An article in the Guardian Headquarters blog discusses the not very clear evidence for the link between computer games and violence and makes a comparison to the panic over ‘horror comics’ in the 1950s.
The Fifties campaign against comics was driven by a psychiatrist called Fredric Wertham and his book The Seduction of the Innocent.
We’ve discussed before on Mind Hacks how Wertham has been misunderstood. He wasn’t out to ban comics, just keep adult themes out of kids magazines.
However, his idea of what ‘adult themes’ might be were certainly pretty odd. This is Wertham’s testimony to a hearing in the US Senate.
I would like to point out to you one other crime comic book which we have found to be particularly injurious to the ethical development of children and those are the Superman comic books. They arose in children’s fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again, while you yourself remain immune. We have called it the “Superman complex.” In these comic books, the crime is always real and Superman’s triumph over [evil] is unreal. Moreover, these books like any other, teach complete contempt of the police…
I may say here on this subject there is practically no controversy… as long as the crime comic books industry exists in its present form, there are no secure homes. …crime comic books, as I define them, are the overwhelming majority of all comic books… There is an endless stream of brutality… I can only say that, in my opinion, this is a public-health problem.
The ‘Superman causes sadism’ part aside, this is a remarkably similar argument to the one used about violent video games. It’s not a matter of taste or decency, it’s a public health problem.
Moral of the story: wait for sixty years when the debate about violent holograms kicks off and they’ll leave you to play your video games in peace.