Book Plunge: Moral Combat: Why The War On Violent Video Games Is Wrong

What do I think of Patrick Markey and Christopher Ferguson’s book published by BenBella books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Gaming has always been a pastime of mine that I have highly invested in. I have heard for years the panic about video games leading to violence. This has often been assumed and taken for granted. If you let your children play violent video games, they will be desensitized to violence and be more prone to be violent. Besides, look at all these school shooters who played violent video games. What more do you need?

People who think that way need to read this book. It is an excellent look at how these claims are blown out of the water. What is going on is often bad science. People are often tested to see if they’re more aggressive after playing a video game. Question. How do you measure aggression?

You don’t let people walk the streets with a crowbar in their hand seeing if they’ll bludgeon someone. Instead, questions are often asked like would you put hot sauce in someone’s food if they didn’t want it? You could be asked if you would be prone to hurt someone’s feelings. Some people will want to do this anyway. Some people might want to do the hot sauce thing not because they’re aggressive, but because they like to pull pranks on people.

When some games have come out, such as some in the Grand Theft Auto series, it has been speculated that there would be a rise in crime. It was even compared to the Polio scare. Well, the game under question came out and yes, crime was affected.

Crime dropped.

What about school shootings? How about someone like Adam Lanza? He’s the guy who shot up the Sandy Hook school. It was said that he was a player of video games and this without the hard evidence and people ran with it. Well, it is true. Lanza was spending significant time playing video games.

He had a reputation of spending hours at the arcade playing Dance Dance Revolution.

What’s interesting is that sometimes, these killers had a history of NOT playing violent video games. This actually could have made them more prone to violent shootings. Why? Because games are nowadays a way that people come together and bond together socially. People who are not doing that can be social outcasts and feel rejected by their peers and be more prone to shootings.

What about Columbine? Contrary to what is thought, the killers had not made a level of DOOM modeled after their high school. Also, the skills needed in a video game to shoot the enemies do not transfer to real life. My father-in-law is quite good at sharpshooting I have been told. Let’s go back to when I used to play Goldeneye. I could play that all day and still go to a shooting range with him and do horrible even if I was the best player of Goldeneye there was.

Many games nowadays also contain moral judgments. Some people will go through a game again and try to be as ruthless as possible just to see what happens, but most will actually start to think about these moral issues. Final Fantasy X can get one thinking about the relationship between religion and technology and what it requires to atone for one’s sin.

What about video game addiction? This can vary. When Breath of the Wild first came out, many of my friends were spending hours playing this. Does this constitute addiction? No. This is just guys getting a new toy and playing with it. Sadly, there are cases where intense horror has taken place, such as the daughter who starved to death while her mother played World of Warcraft.

A child could play 3-4 hours of video games a day and still function well with their peers and make good grades. If they are able to do this, that does not constitute addiction. By contrast, someone could play 1-2 hours and have their grades suffer and that could constitute addiction.

What about obesity and video games? This sounds like a no-brainer, but again, it isn’t. Take away a child’s video games and it doesn’t mean they’ll jump outside and start running and jumping. They can just as easily find something else to do. If anything, now we have games that require movement which are being good exercise. My wife once decided she really wanted to lose weight and did it with the DDR exercise plan. What’s that? It’s playing the aforementioned Dance Dance Revolution. It worked. She lost 30 pounds.

More and more games are coming out like this. It can also be better than going to a gym because with video games, you can get instantaneous rewards that motivate you, such as a high score or trophies or achievements unlocked or reaching new levels.

Now many of you know that this is an apologetics page. What does this have to do with apologetics? First, we need to be people of truth in every field. I don’t care for football at all, but that doesn’t mean I want to spread a claim that playing football makes someone more violent if it isn’t true.

Second, a work like this can show us how misinformation can spread easily. Many people who complained about certain games revealed by their words that they had never played or seen those games and were going on secondhand information. This never does our cause any good.

Third, if we attack false causes of violence, we never get at the real cause. No one doubts the nobility of the desire of people to want to reduce violence by eliminating violent video games, but if that is not the cause, then you could eliminate all such games and violence would still take place.

Fourth, paranoia should never be our friend as Christians. It’s easier to go after something else rather than saying that maybe we should do a better job of raising our children and teaching them good from evil. How about a parent instead of banning some games, maybe try something like renting through Gamefly first and, I know this is bizarre, playing it with your kid and talking about it. If you fear some of the content, go on YouTube and watch the videos of the game and discuss why or why not the child should be allowed to play it.

Also as Christians, we don’t want to unnecessarily alienate video game players. The overwhelming majority of us, including me, grew up playing games and we are not violent people at all. As someone with Aspergers, I was also pleased to hear about how games have helped people on the spectrum socialize and I can attest that that is true.

So my fellow gamers, game on. Enjoy and have fun. We all want to end unnecessary violence in our world today. Maybe now we can go and find the real culprit.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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