Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Cyprus and violent video games

Having grown up in Cyprus I wasn't too surprised to hear that there are no actual laws in place that regulate the selling of video games. So I did think it is a good thing when I read in the Cyprus mail that the government is planning on introducing some legislation to address this issue. However, when I read the sorts of things Tasos Mitsopoulos and Athena Kyriakidou were quoted as saying about games I couldn't help get that familiar sinking feeling I get when most politicians talk about video games. Because what they are talking about is the need to ban games like GTA, which apparently teach children how to steal cars (like it teaches you to hot wire them or something). They also refer to the sorts of games that they seem to think have been "scientifically proven" to link to the teenage rampages in America, such as at Virginia Tech. However, as rightly points out, this is not really the best example to use since the shooter, Seung Hui Cho, was 23 years old - so hardly an impressionable child who tried to "copy" what he saw in video games. also draws our attention to the fact that Cho did not even play violent video games.
Look, I don't deny that games have an affect on people. I wouldn't be interested their potential for education if I didn't think they could teach you something. But I don't agree that the link between video games and violence has been scientifically proven and I do think that most people know that how they behave in a game is not how they should behave when they put the controller down. The debate about this has been going on for years, and I have no intention of trying to resolve it here. If you want to know more I suggest you try and look at both sides of the argument - for an 'anti' stance check out C.A. Anderson's site; for a more balanced view try something like "Grand Theft Childhood" or even the UK government funded Byron Review. All I can ask is that if Cyprus is one of the few countries that has no restrictions on games and there is a definite causal link between the playing violent games and violence in the real world, then why are my memories of having a safe childhood and adolescence with lots of freedom not marred by any evidence of this? Could it be possible, even if there is some sort of link, that it might just be a tiny part of a much larger and complex set of problems? And maybe playing violent games is a symptom of these problems rather than a cause? Let's face it, most of the people who play the types of games that politicians seem worried about do not go on to commit violent acts, so something else must be going on with the people that do.
At the end of the day I do agree that games like Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto 4 are not for children so I have no problem with the idea that Cyprus should have some sort of legislation in place that prevents the selling of such titles to minors. But I am getting really fed up of politicians who talk about banning video games they haven't even played and talking about a subject they know little about. Further, while we're starting to see articles about the positive effects of gaming, something tells me it's going to be a while before I see anything like this coming from back home.