by Daniel Bullard-Bates
Does video game violence desensitize children to real-life violence? Does it make people more likely to cause violence? These questions have been asked time and time again by the media, parents, and other concerned groups. It is possible that a violent video game may be a negative influence and it is clearly important that parents set boundaries for their children, but it also seems evident that those who take violent actions in video games (or any other form of entertainment) as inspiration for real world actions are having trouble distinguishing between reality and fantasy, which is hardly the fault of video games, films, and other media.
When I was younger, I struggled with a volatile temper. I frequently got into trouble for striking other children who made me angry and nearly lost a few friends as a result. I am a much calmer person today, so much so that newer friends express shock when they hear stories of my temperamental youth and outbursts of anger. At least partially, this may be because I have a place to vent my frustrations and violent tendencies: in a fictional world, where my actions have no real consequences. Instead of getting into real world fights, I take out my aggression in video games.
I've often made the argument that violent video games are a more helpful resource than most people realize. While they may be an inspiration to a few disturbed minds, there is no reason to believe that video games alone (or music, or film) could drive a person to real world violence. For many, however, they can be a helpful outlet instead. Video games can, essentially, be an aid to resisting anger and aggression.
In a recent interview with The Times of India, Trinley Dorje, the Karmapa Lama (a senior Buddhist leader) said:
Well, I view video games as something of an emotional therapy, a mundane level of emotional therapy for me. We all have emotions whether we're Buddhist practitioners or not, all of us have emotions, happy emotions, sad emotions, displeased emotions and we need to figure out a way to deal with them when they arise.It's well past time that we put the old argument of "it's just a game" behind us. Like any art form, video games can be a positive or negative influence on the people who interact with them. It all depends on how we approach them and how well we examine the experience and how it affects us. And if we walk away from a game with more violent urges or less, it is because of who we are and how we think, not because of what the game contains.
So, for me sometimes it can be a relief, a kind of decompression to just play some video games. If I'm having some negative thoughts or negative feelings, video games are one way in which I can release that energy in the context of the illusion of the game. I feel better afterwards.
The aggression that comes out in the video game satiates whatever desire I might have to express that feeling. For me, that's very skilful because when I do that I don't have to go and hit anyone over the head.