Controversy on Video Game Violence
In science, correlation doesn't imply causation. A relationship between virtual aggression and real-life aggression isn't necessarily one of cause and effect. Maybe bullies in real life also enjoy being bullies in virtual life, so they play violent video games.
To date, all lawsuits against video game companies for distributing violent content have been thrown out. In the Sanders lawsuit over the Columbine tragedy, the judge found that neither Nintendo nor Sony could've anticipated the shocking actions of Harris and Klebold. The First Amendment fully protects the companies' right to distribute games -- regardless of content.
David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and Family disagrees, and noted that in some analytical studies, children who were determined to be inherently non-hostile actually showed a greater increase in real-world aggression than their hostile counterparts [source: National Institute on Media and the Family]. But the analysis of a collection of small studies isn't considered scientific proof. It's merely a suggestion of a trend. And for many people, that's just not enough.
The small test groups and lack of long-term studies casts a shadow on the body of evidence against violent video games. Many people believe video games offer no more exposure to violence than television shows featuring murder, not to mention movies that graphically depict serial killers and war.
Other primary arguments against a cause-effect relationship between game violence and real-life violence focus on much wider trends than the occasional horrific school shooting. Some experts point to the fact that while violent video game sales are on the rise, violent crime rates in the United States are going down [source: LiveScience]
However, the Missouri State Correctional System isn't taking any chances. As of 2004, convicted violent offenders in Missouri no longer have access to games like "Grand Theft Auto" and "Hitman: Contracts" (in which players get paid to kill people with weapons like meat hooks). And Missouri's not alone in its decision. Some retailers now refuse to sell violent "rated M" (mature) games to kids under 18. The video game industry itself is attempting to self-regulate against publishers marketing "rated M" games to children.
The controversy is far from over. But concern over the potential anti-social effects of violent games isn't affecting sales -- or at least not in the direction activists might hope for. The Associated Press reported in March 2008 that video game sales -- hardware and software combined -- reached $1.33 billion in February [source: NYT]. That's for the month, not the quarter, and it's 34 percent higher than January 2008 sales. With Grand Theft Auto IV due out in April, sales are expected to spike again. As AP reports, the game's publisher says that pre-orders have surpassed projections.
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