I think that we can all agree that violent crime is a very real problem in the United States. The murder rate in the US is more that three times larger than the European rate, which is a pretty scary statistic when you think about it.
However, the more we that learn about violent behavior, the more certain we are about the lack of connection between video game violence and real world violence. And even though a handful of emphatic politicians refuse to let this fact influence their opinion, we're going to ignore them for a moment.
There's obviously a cultural difference between the US and Europe, but it's something that's not entirely quantifiable. The regulations on sexual imagery, for instance, are far more lax in Europe, while representations of violence are extremely controversial. German censorship laws are particularly strict, and these regulations have forced several big-name developers to remove violent content from titles like Counter-Strike and Grand Theft Auto. The country has also been seriously discussing a ban on video game violence since 2003, but public opposition has blocked the decision so far.
All of this makes sense from a societal standpoint. The United States has a long history of governmentally sanctioned violence. And once violence has been endorsed, it's incredibly hard to break the cycle--just ask any victim of domestic violence. Sex, on the other hand, has traditionally been a touchy subject for Americans. John Calvin was a particularly influential figure in American history, and his intensely conservative values have been practically woven into our societal consciousness.
The most violent eras in European history are thousands of years in the past, so the fact that they’re consciously trying to move away from violent behavior shouldn’t be surprising. Obviously, World War 2 was a shared historical moment between most industrialized countries, but the United States responded by stockpiling weaponry, while other countries were forced to downgrade their militaries. Victory has its own set of drawbacks.
Again, it's hard to quantify the societal differences that influence policies on violence and sex in video games. There’s no link between real world violence and video game violence, but there are obviously cultural pressures that influence both. And, like I said, I think we can all agree that the United States has some work to do, so it wouldn’t kill us to re-evaluate our perceptions about sex and violence.
Date: April 17, 2013