A preface first, if you will: I personally do not believe there is a 1:1 correlation between video game violence/violence in media and real world violence.
This is a position that I have held for a long time, and with seven years worth of time behind the counter of a LAN gaming center where kids can come in and play a game where they chainsaw the Locust in half or play game modes called Team Deathmatch, I still firmly believe it. Very few people ever get to see physical proof on a daily basis that video game violence and real world violence are two separate occasions like I might be able to see.
Nonetheless, we as gamers have continually found ourselves as a scapegoat; in the media, the minds of parents, the arguments of politicians, and sometimes within our own community. We have cried foul on every occasion, but in the last few months, it has almost felt like we are not just crying foul...but we are turning deaf.
After the events of Aurora, Newtown, Oregon, the crime spree in Chicago, and so many other moments of pure violence, people have tried to search for reasons. The news media and politicians particularly singled out video games in the case of Newtown, saying that the shooter played violent video games. This could easily be true. Within the same time period that he was playing a violent video game, many other people could have been playing the same violent video game or watching a violent movie. The rest of those people were not going out and making an effort to commit murder. While that is a generalization, the point still remains: there is no 1:1 correlation between violence in media and real world violence.
However, we say that to ourselves without realizing the hypocrisy of it: if violence in media holds no influence over us, then why do advertisements exist...or inspirational films? Advertisements are 15-30 second spots that are used to sell us as consumers products that we most likely do not even need. This is media specifically created to influence us. Beyond that, we have the world of film - an art where many filmmakers specifically try to convey a message to audiences, make them feel emotion and empathize with characters on the screen, and try to mentally affect the people watching it. The whole purpose of cinema is to try and affect the audience member into a suspension of disbelief that will help them meld into the world that the film creates.
...and then we say that violence in media holds no influence over us?
Yes, there is no scientific or survey-based evidence to support that there is a 1:1 correlation between violence in media and real world violence, but there are other studies. For instance, there was a release of study in April 2000 from the American Psychological Association that pointed out how people playing violent video games showed increased signs of aggression in thoughts, feelings and behavior. Hell, there have been multiple studies over the years trying to find a link between (specifically) video game violence and real world violence. Psychologists nationwide over the last twelve years have stated this multiple times, even saying that prolonged play time on violent video games led to more aggressive behavior. While we would like to outright ignore this "propaganda", we simply cannot.
We must open this discussion up. Instead of sitting back and playing the defense card, we must talk about it in as open a forum as possible. If we do not, we simply cannot understand all of the issues.
Yes, parents need to take some blame. Allowing a kid to play something named after a felony crime (Grand Theft Auto) without distinctly specifying and teaching the difference between fantasy and reality does nothing more than teach a child that violence is okay, acceptable in the world at large, and often rewarded. The ESRB can also be at blame here. As a voluntary self-regulatory board created to offer guidance for parents who do not know much about video games (as well as offer ratings in order to keep their asses from getting sued over content in the game in general), it seems there have been massive failures at times on their part. How is a game like Battlefield: Bad Company rated T for Teen while Halo is rated M for Mature? One involves far more foul language, outright destruction, realistic gun sounds and battlefield design, and graphics...while the other one is a space opera where you shoot aliens who do not even bleed the same color as a human and are obviously trying to wipe out entire galaxies if they can. One is a war game where neither side is a clear enemy with a necessary reason to die other than "this is war, shoot shoot shoot" while the other is the equivalent of virtual goddamn paintball. However, since Bad Company does not feature blood "and gore" (which Halo apparently has gore...that I cannot ever remember seeing?), it can be rated T for Teen. In turn, the gaming industry itself fails in truly informing the parents properly in my own honest opinion.
At the end of it all, it does come down to the person with the controller in their hands. To say that there are not people more sensitive to the material of a violent video game is to be naive. We can blame it on mental healthcare in the United States (or the world, take your pick on that one). We could say that it is the fault of parents. We can point our fingers at politicians trying to make us into scapegoats, offering nothing in defense beyond "there are no studies to support that." We might even try to pull the trump card of sounding like wise-cracking smartasses that say "well, Mario was violent but you don't see me jumping on the heads of turtles." However, when all is said and done, it's all about the individual themselves.
Parents, raise your kids with the difference between right and wrong. Politicians, look at the violence you create before pointing fingers at pieces of art. ESRB, work harder to ensure that you are providing as much information as possible to parents in all outlets where games are sold. Psychologists, keep doing your studies and offering us some enlightenment.
Gamers, stop playing the role of Helen Keller in this play that we are all a part of. Be more open-minded as well as open in discussion. Instead of taking the goddamn defensive ever five minutes that someone attacks your hobby, be willing to see it from all points of view and try to find the common sense in it all.
I've said my piece. Now say yours. Use this as a place to offer reasoning and logic, not trolling and bullshit. This isn't a place for arguing, but rather a place for healthy debate and topical discussion.