Head of Tom Green County Juvenile Probation Warns About the Influence of Violent Video Games

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by Joe Hyde

Mar 22, 2014

This is a screen shot from Mortal Kombat, a game Williams said was one of the more violent games on the market today. (LIVE! Image/Joe Hyde)
This is a screen shot from Mortal Kombat, a game Williams said was one of the more violent games on the market today. (LIVE! Image/Joe Hyde)

Mark Williams, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Tom Green County shared his insights into what is influencing kids to break the law yesterday at the San Angelo Rotary Club.

He broke away from what he called his standard speech about juvenile delinquency and gave a full-throated denunciation of the culture that is maligning the current generation of children.

Through his court-appointed position over the past 28 years, Williams has seen children in Tom Green County from their tweens to near adulthood at their worst. He touched on single parenthood, and co-dependency. “Some of these mothers are as immature and unprepared to raise a child as their children are,” he said.

Broken homes and broken families in Tom Green County create a void of positive role models for many children, Williams said. And today’s sex-filled violent culture is willing and ready to fulfill the wants, needs and desires of area youth absent of family role models.

“The kids that come to us [do so] because they don’t have enough self-confidence, and something or somebody’s negatively influenced them." The kids are easily influenced by negative aspects of our culture because, "they need to feel better about themselves,” Williams said.

Speaking his mind while offering an informed opinion as a juvenile probation officer, Williams said that rap music and violent video games are not the same music and entertainment the middle-aged audience at Rotary grew up with.

“I get to see kids who’ve committed horrible crimes and I get to see them in some really ugly situations,” Williams said. “And it’s getting scarier over the years. My first case when I became a probation officer was a bicycle theft.”

More recently Williams said, he handled a lengthy murder case.

“Rap music used to be the subject of my soapbox speech until I found out what’s in today’s video games,” Williams said. “In my position I think I know what’s happening in the minds of our youth, and then I get exposed to more things reaching them and it just blows me away.”

“Rap music is all about hate, violence, total disrespect for women, sexual promiscuity… We just let this happen. We idolize these people [rap musicians]. But these kids I see, they really idolize these people,” Williams said. “They listen to that stuff [rap music] and there’s no doubt in my mind that it has an influence on their lives.”

More ominous than the rap music genre, Williams said, is the content in today’s video games.

Gone are the days of the cute “Mario Brothers Double Dash” or “The Legend of Zelda” that the 30- and 40-somethings remember. Today’s first person “shooter” games are desensitizing modern youth to sex, killing and rampant violence, said Williams.

“As the body becomes physiologically accustomed to a little lift from a gateway drug, the person graduates to harder drugs,” Williams said, “I see video games as something where once the thrill of playing a video game is gone, what’s the next step?”

Real life, Williams believes.

This is particularly true for youth who have a family situation that provides no support, nor satisfies a child’s self esteem.

Williams then spoke very specifically about titles of video games that he said most parents do not know the content, but should. “I’m not trying to be provocative, but it’s important that parents know what their kids are spending hours upon hours per week playing,” Williams said.

Here are the video games Williams said are wildly popular with today’s youth. We have included YouTube.com video embeds of examples of the content that Williams warned about. The content of these videos is graphically violent and contains mature subject matter.

“I’m not trying to offend you, but I want to be very honest about what’s out there,” he said.

Williams outlined four examples of popular games to illustrate his point. They are (warning, they’re graphic):

Mortal Kombat. “It’s about ‘fighting you the death.’ It’s listed in the category of having the top ten best gore effects in gaming. It shows what happens to the human body while the body is being injured or dismembered.” Here’s a compilation of dismemberment scenes from Mortal Kombat 9 (this YouTube.com video has 1.3 million views).

Call of Duty. “In the 2009 version, the main character gets involved with terrorists and they go into an airport and just mow down all the people in the airport. Does that sound familiar?” Williams asked.

