Video Game Industry Should Restrain Violence
In 1998, the US software industry sold $6.3 billion worth of video games (see Unknown). Not bad for an industry that didn't exist 25 years ago! Yet despite its continued growth, all is not well in the video game industry. School shootings in Littleton, Colorado; Pearl, Mississippi; Paducah, Kentucky; Conyers, Georgia and many other towns have shocked the nation (see Malcolm). Understandably, grieving parents and sympathetic citizens are searching for a cause for this "outbreak" of youth violence. It is natural to assume, "when children, the symbol of innocence, commit the severest of crimes, then something must be going wrong with society." (see Maker)
The problem is, no one is exactly sure what is wrong with society. However, there have been no shortage of potential candidates. Perhaps the "40,000 killings children will see on television and in the movies by the time they are age 18" has something to do with it (see Gordon)? Maybe weak or uninformed gun laws are to blame? How about irresponsible parents or the loss of family values? Are overcrowded classrooms or a lack of school counselors the critical factors? Maybe the Internet has corrupted our youth? Did hyper-violent video games cause this "rash" of student violence? Or is it a combination of all of these factors?
The problem in determining a cause(s) is further compounded by mixed experimental findings. Scott (1995) did not find a positive relationship between video game violence and aggressive feelings among youth. In fact, there seemed to be a decrease in aggressive attitudes after playing violent games. These result seems to run counter to related studies concerned with the relationship between aggression and film violence. Bushman (1998) found a fairly convincing positive relationship between film violence and the "accessibility of violent constructs in viewers." In a separate study, Zillman (1999) concluded that "prolonged exposure to gratuitously violent film is capable (a) of escalating hostile behavior in provoked men and women, and (b) perhaps more importantly, of instigating such behavior in unprovoked men and women." Other studies seemed to find similar relationships. Yet, other authors have raised concerns about the validity of these findings. Freedman (1996) states that many studies "have used dubious measure of aggression" and have difficulty "distinguishing effects of violence from effects of interest and excitement" because "the violent films in [some] experiments are more arousing than the neutral films." All of this makes it very difficult for concerned citizens to draw any definite conclusions.
Additionally, crime statistics further muddle the search for cause and effect. Homicide data suggest that murders have been steadily decreasing during the last decade. Furthermore, there hasn't really been any detectable "outbreak" of youth violence over the last few...