A Mountain Out of a Molehill – Videogame Violence Coverage Is Overblown

The mainstream media loves to grab hold of stories about violent videogames. In fact, as far back as I can remember playing games, I can remember hearing the news talk about what violent videogames are doing to our children. Whether or not you believe games have some sort of desensitizing effect, one thing is clear: there’s far too much media coverage about videogame violence.

My dear friend Jeff sent me a graph that I found fascinating. You can check it out here. It’s an interactive chart that lets you look at issues like mad cow disease, bird flu, the dangers of Wi-Fi, and of course violent video games. You can switch between the fear index (determined by media mentions) and actual total deaths to get a really interesting perspective on what we’re afraid of and what we actually should be afraid of.

Videogame violence stories seem to peak every year around October and November, during the heavy release season. They all but disappear in the summer when game releases tend to fizzle. Of course, the most interesting part of the graph is that when you switch it to scale by total deaths, the line disappears. All that coverage and not a single confirmed death? Seems a little strange to me.

There’s one thing on that graph that has resulted in a significant amount of deaths and gets almost no coverage at all. You ready for this? Killer wasps. Apparently, there are 11,000 deaths a year from killer wasps – a number that’s higher than the death toll from bird flu, mad cow disease and SARS combined.

On the plus side, this graph allowed me to feel smug about defending videogames against those who would rather see them tamed. On the downside, I’m now terrified of wasps.

[Information is Beautiful]


  1. I think I have become desensitized to the news about video games and movies desensitizing society. I’m fine with movies and games, its the news I have an issue with! 🙂

  2. Patrick A Crone

    I’d describe myself as right of center politically. Yet everytime violence in video games is brought to the forefront of cable news I want to groan. I’ve played some of the most violent video games out there and to be honest I think it makes me less violent. If I have a bad day at work, a half-hour of shooting virtual people in Modern Warfare 2 helps me vent and puts me in a calmer mood.

  3. Alex

    Does anyone else think that mind-numbingly bad stories in video games (or any media for that matter) are probably more detrimental to those watching than any kind of violent content?

    I say that in all seriousness. It’s getting kinda hard to find a video game (or movie, or television) that has a really compelling story and memorable characters. We were doing well there for a while (and Bioware is nicely keeping my hope from completely dying out), but we’re slipping into the Age of the Call of Duty-clone, where plot and character are sacrificed on the alter of spiffy multiplayer level-ups.

    Thoughts? Am I totally off-base in saying this?

    • Story and character in games really aren’t the point though. They’re nice little additions, but it’s all about how the game plays. Take ‘Portal’ for example. The characters and story are great, but if the actual puzzle mechanic didn’t work, I honestly wouldn’t care.

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – If I want to get involved in a plot and learn about characters, I’ll watch a movie or read a book.

      • motorheadache

        I like a good balance between the two. Sometimes you’ll be in the mood to play Heavy Rain or Mass Effect, or sometimes you just want to go online and blow shit up.

        Personally, I still get a kick out of playing older, simpler games on NES/SNES and stuff like that. It’s a nice break from the length and involvement required in many modern games, like say, Bioshock. And of course, small indie downloadable games are bringing this old-school gaming concept back.

        But one thing I definitely agree with Alex on: What’s with all the military shooter games? There is literally a new Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or similar game coming out every month. It’s a bit ridiculous.

        • I have nothing against a game with good story, but Mass Effect wouldn’t be worth playing if it wasn’t also fun/engaging as a game 🙂

          Military shooters have been around – and fairly common – since the beginning. I think after Call of Duty 4 turned into a massive hit though, the launches are far more celebrated.

  4. Any entomologists out there? What the hell use are wasps anyway?

    As far as I know, the only thing they’re worth are giving me a metallic taste in my mouth when they buzz my head unexpected. I hate them. I wish they would suffer colony collapse instead of bees.

    Are there any violent video games where you kill wasps? I would buy that and kill wasps afterward.