Digital drugs? Are video games the ones to blame?

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Scott, Online English teacher and researcher at Acadsoc.

Scott, Online English teacher and researcher at Acadsoc.

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It seems the school shooting in Parkland, Florida with 17 people killed has been far away from us, but I can still hear the gunfire and desperate cry from victims around. Such case is not isolated or only, and even the US National Security Bureau cannot guarantee such tragedy won’t happen again.

When I still mourn the death in this massacre, different interest groups have called up another war in the US. Not surprisingly, once again, politicians, even their president blame and criticise violent video games to be the cause of shooting cases. It sounds reasonable and quite a win-win strategy for everyone, isn’t it? To please parents, to flee from their responsibility when facing media, to cater to people’s misunderstanding/prejudice on video games, why not? However, as recent research has shown, violent video games are innocent for shooting cases and on the contrary, they may help reduce the possibility of violent crimes.

Digital drugs? Are video games the drugs to blame?Whitney DeCamp, an associate professor at Western Michigan University, claimed there is no clear evidence or link between violent games and violent behaviours. Using the data from 2008 Delaware School researching 6,567 eight-graders, after comparing ‘play video game’ with other factors such as gender and family relations, he found playing violent and bloody video games cannot lead to violent actions. More interestingly, in a 2016 published economic research, observing the sales/popularity of new released violent games along with the number of violent criminals at the same time, indicated that if a violent video game is well-received among players, it will decrease, not increase violent offences in real-world.

I have to admit that all there are many controversial research results, some claiming and proving violent games and movies can cause violence whereas others disapprove. Up till now, there isn’t any research success in ending the debate. Politicians, schools and parents have to pick their side when discussing the influence of video games. Since I know, people always believe in what they want to think and keep a blind eye on the facts which may challenge their opinion.

Violent Games lead to violence?

We shall take a look at China. Why China? If you ask ‘Is living/working in China safe?’ in Quora and Google, you will find almost 100% of answers are yes if only considering violent crime (such as murder, rape and shooting, etc.). Nearly every foreigner who live, work or travel in China feel safe even in the centre of a city, in rural areas or in midnight. Though western media will never put China on their list as one of the safest countries, from my own experience, I had been in China for almost 2 years, we can learn a lot from this country. And ironically, video games industry, or more precisely, the game industry is highly prospering in China as well. Unlike North America, Europe and Japan, there is no age-rated or official classification system in China.

PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS My Chinese friend told me that the market size of Chinese game industry has reached 200 billion Yuan by 2017, equally 28.5 billion US dollars (almost the same level as US game market), with roughly 530 million players. I asked him if there is any violent game on sale in the market? The answer is Yes. For instance, one of the most well-received mobile game in China, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (Some of you may know or even play this game), encourages players struggling to be the final survivor in the game by cooperating with others, searching for better equipment and armament, and of course, pulling your trigger to kill other players. Though the game developer and its Chinese cooperate agent (Tecent) has removed all bloody special effect, this game can still be considered violent, urging players to kill others to win. It reminds me of the jungle rule, where only the strongest can survive. Even Chinese regulators are holding the same point of view, that “this game severely deviates from our socialist core values and traditional Chinese culture,” the China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association said on October 30, 2017.

However, there is no report or research shown that violent game has led to a rise of violent crime in China when most of their games in the market are unsuitable for players aged under 12, containing violence or sex. Chinese parents are criticising games from a different perspective from American, that games may distract their kids’ attention in schooling, weaken their skills in real-world socialisation and harm their health. Only very few parents will surely worry about the violence in video games, and their kids may bring such violent behaviour into real-world. Some Chinese parents may send their children to so-called training schools to receive ‘special treatment’ to cure their kids’ ‘internet/game addiction’. But after reporting by the media due to inhumanity in 2016 and 2017, Chinese elder generation started to review and rethink about their viewpoint against internet and video games.


Apparently, there is a common conclusion for both the issues ’caused’ by video games in USA and China, video games may play a role in shooting or addiction, but definitely not the only part. Like a chemical reaction, it requires more than 1 material to make the reaction starts.

Before blaming video games, as parents and adults, we shall review and blame ourselves. Do we correctly inspect and guide our kids to play the game? Do we teach them a proper sense of value? Do we offer them a warm and happy family?

In my opinion, blaming video games is a kind of irresponsibility. How can you count on profit-makers to take care of your own children? And, before criticising a game, did you ever play it with your kid?

I heard from others that Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is highly violent and stimulated, especially to kids. I opened and played GTA5 on my younger son’s computer under his permission (he is doing high school at the moment). I agreed that this game is exaggerating, violent, pornographic, discriminative…But I will not uninstall the game from his computer. He needs guidance and instruction instead of prohibition.

What shown in the game are the dark sides of humanity, which are real and just exaggerated by the game to attract buyers. And negative things should become educational material for parents as well. We want our kids to live in peace and love doesn’t mean they can only know and get in touch with things peaceful and lovely.


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