true. And personally, I’m not arguing to ban the games—but do think it appropriate to limit them to youngsters.

    Rocca didn’t say anything about researchers, he was speaking about politicians.

    Not exacty. When he makes the following statement he is suggesting that the argument for a link between violence and video gams is hyperbole—it is and it isn’t. It all depends on how the point is phrased. My point was that he was being political as well and not quite honest about what “the numbers” mean:

    These numbers quantitatively prove that (the idea of violence caused by video games) is hype-based and not based on any actual statistical progression toward violence. It’s not supported by real-world data. It’s more a soapbox for politicians.

  7. One last thing Les, I personally don’t have a big problem with games in which the shooter is killing aliens and zombies and such—When they get down to killing people, I’m not quite so comfortable with it.

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