Video Game Violence

As far as controversial modern technology goes, video games reside near the top of the list. Video games that sell apply to a market that has been taken over by flash, incredible imagery and, perhaps most noticeably, extreme violence.

In no way am I writing this article to connect video games to negative characteristics or to warn and ward off adolescents from participating in such leisure activities. Frankly, some video games can be progressive, not only in keeping the attentions of a younger crowd, but also in utilizing game makers’ artistic skills and in advancing technology.

However, video games may be hindering rather than helping the youth around the world.

People often speak of a lack of evidence when it comes to whether or not video games can considerably influence adolescents.  But before we tackle that question we must first understand that video games, especially violent ones, are ever present in America.

Video game sales are part of a 9.9 billion dollar industry and, according to the entertainment software rating board, 67% of households in the U.S. have members who buy and play video games. Among these households, the average 8-18 year old boy spends 7.5 hours a week playing video games.

The extreme violence in these video games, has been present ever since they were first introduced to the public.

In the 1990s, violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Wolfenstein were manufactured and sold. The main task in popular video games such as these was to maim, wound, or kill the opponent. The graphics, which at the time seemed low quality and vague, contained gore, blood, and killing. The sounds were screams.

Poster for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

Poster for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
photo courtesy of Brett Craig’s WordPress blog

Since then, the technology behind the characters and graphics shown has become more detailed.

A study published in Psychological Science performed by Debra Buchman, a research analyst at the Medical College of Ohio, and Jeanne Funk, an associate professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Medical College of Ohio, report that 73% of boys and 59% of girls name their favorite video games as violent ones. Of the teens from grades 8-12, 90% of their parents disregard the rating and allowed for any purchase. 89% of kids in the study also claimed their parents do not put any sort of time limit for game play.

The first ever technology addiction rehabilitation center was opened in Fall City, Washington with the largest clientele base in the gaming addiction program.

Video games, whether we want to admit it or not, hold a strong place in our society.

I do not in any way consider myself a gamer. In fact, I might go so far to say I am a newb, playing only one video game one time. This  allows me to look objectively at the studies done and at the truth behind some of the positives.

The average age at which and intensity with which kids begin to play violent video games directly correlates to the key stages of brain development.

A study published in Psychological Science done by Craig Anderson, the director of the department of psychology at Iowa State University, and Brad Bushman, the chair of mass communication at Ohio State University, stated, “The enactment of aggression is largely based on the learning, activation, and application of aggression-related knowledge structures stored in memory.”

In other words, the more video games adolescents play, the more violence and aggression they store internally.

The cycle of playing video games, storing violence and internally allowing it to become a norm builds. The study goes on to say, “Based on day to day observations of and interactions making each violent-media episode one more learning trial, the more played, the more rehearsed and the harder to change.”

However, despite the inevitable internalization of violence in video games, there is a lack of sufficient evidence condemning players of violent video games to suffering negative long-term effects.

A study done by Christopher Barlett, a psychologist at Iowa State University, asked 47 undergraduates to play Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance for 15 minutes. After, the team was tasked to give hot sauce to a fellow student who, they were told, did not like spicy food but had to swallow the sauce. Interestingly enough, paired with a team that instead played a nonviolent video game, those who had played Mortal Kombat were considerably more aggressive and portioned out a much more hot sauce.

There is solid evidence that violent video games, for a short period of time after playing, may cause more incidents of aggression especially in students. However long term aggression, and change of social and internal behavior due to violent video games has not been reported. Looking to the future, we must also ask ourselves, what kind of society do we want to create?





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