Breeding Evil? or Breeding Evil!
11 July 2006
Breeding Evil? or Breeding Evil!
Are video games the constructive new wave of entertainment for generation-Y or a vice
that will corrupt our youth? Biting critiques from all ages and backgrounds will vehemently
argue for both. Unfortunately when someone examines the debate about the effect of video
games within media, arguments tend towards the extremes. Either video games corrupt the minds
of our youth, or they are an innocent form of entertainment. Yet both of these are extremes that
in their entirety may not be true. There is no doubt that video games affect youth of all ages, but
the question is in what way? In “Breeding Evil?” an article printed in “The Economist” in 2005,
the corruptibility of video games comes, again, into question. It addresses and generalizes an
argument that maintains that video games “may be positively good” (“Breeding”). Its
contentions disappointingly fail in proving its ultimate goal; to convince the audience that video
games are not bad, and the fear of them is more about a separation of generations. The debate
over video games is a complex argument that cannot be solved by a generation gap. The author
underestimates the power of video games on youth and fails to persuade his intended audience
because of fallacies, un-credible evidence, and the analysis provided within the article.
The hasty generalizations throughout the argument call into question the validity of the
author’s position. To gain the support and belief of an audience an author needs to provide
sounds evaluations that an audience and critics cannot easily pick apart. The author needs to
establish credibility through the analysis and statements he provides. Yet throughout “Breeding
Evil?” there are many hasty generalizations made that can be easily picked apart by sound
statistics. To support his contention that violent video games have no correlation with violent
trends the author provides evidence that “during the period in which gaming has become
widespread in America, violent crime has fallen by half. If games really did make people violent,
this tendency might be expected to show up in figures, given that half of Americans play …video
games” (“Breeding”). On the surface this seems like a sound argument. U.S. video games sales
shot up from 186 million video games in 2003 to 203 million video games in 2004 (“Effects”).
There are flaws with this argument, though. The author never addresses where this source of
information came from, nor does he provide an expansion on statistics. There is no doubt that
exposure to violent media is increasing. Yet, there are two other factors which strike this
assumption. First, currently youth violent crime rates are not decreasing. The Surgeon General
reports that since 1999 youth violent crime rates have increased (“Prevalence”). Second, video
game violence is not the single contributor to violence within society. (Anderson). Television,
the environment, and observation teach this too. Most obviously, the media is not the only
contributor to violence. Larger contributors to violence are usually the socio-economic status of
individuals who are pre-disposed to violence. Groups devoted to the prevention of violence cite:
“Environmental factors play an important role in creating conditions that can contribute to a
culture of violence among a particular group of people or in a given community. Some of the
factors at this level that have been linked to violence include poverty…” (“Risk”). Not everyone
who plays a video game is going to have violent tendencies, as the author suggests when he
assumes that if video games had an effect we would see figures jump. Yet, for the article’s
arguments to be unsound, it takes far more than one fallacy. The article continues to be plagued
with fallacies that take away credit from the author.
The argument maintains other fallacies that deduct from the article’s general goal. When
the author begins to discuss different types of games he states, “So are games good, rather than
bad, for people? Good ones probably are” (“Breeding”). This is oversimplification. Good games
may be good for people. But what are good games? The definition the author provides is general
and allows for an array of games to fit under the category of “good games”. He mentions good
games “require players to construct hypotheses, solve problems, develop strategies… and make
quick decisions” (“Breeding”). Often times games that “solve problems, develop strategies”, etc.
are games like “Grand Theft Auto” (“Breeding”). The author cites “Grand Theft Auto” as a
“popular and notoriously violent cops and robbers game that turned out to contain hidden sex
scenes…” (“Breeding”). If the audience is to presume “good games” are those games which fall
under the definition he hazily provides, then “Grand Theft Auto”, which is generally seen as a
violent game, falls under this category. The average citizen would not note a game that has sex
scenes and is notoriously violent as a good game for children. The author seems to stray off topic
with his explanation of games. He seems to miss the point of the entire debate. There is no doubt
that there is a positive outcome from video games which help fighter pilots train or astronauts
train. Those would generally be considered good video games. They promote the welfare of
society. Yet by the definition he provides almost any video game can be considered good. This is
not being questioned. The question is about the affects of violent video games.
The evidence the author provides is hazy and is not backed by sources, which again
detracts from his claim. The author states, “Most gamers are under 40, and most critics are non-
games-playing over-40s” (“Breeding”). This may or may not be true. The author fails to provide
a credible source-or any source at all- to back this claim. The author loses credibility by not
providing a source for the evidence. How can the audience trust him or her if there is no
backing? Statistics can easily be made up. The Entertainment Software Association is claiming
now that video games are not for kids anymore. 44% of those who play video games are between
the ages of 18 and 49, and 25% of “gamers” are over the age of 50 (“Essential”). The American
Psychological Association claims that even violent video games have effects on adults. It is
merely a myth that adults cannot be affected (Anderson). Researchers from the University of
California studied the affects of nonviolent video games on men ages 18 through 21. One group
of men played a low-level violence game- “The Simpsons: Hit and Run”- while the other group
play a higher level violence game, “Grand Theft Auto III”. The men’s blood pressure was
measured before and after playing, along with a questionnaire that was given. The questionnaire
tested attitudes towards violence, sex, and aggression. After the game-playing men who played
“Grand Theft Auto III” had “greater increases in blood pressure, more negative moods, more
uncooperative behavior… and more permissive attitudes towards using alcohol….” (Lavelle).
