Editorial: A history of violence

Do violent video games make people do monstrous things, or do monstrous thoughts make violent video games more appealing?

It was a question raised by many of the parents who packed into the library basement last Wednesday for a talk on video game addiction.

It’s understandable in this day and age to believe games teach people to fantasize — or even act — on harming others.

Every news cycle seems to bring fresh stories of school shootings — overwhelmingly committed by angry men, many of them fans of violent game. And at least one blockbuster, first-person-shooter once tasked players with shooting up a virtual Russian airport filled with unarmed civilians in one horrible sequence.

Might there be some connection between the two?

Dr. Paul Weigle, the event’s speaker, calmed some nerves when he told the room there was no clear evidence to say that violent games — like the popular FortNite — are responsible for making someone pick up a gun and commit a mass shooting. Out of the population at large, he said, it’s a small sample of people who actually do commit these atrocities. And, as Dr. Weigle pointed out, many of the people who exhibit signs of violence after playing violent games already showed signs of aggression.

So, when do parents draw the line?

Start the conversation with kids early, and often. Try to find out more about the context of violence in a game — does the game make the player question why they fight? Does it promote good teamwork, or make the player consider their moral choices? Ask your kids about what’s happening in the game, the decisions they make and why.

Also, consider changing game and console settings to disable in-game chat, where player trash talk is foul enough to make a sailor cringe. Another idea is setting up time limits to keep gaming from running late into the night.

Parents can find out more about what content is in a game from organizations, like Common Sense Media, before they make a purchase.

Knowledge might never conquer violence — both in the real world or the virtual one, but it certainly will lead to better conversations and smarter gaming habits.