The popular positive argument for media violence breeding violence is, "it shows you violence, and thereby desensitizes you to violence". This argument can be shown to be false by pointing to other examples: no one would argue that watching The Land Before Time desensitizes kids to life-threatening danger. That's because even a small child clearly knows the difference between fiction and reality and it is obvious from this and every other example that seeing something in fiction is a totally different experience from seeing it for real and therefore cannot desensitize you to the real experience.
Many video games and movies do show gore which is in some ways similar to the real experience of *seeing* gore, and that could desensitize a person to the experience of *seeing gore*, but is that the aspect of violence we *should* be sensitive to? Is *seeing gore* what's actually wrong with violence? No, the thing we *should* be sensitive to is causing harm to innocent people, which violence in games cannot desensitize a person to because it doesn't give them the experience. It doesn't make them think they are experiencing real violence.
This is where I anticipate the "but some people might have a mental illness that gives them difficulty distinguishing reality from games" (this argument was actually raised to me while I was drafting this article, albeit by someone playing devil's advocate). This argument fails for multiple reasons:
- If someone can't distinguish fiction from reality, it's not just violence that's going to affect them. Almost any form of pretending is probably bad for that person.
- You can't use an efffect on a small minority to argue about an effect in general. Blaming violent video games for an effect on such people is like saying peanuts are to blame for the deaths of people who have lethal peanut allergies and either don't know it or eat them anyway. Peanuts should be age-gated or banned altogether!
One thing that can and does encourage violence is *glorified portrayal*. A game showing gore does not make you want to shed it; a story with the message that violence is okay in a situation it isn't - such as because the target broke some arbitrary rules ordained by people he owes to nothing to (ie. stories that glorify law enforcement) - can. Contrary to popular saying, almost no games do this outside of the government exception; the enemies they have you fight are most commonly strawman evil attackers that you must kill to protect innocent people. So most "violent" games are teaching kids that it's okay to kill terrorists, battle droids, Sith lords, or other clearly legitimate targets; not encouraging actual aggression.
Messages in media
Of course the other side is that some games *do* legitimize violence in the name of the government - but that has nothing to do with media violence itself.
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