A letter to Keith Vaz, MP.

Hi,

First of all, I should clarify that I am not a member of your constituency, but given that your comments today regarding violence in computer games, specifically ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3’, are not specific to your local constituency, I thought it would be more than reasonable to contact you regarding them.

There is one particular comment that I would like you to clarify, regarding the “increasing evidence of a link between perpetrators of violent crime and violent video games users”.

I’ve played games of a huge variety for over 20 years now, and I’d hazard a guess that the majority of these were in some way violent. I don’t think this is a reflection of my personality or any particularly violent tendencies on my part, it’s more a reflection of the content of games. I won’t lie and say that I’m comfortable with the frankly overwhelming amount of games geared towards hurting or killing people, and I have no doubt that the games that I enjoy the most often involve a lot of thought as opposed to brute force (I can’t recommend Portal 2 enough), but even after twenty years of mostly-violent games I can safely say that my feelings towards violent crime are much the same as most non-gamers; disgust, horror, anger – I don’t like it, basically.

I also happen to be good friends with a lot of people who, like me, play a variety of games with a tendency towards those including violence of some sort. Now, I can’t say for certain that they aren’t living a secret life committing horrific crimes, inspired by the games they play, but I’m happy to stick my neck out with some degree of confidence and say that they aren’t. That said, this is just anecdotal evidence, which doesn’t really hold up in official reports and the like, I’m just trying to give you an idea of why I find your comments so confusing.

Lastly, and this is quite important, I’d like to know what this “evidence” you mention is. You’re not the first person to express their distaste for computer games and I’m sure you won’t be the last, but up until now there has been no evidence to indicate a link between violent computer games and violent behaviour. None. There’s a school of thought that would argue committing a violent act in a game would desensitize you to doing such a thing in real life. That’s probably to be expected. But there is no evidence. In fact, some would argue that it does the opposite.

I can recall a time when I was in a particularly bad mood, so I turned on my console and played Grand Theft Auto IV (Again, a great game, but probably not your sort of thing) so I could drive around like a maniac and cause a lot of carnage, some of it violent. Now that obviously doesn’t mean that if GTA IV didn’t exist I would have stolen the nearest car and attacked anyone who stepped in my way, but it also doesn’t mean that I’m any more inclined to do so now. I can’t stress that enough. There is no evidence. None. Again, that’s just anecdotal evidence, not the real, scientific stuff.

So please, Mr. Vaz, either share this evidence with us, so we can ban these violence-causing games for good, or stop making wild, unfounded remarks about a past-time that I have no doubt does a lot more good than it does bad.

Thank you.

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