Do videogames inspire violent behavior? Absolutely not, says developer

Randy Pitchford is a videogame developer for Gearbox Software. The company, founded in 1999, found success with its debut title, “Half-Life: Opposing Force.” Since then, Gearbox has created and established the multimillion selling “Brothers in Arms” and “Borderlands” brands. In 2010, Gearbox became home to the “Duke Nukem” brand. 


Is there a connection between media violence and real-life violence?
I think it depends upon how you define connection. The rule seems to be that more and freer media correlates to less and less violence.

I am very fortunate. I am a videogame developer. I explore and create entertainment in our species’ newest medium — an interactive medium. This medium uses technology that allows people to simulate and experience a wide spectrum of ideas. The success of the medium has led to the proliferation of content covering an incredible spectrum of concepts and themes that grows with more and more diversity and quality every day.

Is one form of media more dangerous than others?
The constraint, limitation or censorship of expression, thought and the transmission of ideas is the most dangerous. Media is not dangerous in any form. Media is information, and information leads to understanding.

Does depicting violence automatically glamorize it?
Of course not. Consider “Saving Private Ryan” and try to imagine an extremely censored version of that film. The more honest the depictions of violence in such a work, the more effective the media is toward helping us imagine and consider the true consequences of armed conflict.

Why is “liberal Hollywood” anti-gun, but a maker of violent content?
I did not realize that Hollywood is liberal and anti-gun. I did not realize that liberal and anti-gun were bound together. I also did not realize that “Hollywood” spoke in one unified voice. We see violent media because violence is a function of the human condition, and too often violence is a consequence of the pursuit of survival. All thinking creatures on this planet cannot exist without devouring energy from some other living entity, so violence in some form is unavoidable. Considering violence and its manifestations in media is extremely helpful and useful for us. Our species becomes better, stronger and less violent through the thoughtful examination of violence and its consequences. Media is a great, safe place for us to transmit experience and understanding about the potential for violence, and understanding leads to positive results and mitigation of negative events.

Is Sandy Hook an issue of mental health, media or guns?
It appears that mental health is a component there. I hope we look at that. It is also very clearly a gun issue. I hope we look at that too. It’s not as clear what other factors may have been involved.

When I think about the videogame industry’s Entertainment Software Ratings Board, which manages the rating system and is applauded as the most effective rating system in media both in consumer understanding and enforcement at retail, I think that the ESRB has no conflict with society. Instead, the tension the ESRB faces is with the industry itself, which has to conform to the standards the ESRB manages for us. It is extremely responsible and entirely self-regulated. If the NRA defined the standards and encouraged education and enforcement to the same degree, I think society (and non-gun owners) would be applauding the NRA’s usefulness to society instead of being apprehensive about its agenda and political power.

Is America losing its moral compass? If so, does that contribute to violence?
There are always edge cases, and there are still evil, broken or misguided people in the world. But generally, we seem to be getting more moral, if we define morality as the avoidance of harm and the furtherance of harmony. For about 20 years, the FBI has reported that the national rate of violent crime has steadily been decreasing. Meanwhile, we are also learning how to better live up to our promise of freedom — to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of our citizens. “We are getting better with issues like women’s health, gay rights, minority rights and so on. It looks like there is a lot of work to do in low-income urban areas, though.

And what’s the solution?
Entertainment should continue to entertain and to cover a spectrum of experiences and explorations of the human condition.

The average citizen should engage in the discussion and become part of the conversation. Three hundred million minds are better than one.