Over the last few years, the debate about whether or not violent video games are affecting young Australians and increasing violence in our community has become more controversial and heated. Game consoles have become a permanent fixture in many homes, and online multiplayer games have become more popular due to improvements in internet speed and computer technology. As a result, a growing number of young people are being exposed to violent video games, but experts and public figures can’t seem to reach an agreement about their impact on our youth.
Back in August, Andrew Scipione, Police Commissioner for New South Wales, pointed the finger of blame at violent video games as being responsible for a rise in serious knife crime amongst young people. Could it be a case of life imitating popular culture? Andrew Scipione seems to think so, and his views appear to be logical and well thought out. He argues that these games prime young people for antisocial behaviour by essentially rewarding them for committing murder, robbery and raping women. This seems to make sense, and it’s easy to see why Scipione and many others have expressed their concerns – but as with any debate, there are two sides.
Jeffrey Brand, Professor of Communication and Media at Bond University, Queensland, is adamant that there is no proven link between violent video games and violent behaviour in young people. A recent government report failed to reach a conclusion about the potentially harmful effects. In fact, the classification for violent games has recently been changed. Previously, the highest classification a game could be given was MA15+, which meant violent games could not be released in Australia. 2012 has seen the government allow games to be given an R18+ classification, amongst much public outcry from campaigners.
The video game industry will naturally defend its creation of violent games. Industry experts and some scientists are of the opinion that the games are safe, as young adults are old enough to be able to distinguish fantasy from reality. They ask what is the problem, as long as age restrictions are adhered to (though, of course, we all know how difficult it can be to prevent teenagers from doing something they really want to do, like playing video games that they are too young for).
It will be interesting to see whether, over the coming years, there will be more conclusive research proving once and for all whether violent video games have a negative impact on crime rates in Australia – or not.