One of my favorite memories as an actor was performing in the Columbus premiere of William Mastrosimone's Like Totally Weird. It was a great show with a dynamite cast, and week after week the audiences kept getting bigger. In the wake of the Columbine shootings, I think people may have been yearning for some way to cope with such senseless tragedy. It may also have had something to do with our shooting off semi-automatic gunfire (blanks, of course) in a tiny 90-seat theatre. Either way, it's powerful stuff.
But I remember being a little uncomfortable with some of the assertions Mastrosimone makes in his script, that the two teenage boys who kidnap and hold hostage a pair of Hollywood stars are, to some extent, influenced by violent movies and video games. As a free speech advocate, I bristle at the notion that such forms of entertainment should be censored because of their potential to distort impressionable young minds.
In light of the Virginia Tech shootings, Amanda Schaffer renews the debate over at Slate.
But the subtler question is whether exposure to video-game violence is one risk factor for increased aggression: Is it associated with shifts in attitudes or responses that may predispose kids to act out? A large body of evidence suggests that this may be so. The studies have their shortcomings, but taken as a whole, they demonstrate that video games have a potent impact on behavior and learning.