I was invited to submit an op-ed on the Supreme Court’s ruling on violent video games, which appeared in the June 27, 2011 issue of the New York Times. It’s been an interesting and enlightening experience conducting research and giving media interviews on such a controversial topic!
Many people assume that video game violence is consistently and unspeakably awful, that little Jacob spends most afternoons torturing victims to death. But these people haven’t played many video games. The state drew its examples of depravity almost exclusively from an obscure game called Postal 2, which, surveys show, is rarely played by children or young teens. The game is deliberately outrageous; you can, for example, impale a cat on your gun as a makeshift silencer. A trailer for Postal 3, said to be out later this year, encourages players to “Tase those annoying hockey moms or shoot them in the face!”
This may sound disturbing, but it’s also ridiculous. And young people know it: as one 13-year-old said during a study I conducted at Harvard, “With video games, you know it’s fake.”