The early first-person shooter Doom, besides taking up a lot of my adolescent time, became one of the common examples of over-the-top video game violence back in the day.
Today, the crown for ultra-violent games falls on titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield: Bad Company - both of which have new additions coming out this fall. And according to Doom creator John Carmack, it would probably be good for your stress level to play them.
Speaking to Industry Gamers, Carmack said that not only do violent games not contribute to violent behavior in real life, but they actually provide a release valve for aggression.
I really think, if anything, there is more evidence to show that the violent games reduce aggression and violence. There have actually been some studies about that, that it’s cathartic. If you go to QuakeCon and you walk by and you see the people there [and compare that to] a random cross section of a college campus, you’re probably going to find a more peaceful crowd of people at the gaming convention. I think it’s at worst neutral and potentially positive.
The debate between activist groups and the gaming community has been a heated one for some time. Doom found itself in the middle of the controversy in 1999 when it was suggested that Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were obsessed with the game. Cop killers have even used their addictions to games like Grand Theft Auto as defenses in court.
The question "Do violent video games lead to violent kids?" has plenty of studies on both sides. Studies by Harvard University and The British Medical Journal have shown no conclusive link between the two.
Carmack addressed this controversy as well:
People just play games now and I never took seriously the violence in video games debate. It was basically talking points for people to get on CNN and espouse their stuff on there," he told us.
There was an E3 where all that was going on where I was giving interviews and the reporters would start going into their questions, and I wasn't supposed to talk about any of that. My wife was there and she’d start kicking me when I was about to go, 'Well, I think…' And in the end it didn’t matter, it didn’t make any impact on things. I never felt threatened by it and it turned out not to matter.
Violent video games have been in the news again recently. Last month the U.S Supreme Court ruled that states could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors, citing the fact that video games are protected as free speech.
And just a couple of weeks ago it was discovered that Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik may have used Call of Duty to train for his attacks. In his 1,500 page manifesto he wrote "I just bought Modern Warfare 2, the game. It is probably the best military simulator out there and it’s one of the hottest. I see MW2 more as part of my training-simulation than anything else.”
Where do you fall in the debate? Do you think that violent video games can be beneficial by providing some sort of catharsis for the players? Let us know in the comments.