Fox News debates video game violence

Fox News held a fair and balanced debate over Modern Warfare 2, the popular new FPS that lets you play a CIA operative tasked with helping Russian agents clear terrorists out of an airport. In the game, it turns out that the Russian had turned on you and forced you to kill innocents in the airport. It’s a depiction of USA-funded terrorism. It is not a murder simulator.

The debate here, if it can be called that, seems to rotate around the correlation between video game violence and real violence. The old man in this debate mentioned an American Association of Pediatrics statement. Here it is:


Restrictive age and violent-content labels increased the attractiveness of video games for boys and girls of all age groups, according to a new study. In “Age and Violent-Content Labels Make Video Games Forbidden Fruits for Youth,” researchers tested 310 Dutch children in three groups: 7 to 8, 12 to 13 and 16 to 17 years of age. Participants read fictitious video game descriptions and rated how much or how little they wanted to play each game. An important finding for parents, pediatricians and policy-makers is that age and violent-content labels do not prevent young children from playing games with objectionable content. In fact, they have the opposite effect. Study authors suggest that video games should not be forbidden in Europe or the United States because that will only make the games more attractive, and parents should help in selecting appropriate games for their children to play.

This amazing bit of news – kids like stuff they can’t have – is an obvious by-product of our neophilic instincts and does very little to correlate events like the shooting at Fort Hood and 9/11 to violent video games.

Violence stems from a lack of human interaction in a nurturing and mental health context. To ascribe any sort of behavior to media is a cop out for the pundits and for the aggressor. That said, I would recommend children not watch Fox News because it encourages damn fools to come to presidential speeches wearing guns, but that’s neither here nor there.

Sadly, Jon Cristensen at SlashGamer was too tongue-tied to respond to this criticism and it’s rarely the gamer that comes out ahead in these sorts of ambushes. The bottom line: violent games are not for young kids just as pornography, beer, cigarettes, handguns, lighters, spray paint, and knives are not for kids. There is a time and a context for each of those things and to rail against them shows a lack of judgment and clarity.

UPDATE – A cool response: