point-counterpoint: video game violence

VOICE: Good evening, everybody, and welcome to Point-Counterpoint on the topic of violent video games and their effect upon children. We have with us two experts in the field to present their side of this controversial issue. First, the case for the censorship of violent video games.

(DR. DAVID THORNBERG enters. he is a well-dressed, dignified man)

DAVID: Greetings. My name is Dr. David Thornberg. I have a PhD in Social Psychology and currently work for the Astor Institute of Social Research. I come here tonight to tell you what I think you already know, deep down in your hearts. The violence in video games is a destructive influence upon the children who play those games. They are a generation that is becoming completely desensitized to violence, and as a result they are a generation that is in ever-increasing numbers imitating the violence that they see. What socially redeeming value do these games have? Companies that sell them will point to a number of flimsy excuses to justify the rampant violence in their product. Trite phrases such as "hand-eye coordination" are often tossed around. Somehow, I don't recall generations past lacking in that particular skill. We didn't need to kill several thousand creatures on a computer screen to pick it up. We learned hand-eye coordination just fine with a baseball and a bat. Others will rhapsodize about the problem-solving qualities learned from these games. Well, consider the popular computer game "Doom". The "puzzle" involves finding the correct color key. Solving the puzzle requires shooting people who stand in front of said key. Precisely what does that teach children about solving problems? It teaches them that violence is the answer. Adults may be fooling themselves about childrens' interest in these games but the children themselves are not. A 1998 study examined thirty-three popular video games and found that almost 80% of games kids preferred had violence or aggression as part of the play. The results can be found on playgrounds everywhere. A 1995 study showed that the boys who played aggressive video games exhibited significantly more aggression in subsequent free play and in a structured frustration-inducing exercise than boys who played non-aggressive video games. When are we going to stop kidding ourselves about violent video games and what they teach our children? When are we going to start solving the problem by getting rid of those games? Unfortunately, that's a problem solving skill that no video game will teach. Thank you.

(THORNBERG moves to the side of the stage and waits patiently)

VOICE: And now, the case against the censorship of violent video games.

(a MAN dressed in bright yellow from head to toe enters. he walks in straight lines as if in a narrow maze. his mouth is constantly opening and closing, like Pac-Man, and he makes chomping sounds. he walks towards THORNBERG, who starts to back away)

THORNBERG: Excuse me...ah, excuse me, can I help you? I do believe you're supposed to be presenting your case...(the MAN chomps on THORNBERG's shoulder) Oww! Stop it! (the MAN keeps circling him and biting him) Excuse me! Someone! This is not at all appropriate debate procedure! I can't...hey! Oww! That hurts! I've had enough of this! I'm leaving!

(THORNBERG runs offstage. the MAN stands, beaming)

VOICE: Two thousand points! Level complete.

(the MAN walks happily offstage)

point-counterpoint: video game violence by marc heiden september 1999