Could Violent Video Games Lead Kids to Kill?

Andrew Dalton
14

I hate censorship, but I also hate video games, and have no desire to defend them. So when the Supreme Court weighed in about free speech, protecting kids, and the violence of today's video games, I just gave a yawn. I'll never need to worry about such things, even as a parent. I have a girl, and girls are never interested in the shredding and beheading in modern video games, right? Right? Hmm.

She does love Angry Birds on my iPhone. In fact since the birds came, it's pretty much her phone. And theirs. 

Could Angry Birds be a gateway drug? Could she end up on the couch playing World of Warcraft online and shouting imaginary slurs from some fantasy universe at a guy in Belgium?

The Angry Birds are very angry. Not attacking-Tippi-Hedren angry, but they seem damn determined to destroy that scaffolding. And those squawks are pretty primal.

Oh, for the uninitiated, as I was just a few weeks ago, Angry Birds is the most popular game -- hell, the most popular not-free app -- on the iPhone. Even Justin Bieber tweets that it's sick. I don't get it. The birds, not the Bieber. Well, both. (Actually Biebs tweets that "its" sick, no apostrophe. How all these girls can crush on a boy with such poor grammar is beyond me.)

I suppose the issue's worth a little bit of Googling. But what I found tended to just reinforce my stereotypes. This is from the Media Awareness Network:

Generally girls aren't interested in the violent "first person shooter" games favoured by boys, and many of the girl-specific games promote stereotypical interests such as cooking and babysitting. (Industry representatives claim these topics are chosen based on their surveys of what female games want.) Girls are, however, avid players of "casual" games such as Bejeweled and Peggle, rhythm games such as Guitar Hero.

Okay, so the gender specific stuff is certainly screwed up. And as they go on to say at the link, the portrayal of women in the male-centered games can be downright horrifying (see above, hookers, killing etc.) and is worth fighting over.

And even the "strong" female characters in video games are ridiculously sexy, starting with the masturbation frenzy set off by Lara Croft long ago. But they are at least powerful.

Here's a great tidbit from a PBS list of video game myths that also downplays the effects of violent games:

In his book Killing Monsters, Gerard Jones argues that young girls often build upon these representations of strong women warriors as a means of building up their self confidence in confronting challenges in their everyday lives.

Really? Awesome. That takes care of all my worries. I'm going back to sleep.

What video games does your daughter play? Do they bother you?

 

Image via Flickr/YanivGolan

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