For over a decade, the quantity of violence shown in video games has been the target of much controversy. Ever since 1994, starting with Mortal Kombat and Night Trap, the public has become concerned with the level of gore and physical conflict. This has led to the industry to have its own rating system, labeled the ESRB. The increasingly realistic graphics of current and upcoming games have only helped the anti-gamers defend their arguments. Still, it has been proven, time and time again, that video games do not cause agitation in mentally stable people.
I have been playing video games since I was seven years old. I was not raised with age restrictions, so I was allowed to view anything I wanted to, long before the rating systems claimed that I was old enough to do so. The first game I ever owned was Killer Instinct, which was a game of the fighting genre, packaged with my Super Nintendo. Some of the characters were monsters, and the game was quite gory. Even at age seven, I never emulated or feared what I saw in that game. None of my childhood friends, younger or older, were negatively affected by any game, either.
When I was about thirteen years old, I started buying video games with my own money. When Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released, I bought it by myself (I was fourteen years old at the time). I purchased Manhunt when I was around that same age, and it is the most intense, but also least played, game that I own. Not all of my games are violent, but most of my sixth to seventh generations games happen to contain those themes. As a teenager in an era of 3D virtual violence, I have yet to have a desire to murder someone in reality just because I saw it in a video game.
It has been said that the increase of violence in the media, particularly video games, is causing an increase in murder victims in reality. This is a false statement. Just as virtual models and gore are getting more realistic, the rate of manslaughter is at an all-time low. The official web page of the FBI states that from 2000-2005 -- when controversial games, such as the 3D Grand Theft Auto series and Manhunt were released -- the homicide rate in the United States was between 5.5 and 5.7 homicides per 100,000 people. This is about 300,000 victims less than in 1986, when there were no M-rated games.
Outspoken attorney, Jack Thompson, is known for criticizing these types of games, calling them "murder simulators". He has supported several bills outlawing sales of M-rated games to minors, including a successful Louisiana bill in 2006. He frequently targets teenaged criminals. Several hours after the Virginia Tech Massacre, Thompson appeared on Fox News and pointed fingers at video games... before the killer was identified to the public. Police searched the dormitory of culprit, Cho Seung-Hui, but found no evidence that connected the tragedy with games.
Abusive children are usually influenced by dangerous environments, bad parenting, and/or mental disorders. Often, serial killers of all ages have mental problems and/or were raised by abusive parents. Teenagers who join gangs are usually from poor neighborhoods, and often lack positive role models, particularly more than one parent, to keep them away from that life. Most students who go on school rampages were constantly bullied by their peers.
One can debate that exposing a young person to explicit games will cause that person to carry out violent acts. But the same argument can be made for corporal punishment. In the 1950s, 99% of American parents had no problem with physical punishment of children. Though that number has sharply dropped in the past half-century, many parents still perform it. It is possible to explain to a child the difference between fantasy and reality, but a spanking or a beating is more likely to teach children that force is acceptable because they are actually experiencing it from those who raise them.
Whenever a massive school shooting occurs, some people, including members of the government, want to know what kinds of video games the shooter(s) liked to play. Oftentimes, news outlets tend to report about his or her tastes in games and/or movies. Even the parents of those shooters don't get blamed as much as video games, and they're most likely the ones who keep guns where their children can find them. Presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, is trying to ban the sale of M-rated games to minors. Clinton is willing to fine game store employees several thousand dollars just for not following a stereotype, and allowing a child to buy a game that he/she might be allowed to play.
Meanwhile, the regulations on the sales of guns are barely affected. The Constitution even gives American citizens to right to bear arms. According to the FBI, only one percent of firearm uses are justifiable. Anyone buying a gun can say that it is for self-defense, but in reality, a gun is twenty times more likely to be used in crime than to defend oneself. Why should video games be banned before firearms?
Japan creates and sells games featuring explicit content that America may never allow in their market. Ironically, the crime rate in Japan is much lower than that of our country. In fact, most games that cause controversy in America are also sold in other countries, yet statistics show that those countries have lower rates of crime. Our citizens are the first to make a big deal over negative entertainment, but also live in one of the most violent countries, even if video games were eliminated.
Video games do not cause violent tendencies in average people. Murderers who were supposedly driven by video games, or any form of media, for that matter, were not right in the head to begin with, and their crime(s) could have also been triggered by things other than games. It is absurd to claim that something that millions of people do with no problems can be the only cause of insanity for such a minority of people. Placing the blame on what we call entertainment is lazy and does much more harm than good. No copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas came packaged with a loaded gun, with a label stating, "Try me".