Studies like this show the affects of violent games on older adolescence and adults, the trend in
which video games are moving.
Additional evidence that the author upholds does not have backing which is where he
additionally loses persuasion. The author claims, “But what of specific complaints—that games
foster addiction and encourage violence? There’s no good evidence for either” (“Breeding”).
Yet he claims that “the best study” has proven that there are other focuses people need to
examine (“Breeding”). He, first, directly contradicts himself. If there are no good studies then
how can it be proven or disproved that games foster violence? He, again, does not provide a
source to support his claim. So, the audience is left guessing whether his statistics are credible or
not. Second, what is “good evidence”? It seems fair that evidence may be hazy in this case. It is
extremely hard to prove the effects, but it has been done.
The author points to mixed results and studies, which have shown no significant effects
of aggression in video games on children, to prove how video games may actually be good for
children. Before refuting this, it is necessary to define what “good evidence” is. Because, all
studies will differ in some method, it is necessary to take a pool of evidence to prove a fact. So
for the sake of argumentation, “good evidence” will be that evidence which is proven by a pool
of studies, has a large sample size, clear results, a clear conclusion, and empirical analysis. Based
on this definition and the necessity of “meta-analytic techniques” that the American
Psychological Association says is necessary,
Meta-analyses of violent video game studies also yield surprisingly consistent
results. On average there is a clear effect; exposure to media violence (including
violent video games) increases subsequent aggression. Some of the few
contradictory studies can be explained as being the result of poor methods, others
may suffer from a too small size sample. (Lavelle)
Based on this evidence the author’s argument then can easily be broken down. The author’s
general ideas are very good. He argues that old generations fear change and maybe the fear will
diminish when they pass away. This may be very true. His points provoke thought, but it is in his
evidence, where his argument fails. There no doubt though that “critics should… concern
themselves about television….” (“Breeding”). Television also promotes violence on a larger
scale than video games. Yet, the proven affects of video games must also be noted. Even if not
all children are affected by this, the long-lasting reported affects are threatening enough to be
The author’s main support for why video games are feared is the generation gap. He
draws parallels to Socrates’ criticism of texts, and those who feared Rock and Roll fifty years
ago (“Breeding”). These are excellent parallels. There is no doubt that older generations tend to
fear change, and even at some point maybe newer generations will fear change too.
Unfortunately, this is not assurance that video games are good. It can be contended that older
generations have often feared what ends up being popular, but it is the test of time that proves
whether items are good or bad. Often times things that seem good at first can actually harm us.
This can be seen through pesticides that were originally praised for killing insects and sustaining
crops and sustaining incomes for farmers around the world. Yet, eventually it was proven that
pesticides harmed people, and even killed some. Our society is now learning that television may
inhibit brain growth at early ages. It has been shown that “During the first 2 years, a critical time
for brain development, TV can get in the way of exploring, learning, and spending time
interacting and playing with parents and others, which helps young children develop the skills
they need to grow cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally” (Gavin). It takes time,
energy and resources to prove this. What we are finding now, even so soon after video games
were created, is that they do have negative affects. Even if video games are not violent they have
been proven to “foster social isolation” (“Effects”). While the parallels do work as past
examples, they fail to prove the author’s point: video games may be good. There is no doubt that
some video games have positive aspects; especially educational ones. But the generalization the
author makes that all video games are good is invalid. These parallels, used as overall support
throughout the article, do not have a strong enough foundation to be the basis for his argument.
Parallels are not stronger than proven facts. While they show the author knows history enough to
draw interesting links, they fail to prove his point.
The author of “Breeding Evil?” raises interesting contentions throughout the article.
Unfortunately many of them are unsound. The audience cannot be persuaded because there is no
valuable evidence with clear sources. The arguments while interesting, fail to prove the point.
Video games, even with good characteristics, have the potential to harm children and adults. Are
all video games bad? Absolutely not. Yet, it is the violent videos games which need to be
examined for value. Video games are definitely a fun form of entertainment that all ages can
enjoy. It is the effects of video games on different ages that now need to be taken into
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“Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry.” Entertainment Software
Association. 2006. 11 July 2006. < www.theesa.com/facts/index.php>
Gavin, Mary L. “How TV Affects Your Child.” Kids Health for Parents. February 2005.
Nemours Foundation. 12 July 2006.
Lavelle, Peter. “Kids, Violence, and Computer Games.” Health Matters The Pulse. 13 April
2006. American Broadcasting Corporation. 12 July 2006.
“Prevalence of Violent Behavior.” Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2001.
Department of Health and Human Services. 12 July 2006.
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National Youth Violence Resource Prevention Center. 11 July 2006.