The link between real-life violence and portrayals of violent acts in mass media has been at the crux of a heated debate for decades now.
The debate recently amplified in Southington, Ohio, as an outpour of heart-felt sentiment manifested itself in the wake of the violent shootout in Sandy Hook. This event has determined a series of consequences targeting portrayals of violence in the media. The most recent such measure, organized by a self-proclaimed vigilante group which calls itself SouthingtonSOS once more raises the question of whether or not children and teens are actually prompted to commit violent acts by what they see on TV and on their PC screens.
On January 12, 2013, SouthingtonSOS held a buyback of violently themed video games at a local entertainment store. Participants who willingly exchanged their game CDs and DVDs received a gift certificate for the store at which the event wass held. The official statement made by the representatives of the local group, however, reads somewhat on the contradictory side. On the one hand, the group acknowledges that TV series and films also promote violent imagery, which stands to desensitize “our children to acts of violence including bullying.” On the other hand, however, the group is strictly targeting games for the time being, with no mention of any similar upcoming actions against violence in films and on TV. And there is more to be said regarding their other statement, according to which video games were not the cause of the Sandy Hook shootout. While the added nuance was, by all appearances, included in order to quell potential negative reactions on the part of the video game industry, the fact remains that it is video games they are targeting.
Research on the effects of gaming on the human brain remains scant and questionable when it comes to methodology. However, a simple exercise in relaxation, which you, too, can try by logging on to a casual game portal such as SpongyBob, will reveal that short bouts of gaming provide more relaxation and a genuine ‘mental refresh’ in terms of creativity. Of course, the issue of age appropriateness comes into the discussion, when the games in question are violent; however, sublimating one’s violent impulses through gaming has been known to function as an efficient outlet for otherwise pent-up negative feelings.
Other critics of the measure implemented by SouthingtonSOS note that it is highly likely the buyback will only result in more sales of violent games – only, this time, the games will be newer than the ones that were exchanged on January 12. After all, history has thus far proved that restrictive measures usually only yield amplified demands on the part of the public.