There's a problem with juvenile violence, both in the US and in the UK, as well as many other countries. As long as problems have existed, people have sought to blame someone (else) for such issues. Violent video games have often come under fire.
A myriad of violent media have been banned throughout history, from pen and paper RPG's such as dungeons and dragons, performances by Alice Cooper and Judas priest, as well as other musicians, video games, ... They were/are considered to be in bad taste, harmful to the people who were exposed to them. The FBI even raided a "shadowrun RPG" office once, because they were distributing material describing how to commit fraud ... in a world that existed only on a sheet of paper.
Authorities have often overreacted when it comes to "questionable" entertainment.
The current focus of this way of dealing with juvenile violence lies on violent rap music (extended: the entire genre of hiphop) and violent video games. Probably because that just happens to be what's "happening" with the youth of today. And I, being youthful and liking both violent music and violent games, am going to share my opinion on these media with you.
I've been playing violent games since I was six! The original prince of Persia, wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke Nukem, Quake ... I was there when sidescrollers were replaced by three dimensional environments in which to kill your opponent, I saw sprites get replaced by polygons, I witnessed the introduction of scripted AI, I was there!
Mind you: I didn't play just violent games. I loved theme park and simcity (2000), the latter I played recently (thank you dosbox), Used to play transport tycoon as well as many other business games. I found it amusing to build things in games, business empires, theme parks or military bases, I loved the logistics. Maybe that's why I never dug deep into real tine strategy games, always preferred the turn based variants that allowed for much more economy. I loved the civilization series, got alpha centauri lying around somewhere and I've got space empires 5 on my hard disk. Also loved the sims, but got bored after while.
I also loved Deus ex, greatest game ever in my opinion. Violence is strictly optional in that game. You can get through the entire game without pulling a trigger, and only one character has to die. (but this can be accomplished without physical force). Especially early on, you'll be commended for using a minimal force approach.
But this is one of the best examples of games that demand you make certain moral choices. You do get to choose who lives and who dies. Soldiers, civilians, world leaders ... and you have to deal with the consequences.
Some of my favorite games are devoid of violence.
I loved playing Gears of war while it lasted: It had great immersion and amazing action-packed scenes. Yes, it's bloody, and you can't join a multipleyer match without getting chainsawed in half a couple of times, during wich your screen is covered in bloodsplatter. It doesn't bother me, I'm in it for the fun.
Another game I loved was bioshock, homage to system shock, this is a real shooter, you cannot advance far without killing a lot of characters. This doesn't contain so much graphic violence in the main gameplay. Little blood, a couple of scary scenes. The little sisters are a little bit disturbing, but the harvesting process was "tuned down" in terms of "ickyness", so that's not all that bad.
One highly disturbing scene I found is the part where you have to kill Andrew Ryan. This one kill is different than the ones leading up to the event. He's not a braindead splicer (zombie), he's a conscious human being who puts up no fight whatshowever, but you have to kill him -against your will- anyway (this happens in a cutscene, you don't control your character during these events). Still this scene had me on the edge of vomiting, you can watch the entire thing on youtube, just look up "Andrew Ryan".
And that's the big issue: Some of the best games simply are violent.
How do we handle that? Kids want to have fun, if these violent games get good reviews on account of them being really enjoyable, they will want to play them! I liked to play carmageddon when it was still controversial. Not because I liked running over pedestrians, but because it was a fun game.
Games are rated for a very good reason, the esrb provides parents with a relatively objective system that allows them to see the worst of a games content in a glance. If you have children and you don't play games yourself, read their warning labels! If you can't be there to educate your children on how to handle the content of a game, make sure they don't get their hands on games that would require such guidance.
I was taught not to resort to violence by my parents, and that worked! I am far from a violent person. A know-it-all megalomaniac, sure, but not a violent one. My friends have told me on several occasions that they couldn't possibly imagine me angry. I've never picked a fight with anybody, nor do I ever feel like settling disputes in a violent fashion. Clearly, having games as a passtime has not resulted in my being a violent person.
I've been playing violent games for 15 years, and I'm pascifist!
What about music?
I said I like violent music, that's true, but it's not rap. I love Power metal with a passion, as well as many other genres of metal and rock music. This hasn't kept me from loving classical music or soft rock either. My love for Queen predates me discovering Sabaton by about ten years!
Sabaton is a power metal band who like to glorify great battles of the past, the second wold wars D-Day, stalingrad, the first deployment of uclear weapons, the Fall of Berlin, as well as the Vietnam war, the Falkland war ...
Listening to their music on a semi-daily basis hasn't inspired me to joing the military ...
The music gets ever so more "graphic" if you listen to Manowar. Listen to "hail and kill" for a little while.
In the end, Joey sings:
"Rip their flesh
Burn their hearts
Stab them in the eyes
Rape their women as they cry
Kill their servants
Burn their homes
Till there's no blood left to spill
Hail and Kill
Power and dominion are taken by the will
By divine right hail and kill"
But my most profound love for this 20 year old music hasn't cultivated violence in me. As a matter of fact, it calms me down and helps me get my toughts back toghether when I'm irritated. Nor has the song "pleasure slave" from the same album turned me into a sexual deviant.
Despite the screams of conservatives during the "filthy 15" era were screaming, Heavy metal hasn't caused the downfall of civillised society.
Scaremongerers have been wrong in the past.
Now, I'm not a huge fan of violent rap, but frankly, I don't see why it would be so different. True, songs about dealing drugs and theft are much easier t act out in real life than a song that calls to ride a dragon into battle and fight with valor, but a well raised kid can see that neither one is a great goal to spend your life trying to accomplish.
Is there a connection between the prevalence of crime, and music that "talks" about it, or even glorifies it? Rap music has traditionally been about what's going on on the street, so the relation may very well be real, but in the other direction than proclaimed by scaremongerers.
Could music which glorifies crime push a kid into a life of crime?
Probably, but not just any kid. It may seem pretty glamorous, but any kids who's been half-properly raised knows better than that.
The kids who end up in a life of crime, are kids who weren't raised by their parents. Kids who grew up in front of a TV, with no parents, or parent's who set a bad example. Stuck in violent schools and living in high-crime areas, where criminal activity such as dealing drugs offers better prospects than a 9.2.5 occupation, chances of getting caught are considered negligable and jail isn't percieved as scary.
The most influencial people in a persons life, are it's educators. It's parents and teachers. I believe that giving children a loving enviroment to grow up in, and education and a future will go much further than banning or restricting certain violent media. It sure is a lot more work than simply blaming somthing entirely different, but I'll tell you it'll work a great deal better!
Please share your thoughts and oppinions on the matter, how do you feel about children being exposed to potentially harmful material?