First off, let me just start off by saying that this contains NO statistics, NO proof, NO stories of anyone who played Halo and killed a whole bunch of aliens because the game made them... There are plenty of other awesome articles out there written by far better writers that make some excellent points, as well as horrible articles that somehow attempt to explain that anyone who has a video game in their home and committed any sort of crime had video games to blame.
I'm an indie game developer, and like many indie developers, I very rarely have the time or money to actually play games... I'm also much more of a casual gamer, sticking with the Marios, Zeldas and Peggles of the world more often than not. As such, whenever anyone made an argument that kids can become violent from video games, I laughed it off and argued against it. Seriously, isn't it silly? If I play Tetris, will I want to stack blocks? If I play Mario, will I really want to jump on people's heads?
Then we got a few free rental codes for Redbox, which just happened to have the new Tomb Raider. Angel (my fiancee) and I both really wanted to play it, so we got it and LOVED it! It's a spectacular game and I'd suggest anyone mature enough to play it! We played it a second time through and did everything we could.
My point is this, though: You know how once a great movie is over, you feel like a part of the world, or maybe you see things a new way because of the story? It sucks you in and it takes a while, even after it's over, to leave its world. The same is true of games, particularly these "newer games." Lara in Tomb Raider is great at climbing, so when we went outside, I'd imagine climbing rooftops, scaling walls, etc. I wanted to work out and become more fit so that I would have hopes of surviving a crazy adventure like that. But at the same time, because the game allows you to hunt animals for rewards and get extra points for "headshotting" enemies (shooting them in the head for instant-kill), I would see an animal in the real world and my brain would immediately think "I can just imagine shooting that with a bow and arrow!" (Lara's main weapon on the game).
Wait, what? When did that happen? When did successfully shooting enemies in the head turn it into a game in real life of imagining getting someone from far away? Granted, I'm 30 years old and mature enough to not act on this at all. The only thing I've ever "shot" at anything is a camera, and while I think it'd be awesome to learn to shoot a bow or throw axes, I'd certainly never do it in any sort of dangerous way.
So, can video games cause violence? I don't doubt it... This was one single game, and it's nowhere near the most violent at all! The game is rated M (Mature; basically the equivalent of an R rating for video games), and if you have children and didn't already know it, it's VERY important to follow the ratings for video games. If your child is 8, 10, 12, 15, and they play video games, don't just get them whatever is popular, please. Just keep in mind that playing a violent game is like taking part in a violent movie for days instead of just a couple hours.
And, above this, to all of you game developers out there: I appreciate the awesome scenes in the games where you press a couple buttons to jump off of a rooftop and assassinate someone, then flip someone around and use them as a human shield before running up to the shooters and plunge a bayonet into their chest, flip around and knock the other down before finishing them off too. It's really empowering to be able to do all of that! But can you hold back on the blood? Keep away from the extra gory deaths? There are games that I simply refuse to play, even though the story looks awesome, the game looks gorgeous and the play itself looks so fun, just because I'm far too empathetic to kill people in horrible ways, watch blood splatter all over and such.