Postal 2. “Now, Postal 3 is just about to come on in a few weeks. One of the things in this game that is just bizarre is that they have you use a real, live cat as a silencer on your weapon… In one scenario of this game, I find a building full of people, I pour a can of gas all over the place, and people start running as screaming as I light them on fire. As the people are burned more, they fall to the ground and look like crispy critters. The character you’re operating then unzips his pants, and urinates on the bodies. That doesn’t kill the victim, so as a final act, you take a shovel and hit them on the head until the victim’s dead.” Here’s 100 ways to kill people in Postal 2 (graphic).

Grand Theft Auto 5 (or GTA 5). “The whole focus of the game is stealing vehicles. But it’s not only about stealing vehicles. If you want to, part of the game play scenarios contain the opportunity to go to a strip club and get a lap dance. And these games are not cartoons. The computer-animated characters almost look like real people in movies,” Williams said, suggesting that the realism is very sexually arousing to many, especially teenaged males. “Every successive version of GTA gets more and more like real life,” Williams stressed. If getting lap dances is lame, you think, other scenarios in GTA allow the player to hire a prostitute, and if you don’t have the money to pay her, you can just kill her instead, Williams said. Here is a “How To” video on how to “effectively kill prostitutes” in GTA 5. 

“This is what our kids are getting exposed to,” Williams said. “And you can see the results of this on our streets even here in San Angelo every day.”

Williams noted that the counter arguments to his observations are that these games are only fantasy, and opponents of video game censorship will cite study after study that violence in video games does not translate into violence in real life.

“There’s a juvenile case headed through our local courts right now. The defense lawyer’s argument is based upon the fact that the kid was unduly influenced by violent video games,” Williams concluded.

Williams urged parents to investigate what their kids are being exposed to on their gaming consoles.

After hearing Williams speak, I went home and looked through my 17-year-old son’s video game collection. In it, I found Grand Theft Auto 5. 


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by Jason Gore
Mar 22, 2014 10:17 am

That's a "cop out" ...pun intended. They should stick to taking care of the criminals, and not trying to rationalize. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2...

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by Joseph Cardon
Mar 22, 2014 4:00 pm

Touching up on a subject that was thought to be true 15 years ago. The man needs to get with the times, this was disproved long ago.

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Parents need to talk to their kids

by Ashley Spann
Mar 22, 2014 4:22 pm

It makes a big difference when you sit down with your children and explain that a game is just a game and doesn't negate real life. If parents would explain that there are consequences, real life consequences. There was a girl that burned down her house because she saw Beavis and Butthead do it. She said she didn't know that it would actually burn down or that she could have actually been hurt. The parents should have explained ....... From the time I was 5 my mother always let me watch horror flicks with her and they never scared me or made me fearful of the dark because she always explained that it was just someone silly in a costume pretending to be scary so we could have fun and cuddle and eat popcorn. From an early age I knew that it was ENTERTAINMENT and not reality. People just need to talk to their kids.

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Video Drones/Clones

by Big Daddy
Mar 22, 2014 4:23 pm

Williams is right! It is too common to see these so called mother/fathers/baby daddy/baby momma letting their children listen to the cRap and play these types of violent video games and run wild either out of convenice or ignorance. TRUTH, just because two people can produce a child does not make them Parents. Being a parent is probably the hardest thing a person will do in their life. I know it has been for me. Society is surrounded by clueless people (children) raising children today. Not really the games fault or cRap fault, this all starts at mom and or dad stepping up and being a parent not a friend.

