Game on

Picture, if you would, a video game player. What comes to mind?

Picture, if you would, a video game player. What comes to mind?

For Fox News, the image of the gamer is apparently a sociopathic, socially awkward, isolated, promiscuous, overweight delinquent who thrives on violence and the demoralization of women. Not ridiculous in the least, right?

Let’s face it: Video gamers get a bad rap. According to watchdog groups all over the country, video games are responsible for every immoral characteristic bred in the American population. That is not anywhere near true. The majority of people who play video games show none of these traits.

Video games are a part of everyday life in much of the world. In America alone, it is estimated that 90 percent of young males and 40 percent of young females play video games on a regular basis. Sixty-two percent of console owners are over 18 years of age, indicating that video games are not solely for America’s youth. Most of these gamers are productive members of society, despite what the media portrays them to be.

The claim that video game violence has led to an increase in juvenile crime is also completely false. Juvenile crime rates are at a 30-year low in the United States. There have been no scientific studies done proving that video games do or do not cause violent behavior, but even the United States Surgeon General’s office seems to be convinced that video games are hardly a factor.

In regards to youth violence, the surgeon general said in 2001, “The strongest risk factors during childhood are involvement in serious but not necessarily violent criminal behavior, substance use, being male, physical aggression, low family socioeconomic status or poverty and antisocial parents—all individual or family attributes or conditions.” The report concluded that most sources of juvenile crime are driven by human interactions.

The label of “loner” that is often associated with video game players is yet another ill-informed concept. Approximately 60 percent of gamers play with friends regularly. Siblings, spouses and families also often play together. The market for multiplayer games is expanding, and gamers have been quick to pick up on this. Video game players are no more socially isolated from their peers than those who indulge in other hobbies or group activities.

Parents are often concerned about the effects of violent imagery in video games on their children. These same parents, however, are often the ones who do not understand the rating systems on games and who purchase violent games for their children. Eighty-three percent of game purchases for underage consumers (i.e., an 11-year-old who wishes to own “Medal of Honor”) are made on the child’s behalf by his or her parent or guardian. Concerned parents should research video game rating systems before purchasing games.

Kristina Anderson, a sophomore at Portland State University, is an avid gamer. She thinks too much blame is placed on video games for society’s ills. “There has always been crime; it didn’t just start happening after video games were invented,” Anderson said. “And not everyone who plays violent video games is going to end up a violent, disturbed person.”

Anderson’s mother plays video games as well, and as a result, so does she. “If anything, video games gave me and my mom something to do together,” Anderson said. “There are always parents who try to blame video games or television as the cause of bad behavior in their children, but if they would take time to keep their kids away from media they deem harmful, much of that could have been avoided.”

Video games are not the cause of society’s ills. Certainly, too much of anything is bad, and video games are no exception. But trying to pin the blame for such multifaceted issues as those facing an entire society on any one thing is utterly ridiculous. There is no magic formula for what will make a good or a bad person; everything is variable. So even if there are two or three misogynistic, lazy, promiscuous sociopaths who happen to play video games out there, it can be assumed the video games aren’t the cause. ?