I was having a conversation with a friend last night about violence, video games (other platforms, too, but mostly video games), and raising children. The topic arose when I remembered a short story that I had written about 5 years ago, based in the Halo universe. I explained to her that Halo was a shooting game that I fell in love with in 2001, when I was only 14. She expressed her strong feelings that there would be no playing of violent video games in her household. I dissented heavily and, thus, a debate! And who doesn't love a good debate? All we needed was a judge to determine the winner, but since there wasn't one I will use my completely biased opinion and say that I ended up with the upperhand.
Her reasoning, like many others, was that violence in video games is glorifying and can 'nurture' young minds to think of such acts as fun, thrilling, and without consequence, therefore making them more likely to do such crimes in the future--in real life. She used examples like Columbine, where the killers were hardcore fans of the famously violent shooter--Doom. I even have my own example: the DC-Snipers used Halo--the very same that I love--to practice their sniping skills before their spree. In my rebuttal, I think that taking away video games is treating the symptom and not the core problem. If the Columbine killers didn't have Doom to play all the time (or were even devoid of violence in entertainment at all), they would still be able to hate due to the ridicule and teasing they endured at school. My argument is that it takes special minds to latch on to violence and not only love it, but transform it into something they want for the real world. Even if they didn't see violence on television, play violence in video games, or drool over those big budget shootouts in movies, their personalities would still latch on to any negativity around them. If they were walking down the street on a perfectly sunny day with bird-song and sweet air, they would only really feel joy when they'd see that poor squirrel get caught up in car-tires in the middle of the road.
Also, growing up in DC, I've more-so seen the people who have grown up around REAL violence and REAL consequences turn toward that kind of lifestyles themselves, so I'm not sure how much I agree with the notion that that no-consequence nature of video games has any negative effects. Again, it all comes down to some other, larger factor that will affect how these experiences are interpreted, digested, transmogrified.
I could go on about this, but I guess you get my point, whether you agree with it or not. In my opinion, the best strategy is moderation. This is because I believe that video games, television, movies, etc, etc, etc, add to the developing mind in some way, especially the creative mind. The first real short story I'd written was the Halo one, and you can find Part I right below this post. Halo didn't teach me how to write, but it did contribute to my pool of experiences. I don't want to offend anyone that has been in real combat, real battle, and I'm not trying to say in any way that playing such games gives me the perspective needed to imagine what the fear/exhilaration/heartache of war is really like, but I see it the same way that someone who writes science fiction probably read a lot of it in their youth. None of us have ever experienced what it's like to fight aliens, but we can experience what it's like to fight aliens in the imaginative worlds of others and, thus, add to our own creativity.
In the end, I'm not praising violence in videogames. I don't think that a game where you just pop people in the head to see how far the blood can shoot has any value. That's just violence to be violent. But a unique experience with a compelling story may have violence because that is a characteristic of that universe, just like a character in a book might curse profusely because, hey, people like that exist.
So, would I let my 14 year old play violent videogames? I'd let him play Halo. And if I see that he's reveling in the violence even after the console goes off, I'd think of it as a sort of blessing that I was able to detect that he has some much more innate problem that needs working on before it can develop further. It's moderation and monitoring. But hopefully that deeper issue won't exist and he'd get something out of it that could one day be valuable and, if not, at least fun. Besides, with the way video games are going with technology, in another 20 years the things our children will be playing will be so unique, immersive, etc, etc, etc, I wouldn't want to deny a blooming mind of such experiences.