It’s fair to say that Grand Theft Auto V has received a mixed reception. On the one hand, you have the gaming critics who have unanimously touted the game as a masterpiece, lavishing heaps of praise upon the product. On the other hand, as with every iteration spawned from the franchise, you have politicians, lawyers and factions of the press queuing up to blame the game’s violent themes and dark undertones for tearing apart the delicate fabric of our society.
It seems the British Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is no exception. Sticking his head above the parapet, once more, Clegg offers his humble opinion on video gaming culture and its influence on human behavior.
Speaking to listeners of London’s Biggest Conversation (LBC) Radio show, Clegg explained how video games, including Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V, could have a “corrosive effect” on an individual’s behavior:
“These games can have an incredibly powerful effect, and I expect in some cases a corrosive effect, on someone’s behavior. They occupy a hermetically sealed world of their own and that can have a very detrimental effect.”
Nick Clegg neglected to mention the foundations upon which his opinions had been built. No scientific evidence had been referred to, and no research studies named. Clegg did not even present any weak, anecdotal stories or personal experience to corroborate his bold assertions.
Everyone is perfectly entitled to express their personal opinions, with regards to video game violence and their potential connection to real-world violence. However, here we have an entirely different situation; Clegg is a British minister who is perpetually thrust into the media spotlight, and remains partly responsible for legislating over an entire country. As a figurehead of government, it is the man’s professional duty to present a logical, coherent and factually justified debate over issues of public importance; what the listeners of LBC received was nothing of the sort.
Nick Clegg was born in 1967, educated at a number of independent schools, and attended Cambridge University where he studied Archaeology and Anthropology. Clegg wrote a number of journalistic pieces on privatization of industry within the communist block, before moving onto develop policy for the European Union and, eventually became a Liberal democrat candidate in the East Midlands.
From investigating Clegg’s career path, I can see absolutely no link to the video games industry. Naturally, One does not need to have been employed by the video games industry to offer an opinion on violent video games (although, it certainly helps). However, in the absence of any personal or professional experience you would imagine he would defer to wisdom from more learned individuals.
The problem with the Deputy Prime Minister’s discussion is that he presents opinion, but passes it off as fact. Dissecting his commentary, he directly states that games can have an “incredibly powerful effect,” before going on to discuss their corrosive influence. Alas, he fails to explain how or why video games have this effect, or the principle rationale behind this assertion. As a result, his remarks come across as baseless and lacking in credibility.
Personally, I myself have played violent video games. I also recently produced an article on some of the recent violent activity, purported to revolve around the release of Grand Theft Auto V.
However, in researching my article, I selected a number of different source materials to present both sides of the argument. Although a degree of personal input and flair was interjected, to add to the overall debate, I referred to scientific research that seeks to understand the true relationship that exists between virtual and real-world violence.
Thus far, there is no scientific consensus when it comes to linking violent video games to behavioral, social or psychological maladaptations. Some studies find entirely no evidence, whilst other studies do indeed establish a link.
Clegg, like so many before him, has made the fundamental mistake of allowing his own personal opinions and preconceptions to cloud his professional judgment. Completely disregarding the facts and engaging in thoughtless rhetoric only stalls civilized debate. And, Yet, it seems the vocal minority, who have limited knowledge on a particular subject, are provided a platform from which to voice these sensationalist, ill-supported sentiments.
James Fenner (Op-Ed)