The perennial questions of the harm that games may be causing us and our children are extremely troubling. Every week seems to bring a new survey or study that demonstrates links between gaming and problematic behaviour, with renowned psychologists, sociologists and publicists explaining to us what it is we need to be scared of. Over the last fifteen years I have been studying this data and reading these papers, and I am now ready to publish my findings. Below is the result of a decade-and-a-half's research, and I think will once and for all answer the questions every parent, teacher, child and teenager should be asking.
While no one is left in any doubt that playing Grand Theft Auto causes anyone under the age of 17 to become dangerously exposed to murder, the longer-term effects on adults have been less examined. As part of my research I thought to compare the sales of each GTA game with what the divorce rate must have been when each came out. As you can see each new GTA game has been directly correlated with an increase in divorces. While the graph may give the impression that GTA IV has caused fewer divorces than Vice City or San Andreas, this game only came out in 2008, so most of the divorces it has induced will still be going through the courts and awaiting completion. Expect to see this number soar in the next twelve months.
*Please note these numbers are approximated.
An often ignored statistic (and you have to ask why it's being ignored by the games media, don't you?) is the sheer volume of PC games being released. We've all noticed the British population is abandoning the church, turning instead toward shopping, DVDs and knife crime. But few have thought to check for a connection between PC sales and the numbers of people attending their local Church Of England church on a Sunday. When you look at the data there's little doubt left that as the publishers continue to release more and more PC games each year, our nation's faith is being increasingly eroded. And at what cost? If only a graph could tell us that.
A lot of videogames include the use of guns. While these may not be real guns, but rather recreations made of pixels and polygons, it is obvious to anyone playing one of these "simulations" that it is in no meaningful way different from firing a real gun in a school. But it's far scarier than you might have first thought. Nearly twice as many Americans own gun-displaying consoles than those who own the types of guns that require a license and paperwork to purchase. No such paperwork is necessary when buying an Xbox, and yet still teenagers will kill each other in the streets.
While we've always known that playing videogames leads to social awkwardness and depression, a new paper published by my institute has demonstrated that those who own two or more consoles are far more likely to overlap those who are in both other categories, increasingly over time. The more consoles an individual owns, the more red the circle becomes.
Most shockingly of all is the following data. While there has certainly been evidence of some hysteria regarding gaming and young people, the following numbers cannot be exaggerated. The risks of teen death, gun crime, increased immigration and paedophilia is self-evident, and it's about time the games industry responded. We're still waiting for statements from ELSPA, the BBFC, and Rockstar, all of whom have so far been too scared to comment, even without our ever contacting them. We're sorry if the following is upsetting.