Do Violent Video Games Make People Violent?

Graphics and animation software today allow programmers to develop far better graphics and animation effects that provide a realistic experience for video game players. While this brings delight to the players, it has posed a much greater concern for the critics. In fact it has reinvigorated the debate that blames this technology to the increase of violence in the country.

These are just some incidents:

There are many more video game crimes and related controversies similar to these.

The media have their hands full. There are an increasing number of laws created against video games and a barrage of lawsuits filed against game developers. Parents are dragging their kids away from Xbox360, Wii, PlayStations, and computers because they seriously believe this technology affect their kids’ behavior and lead them to commit crimes. But the question is, does this prove that these so-called violent video games cause an increase in violence especially among youths? Aren’t there many other factors at play?



The truth is, researchers are in conflict…

Others say that there is plenty of evidence that shows a link between these acts of violence and the long-term anti-social behavior. They claim the exposure to violence in childhood, the same as when they are exposed to media and television violence, increases their likelihood to behave aggressively and do crimes in adulthood. For them, it is not linked to early symptoms of aggressive behavior, problems in parenting styles, factors related to socioeconomic status and environment safety.

Repeated acts of violence desensitize the natural aversion to violence that that child would otherwise have. And if the game rewards violent acts, but not non-violent ones, the child begins to think violence is not only acceptable but desirable. The longer a child is exposed to violence, the more ingrained these attitudes become. There’s a widespread but false belief that violent games are healthy because they allow kids a way of venting their aggression. They don’t.

Kids, Violence and Computer Games

They theorize that young people may have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what they experience in the game – most of which are just extremely graphic. Anti-game activists and researchers claim this is what leads them to act out what they have experienced in games. The age and experience of these players allow them to be easily influenced. Social Learning theory states that aggressive video games stimulate aggressive behavior and that long exposure can lead them to be desensitized to violent imagery and human suffering.

Dr. Craig Anderson, a psychologist from the Iowa State University of Science and Technology, claims that violent video games provides a chance for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflict situations. In another research, he also paired up with Dill, another researcher and the result was similar. They found out that aggressive personalities are the cause for “aggressive and delinquent behavior.” His research has been one of the most frequently cited and published researchers in video game violence. He also made a team with other researchers Bartholow and Carnagey and same results came out. Steven Kirsh, another researcher also had another study with a group of third and fourth graders and found that these type of games make children react with more hostility compared to children who do not play.

While these studies suggest physiological arousal, increased anti-social behavior and aggression-related feelings and thoughts, many experts argue there is generally a lack of quality studies which can be relied upon and that the video game industry has become an easy target for the media to blame for many modern day problems.

In a study conducted by the US government, the conclusion states that violence in video games is not linked with aggressive tendencies and that other factors are at play.  In fact, there are many benefits one can get out of playing games including its capability to help players deal with stress and anger. Surprisingly, in spite of the studies showing contrary results, some researchers are still continuing to argue that gaming is dangerous.

Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association reiterates:

Oh, it was those video games that brainwashed him”’ That’s much easier than saying our society is messed up, people don’t take care of each other, teachers aren’t in control, there’s rampant bullying, and there are no parents at home because they have to work two jobs.

Playing the Blame Game

In order to know the effects of violent images, a study conducted at Ryerson University and published in The Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, tested gamers and non-gamers of both genders for their ability to recall shocking images from a selection of benign pictures. Theoretically, those “desensitized” to violence should be less likely to remember the unpleasant images, but the results showed they were just as disturbed as the non-gamers. This suggested that those people of sound mind, able to distinguish fantasy from reality, did not equate video game violence to actual violence.

This is precisely the reason why we all have to take responsibility especially as developers, players and parents. We need to look into statutes and policies related to age requirements and limitations, language, and explicit materials to inform the users of what the game contains and the probable consequences that may or may not result from playing these games.

After all who’s to say that without this technology there would have been a much steeper drop in violence? There is no substantial evidence supporting the theory that the more the number of game sales increase, the violent crimes incidences also increase.

In fact, it just shows the opposite. It seems that just like the “weapons effect” – which led people to believe that guns turn people into dangerous aggressors and used by anti-gun advocates as a strong basis – studies on video games have simply led many to be unconstitutionally deprived of playing video games.

Video games are not the culprit. Or are they?

References:

  1. Video Violence: Villain or Victim?”, Guy Cumberbatch, London Video Standards Council, 2004
  2. “It’s Not the Media”, Karen Sternheimer, Westview, 2003
  3. Benedetti, Winda (2008-02-18). “Why search our souls when video games make such an easy scapegoat?”MSNBChttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23204875/. Retrieved 2008-08-2
  4. Wright, Brad (2004-02-18). “Sounding the alarm on video game ratings”. CNN.com. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  5. Anderson, C. A., & Dill, K. E. (2000).Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality & Social Psychology, 78(4), 772-790.
  6. Kirsh, Steven J. Seeing the world through “Mortal Kombat” colored glasses: Violent video games and hostile attribution bias. Poster presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Washington, DC.
  7. John Sherry (2001). Effects The effects of violent video games on aggression: A meta-analysis. Human Communication Research, 27, 409-4319