Most of the experts I know see the value of superheroes, action figures, and slapstick cartoons. But the mere mention of gory video games provokes a very different reaction. After a passionate defense of superheroes at a conference panel, one developmental psychologist paused and then said with special vehemence, "But I don't think video games in which the player is induced to shoot at other human beings are ever good for anyone." A psychiatrist who helped me with my research cringed slightly at the mention of Quake and said, "There has to be something wrong with a person who'd want to look at that."
Once, on a cable news channel, I debated a NewYork state senator who was pushing legislation to ban violent video games for children under eighteen. I talked about the benefits many teenagers have found in various sorts of games—not realizing that the producers were running images from a gory first-person shooter game on the screen as I spoke. When I watched the tape later and heard myself saying, "I know of many kids who thrive in the gaming culture" as bullets blew through skulls and blood went flying, I was appalled at my own words.
Nothing sets off our revulsion like explicit gore. Nothing triggers our worries about how our kids may turn out than watching them gun down real-looking people on screen. It's understandable that hy