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Violent Video Games Exposed

It is a controversy that has come and gone and come again over the years, usually following some tragedy such as a school shooting, where people are looking to understand what could have caused a young person to pick up a gun and fire it at their fellow children.

The most recent tragedy was a shooting at a Florida school on February 14th of this year when a 19 year old walked into a Florida school with an AR-15 rifle and killed 17 people, wounding another 17. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, documents in the criminal case indicate that a sheriff’s deputy and two school counselors recommended in September 2016 that the shooter be forcibly committed for mental evaluation.

Following the Florida shooting there was a lot of focus on the weapons used. TIME posted an article on February 15th that gave readers an insight into the AR-15, and included a line from a song by former Green Beret Barry Sadler, “You see this AR-15, she’s hot and she’s mean, and she ain’t built for love or fun.”

There was a lot of focus on the ease with which people could obtain such weapons, and on what kinds of regulations should be implemented to keep weapons such as the AR-15 out of the hands of children or those who may pose a significant risk. Then something happened.

Focus seemed to shift away from guns and onto video games.

On February 20th, USA Today published an article on the shift in focus, in which it noted a neighbor had made comments to the Miami Herald about the shooter having played video games. If one looks to the article in the Miami Herald, however, they can see that the quote in USA Today is slightly misleading and leaves out that the neighbor, who owns a film and video production company, “sometimes would play a game or two with them.” It is also not state when, at what age, the shooter began to play games in which shooting and violence were a part of the game. It does, however, say that “After Gold and Deschamps split up and went their separate ways a few years ago, Cruz stayed in touch with Gold.” Which indicates that the shooter, Cruz, and the neighbor, Gold, played the games when the shooter was age 16 or younger.

So, why so much focus on video games? Possibly because of a line from the article in the Miami Herald:

Gold said he believes a host of factors contributed to Cruz’s instability: his mental illness, the bullying, an obsession with violent video games, his mother dying, no safety net.

Gold, who said the only attendees at the funeral for the shooter’s mother a few months before were Cruz, his brother, Gold and Deschamps, also stated:

“He was very strange at the funeral,’’ Gold said. “He was emotionless. He was polite and grateful but he didn’t shed a tear. His mother was the most important person in his life, but that boy did not feel the way that normal people feel.’’

The February 20th article in USA Today, quoted President Trump from a meeting with state lawmakers on school security where he said, “We have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. … We may have to talk about that also.” The full quote can be found in a March 8th article on CNNs website:

“We have to look at the Internet because a lot of bad things are happening to young kids and young minds, and their minds are being formed. And we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it. And also video games. I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that’s the movies. You see these movies, they’re so violent. And yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe they have to put a rating system for that.”

This statement lead to a lot of confusion by those who know that there has been a rating system for video games in place since 1993.

As for the question that drew attention off gun control and focused it on video games? Studies have shown as recently as March 14, 2018 that Daily Dose of Violent Video Games Has No Long-Term Effect on Adult Aggression.

Playing violent action adventure games for prolonged periods does not make adults more aggressive say researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany. A new study led by Simone Kühn looked at the influence long-term violent video game play has on aggression levels, and compared this with playing a life simulation game or not playing a video game at all. The research is published in the Springer Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Springer. “Daily dose of violent video games has no long-term effect on adult aggression, researchers find: First long-term study finds no link between violent video game play and increased levels of aggression in adults.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 March 2018.

Note that the focus of the study is on adult aggression, the scientists behind the study state that they hope, “that similar studies will be done using children as participants.”

Violent video games, however, are not intended for children. Games that include violent content are labeled M 17+ to guide parents in understanding that they are not the kinds of games that are suitable for younger players.

Why then are games such as those made? Why make a game that is not intended for children to play it?

Because gamers are mature and responsible adults who enjoy the entertainment derived from playing video games. Many people see “game” in the description and assume that the product is intended for children, however, research by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) shows that most gamers are not only adults, but adult women outnumber the number of male gamers under the age of 18.

Notable findings from the 2017 report include:

  • Sixty-five percent of American households are home to someone who plays video games regularly, and 67 percent of American households own a device used to play video games.
  • Gamers age 18 or older represent 72 percent of the video game-playing population, and the average gamer is 35 years old.
  • Adult women represent a greater portion of the video game-playing population (31 percent) than boys under age 18 (18 percent).
  • Sixty-seven percent of parents play video games with their children at least once a week.
  • Seventy-one percent of parents feel video games positively impact their child’s life.
  • The majority of parents (85 percent) are very familiar with the Entertainment Software Rating Board video game rating system, and among them, 96 percent are very confident the rating system is accurate.
  • Fifty-three percent of the most frequent video game players report playing video games with others.

Quite simply put, games are made that fit into a rating of M 17+ because the people who play games are, on average, adult gamers roughly 35 years old.

How can such games be kept away from children? The best possible solution is for the parents and guardians of children to take active interest in what their children are doing. For there to be stricter self regulation on an individual household level. For parents to be aware of the rules that the parents of friends of their children have concerning such games. And, ideally, for parents to spend more time with their children and focus on what is going on in their child’s life.

I think Dee Snider might have put it best when he spoke before the Senate during the 1985 meeting on music lyrics and record labeling:

Senator Gore: So, the choice the parent has then is to sit down and listen to every song on the album, right?

Snider: Or read the lyrics if they’re on on the record. On all-

Senator Gore: What if … If they’re not on the … I mean I think there’s pretty general agreement that if the lyrics are printed that’s one possible solution for this. Let’s suppose the lyrics aren’t printed. Then what choice does a parent have? To sit down and listen to every song on the album?

Snider: If they’re really concerned about it, I think they have to.

Senator Gore: You think that’s reasonable? To expect parents to do that?

Snider: Being a parent isn’t a reasonable thing, it’s a very hard thing. I’m a parent and I know, okay, I’m a new parent, I only have one child maybe, but I am learning that there is a lot to being a parent that you didn’t expect. It’s not just “oh, isn’t baby cute.” There’s a lot of labor, a lot of time and a lot of effort that goes into it. It’s not totally pleasurable.


Senator Rockefeller: What about parents where both parents have to work, which is an increasing phenomenon in this country now? Because they have to survive. And the whole notion of parents sitting down and listening to record after record, tape after tape, doesn’t that really strike you as just a little bit naive and unrealistic?

Snider: No, I don’t, because I know the reality of the record buying market. As a record buyer with my allowance, I was able to, if I was lucky, afford maybe one album a week, at the most, usually it was one a month. Albums cost anywhere from six to ten dollars, and that’s a lot of money to a teenager, to a pre-teenager it is a ridiculous sum, to a teenage kid, you know, that’s a considerable amount of money.So, listen to one record a week, I don’t consider that a hardship.

Now, I understand that a parent can not take the time to play every game their child might want to play, but a parent can take the time to do a little research online or to ask on online parenting forums about certain games to be able to make quick and accurate decisions about whether a game their child wants is suitable for the child or if it is something they would prefer their child not play. A subscription to a gaming magazine can provide parents with vast amounts of information on what games are or are not appropriate for their children, and maybe introduce them to some games that they might desire to look at for themselves.

So, the bottom line… games that include violent themes are not intended for anyone under the age of 18, they are intended for gamers who are mature enough that they have moral values that guide their understanding of what is right or wrong. Mature games are made because adults make up a very significant portion of the gaming population and game designers trust parents to oversee what their children play.

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