Since this article is obviously pointing fingers at so called influences of violence to our youth....so what about the violence in Rap music...the "gangster' mentality, the demeaning of women and murderous hate speech that Rap promotes....? No one seems to ever link the influence of music and music idols on the youth is far greater then the influence of video games. Probably because of denial or unwillingness to face or accept it as a possibility? Or is it out of benign neglect or intentional neglect?. But how many of you out there have been at the gas station filling up your gas tank, when a car pulls up to the other side of the pump and is blaring out some Rap at over 200 decibels? Did the lyrics not sound violent and offensive? Personally I think video games turn kids into wimps that are afraid to stand up for themselves when being bullied by the violent kid who doesn't even play video games but does listen to Rap. Behavior is taught through experience and observation. This is why they say kids are a direct reflection of the parents. So if the kids are violent in their behavior, its obvious where to start looking for the influence. Also I can say out of my own life experience, when it wasn't parental influence being the contributor, it was peer influence being the major contributor. For Example: The less popular kid who sees the "cool kids" listening to Rap and dressing thuggish and acting intimidating by behaving belligerently, see's that and thinks, gosh if only I were like that and accepted by that group, people would respect and not haze me. So what does the kid do? I'm pretty sure many SAISD employees have made this observation in their career. At least I'd assume they were intelligent enough to notice considering all teachers are college educated. I'm not trying to start some pitchfork mob against Rap. I'm just pointing out that the influence of music is OBVIOUSLY greater then that of video games. And in the field of Juvenile Judiciary Probation, this observation of influences to youth, should have been a publication over a decade ago.
I'm not meaning to sound like I'm just demonizing Rap. There is such a thing as good talented Rap Artists out there. And they have a message behind them meant to better an individual, not degrade them. If we want to point out violence in media being an influence on our kinds, lets look at cartoons for the last 80 years. Yea definately no violence there... Violence doesn't necessarily mean graphic blood and gore. Martial Arts is violence. Sex is violence. A Domestic Dispute is violence. The carnage in the aftermath of a disaster or terrorist attack on the news is violence. How do you stop kids from getting glimpses of these images on a daily basis without being a total tyrannical content nazi towards what kids look at every second of their lives until they are 18 without being an overbearing over restrictive parent? Most parents I'm sure will say it can't be done. So if video games are contributing or influencing violence in kids, What Video game has humanity been playing for the last 5000 years that is influencing all this violence?

So yeah, to stand up and so narrowly say Video games are a major contributor to violent behavior, is like saying "my obesity is because of billboard advertising of food."
Its just a campaign of shifting the blame away from the real root of the problem. There are studies out there that prove FPS (first person shooter) video games actually increases the brains ability to concentrate on one particular thing amidst a bunch of chaos around them and they have better and quicker reaction time to sudden surprises in their environment. And less likely to panic under sudden pressure. Its no wonder why the US Military encourages the playing of FPS video games.
Another thing that is being overlooked is the fact that video games don't grow out of the ground being violent. Videos games are created in a studio like most other forms of media entertainment. Its violent minded individuals that incorporate the violence into the game. I'm still confused as to why there are those out there who sadistically desire to watch violence. You know those kind that "get off" on watch the most violent content they can find. Marylin Manson said it best when it came to people trying to blame his music for violence. Manson said, (and I may not be quoting him exactly) "Music doesn't make people do what they do, People make the music do what it does" That does not just apply to music, it can apply with movies and video games can it not? But then again Marilyn Manson is a "devil worshiping crazy guy" as they say so why should anyone listen to something so logical coming from some one who appears so illogical? (Why I never...)
Honestly, resistance of anything that degenerates a society begins simply with the teaching of RESPONSIBILITY at a young age. Sadly enough modern day society is an example of the lack there of. The truth is (many don't like to face it) too many parents turn their kids over the the TV to be baby sat, and let the public school system and society raise them. Children should not be made out to be a crutch as it seem to be the mentality pushing more and more. Children are a blessing. LOVE and RESPONSIBILITY is the only solution.

Thats my two cents for what its worth...

Jo N Ard (the town blacksheep)

Studies shmudies

by Gary Bunker
Mar 24, 2014 7:49 am

I appreciate that the article did acknowledge that there are many studies showing no correlation between video game violence and actual violence. It could have been emphasized a bit more, but still nice that the reality of actual scientific research was shoe-horned into an article about anecdotal experience.