The Dearth of Youth Violence

I subscribe to two magazines: Men's Journal and PC Gamer. The former is one of the best, and most eclectic, magazines going -- especially if you have a fondness for the outdoors, fitness, gear, travel, and beautiful women -- and the second is a true anomaly in games' journalism. It's actually well-written and, at times, strives to cater to a demographic old enough to enjoy an occasional adult beverage. Truth of the matter is that I rarely play PC games anymore; most of my gaming of late is on the Xbox or one of my other consoles, but I've yet to find a console-oriented magazine that doesn't make me feel like I'm going through puberty again. PC Gamer is, at times, a very smart magazine.

Their just-released November, 2005 issue is one such time.

If you have a pulse -- and a television -- you've no doubt heard the banshee-esque screechings of misguided lawyers and politicians of late. Their cause du jour has been, according to them (and I'm paraphrasing here) the alarming increase in youth violence due directly to the sale of violent Mature-rated videogames to underage children. And by under-age we're referring to anyone 16 and under.

Up until this issue of PC Gamer sitting next to me, the response from gamers, the court system, and all-around level-headed Americans -- not to mention the gaming industry's Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and International Game Developers Association (IGDA) -- has basically been one of denial, name-calling, and a reiteration of the First Amendment.

As pointed out by Duke Ferris in this article in PC Gamer, this conversation shouldn't even be taking place. Why, you ask? Because, in his words, "There is no epidemic of youth violence in America."

Now, before you call me a liar and suggest Mr. Ferris pull his head out of the sand, it should be known that his conclusion is based on something that witch-hunting lawyer Jack Thompson and politicians Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman (among many others) were obviously far too busy to look at -- the US Department of Justice's statistics.

Mr. Ferris shows that the violent crime rate for those 12 and over is currently at the lowest it's been in 30 years and -- more importantly to the conversation -- this rate has dropped by nearly 50% since the release of the Playstation in 1995. Mr. Ferris then goes on to break the data down even further by isolating the rates of homicide in the US by age group. What do you know? In 1994, before the launch of the Playstation, there were over 30 homicides committed per 100,000 14-17 year olds. Today: eleven years, 2 Playsations, and multiple Grand Theft Autos later, the rate is down considerably. Last year, there were less than 10 homicides committed per 100,000 14-17 year olds. That's one third of the pre-Playstation number for those who hate math.

So where's the beef? Sure, we all remember Columbine and the copycat incidents that followed, but this public outcry is not only misguided but a very blatant witch hunt. Mrs. Clinton and the others are merely looking for an opportunity to sidle up alongside the more conservative swing voting public and tuck some bullshit "family values" feather in her cap.

Thank you to Duke Ferris for finally setting the record straight and for PC Gamer magazine for having the sense to give a real journalist 2 pages of space. It's amazing what a few minutes spent searching the government's website will yield. The politicians we elect ought to try it sometime.

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