Violent Gaming

Game designer Jane McGonigal appeared today on a radio broadcast about how gaming can change the world. Partway through that broadcast, a caller informed her that “I’m a professor and there are more than 100 studies linking violent videogames to real-life violence.”

McGonigal tweeted about this, asking followers for links to these studies. I’d like to see the studies, too.

Now, I’m no quantitative researcher on the psychological effects of gaming. But I am a video gamer. I’m also a pacifist. I’m also friends with many other video gamers — all of them either pacifists or wholly uninterested in leading violent lives.

That, of course, is only my personal experience.

However, to say that people who play video games are likely to behave violently is like saying that children who read Harry Potter are likely to jump off their roofs on a broomstick. … I’ve heard that argument several times.

Are we unable to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction? Do we automatically do what we see our favorite characters doing? This seems like an important conversation to have, actually, as what McGonigal creates are not so much video games as they are transmedia experiences: her own version of alternate reality games. The line between fiction and nonfiction gets a bit blurred in ARGs.

By the way, it should be noted that McGonigal generally makes non-violent transmedia experiences for people to play. In fact, much of her work is aimed at improving the way people interact with each other and the world in real life. See her totally cool “Gaming can make a better world” talk here.

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So, what do you think? Do games change the world for the better? For the worse? Not at all? Is there a line that game creators should not cross when it comes to depictions of violence, or is it up to us to know the difference between right and wrong?

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