Five years ago, in one of the more bizarre and random of video game controversies, Fox News aired a segment criticizing Mass Effect for showing “full digital nudity and sex” in the bedroom scene that may or may not occur late in the game, depending on the player’s choices. Those who have played Mass Effect know that the most raunchy content you’re likely to see is a brief glimpse of a butt before the screen tastefully fades to black, but that didn’t prevent guest speaker Cooper Lawrence from roundly condemning the game, insisting that it “[doesn’t] show women as being valued for anything other than sexuality, and it’s a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with.”
While the representation of women of gaming has been the subject of some worthy discussion in recent years, Lawrence’s claim was painfully inaccurate considering gamers can freely choose to play as a female version of Commander Shepard, who can embark upon her own romantic conquest. A frustrated Geoff Keighley, who was the other guest on the segment, then asked Lawrence if she had ever actually played Mass Effect. “No,” she replied, laughing at the very idea.
Game Rant recently reported on a UK survey of 1978 members of the British public, which revealed a set of somewhat predictable statistics regarding the ways in which people view video games. The number of participants who believed that playing video games could lead to real-world aggression increased in direct proportion to their age, and those who had little or no experience of actually playing video games were also far more likely to believe that they could pose a threat. Meanwhile, those who had experience playing video games were more likely to agree that they can be a useful outlet for frustration and aggression.
A new study by the University of Oxford suggests that these patterns of thinking hold true in the U.S. as well. Dr. Andrew Przybylski, of the Oxford Internet Institute, surveyed 2504 people who were representative of the U.S. population, and found that men who had never played or almost never played video games were three and a half times more likely to believe in a link between video games and real world aggression, as compared with men who were regular gamers. Young men aged 18-24 were six times more likely to have concrete gaming experience than men aged 65 or older.
The survey certainly seems to replicate the one conducted using the British public, demonstrating that people who had less experience or no experience playing video games were much more likely to believe that they could be dangerous. Women of all ages were twice as likely to believe in a link between video games and aggressive behavior, but were overall less likely to believe in such a link than older men.
It’s important to remember that this study is purely a measure of people’s opinions and has little bearing on the question of whether or not there actually is a link between video games and real world aggression. While it’s possible that this survey is demonstrative of a classic fear of the unknown, perhaps the real explanation is that video games are indoctrinating young people into a global cult of violence whilst at the same time deafening them to any criticisms of the games they’re playing. Though if that’s the case then this violent cult is acting surprisingly mellow.
There’s certainly historical precedent for older members of society being suspicious of activities and new media that younger people seem to enjoy, from the modern novel to comic books to rock and roll and so on through the ages. I like to think that when I’m 65 I’ll believe that intelligent flying robots with heat vision are the new greatest threat to mankind (to be fair, I’ll probably be right).
What this survey suggests is that the best way to calm the fears of someone who believes video games are dangerous – or at least to give them a more informed perspective – is to simply sit down and play a video game with them. Case in point: in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that any law to censor or prohibit the sale of video games would be unconstitutional since their content “suffices to confer First Amendment protection.” What’s significant about this decision is that members of the Supreme Court actually played video games before making it.
Source: Oxford University