Video violence is a major problem in our society. When people are exposed to the violent world of video games, their perceptions of reality are changed from a world with consequence, to a world where consequence does not matter. USA Today Magazine states, that video violence is a major component in the desensitization of mankind (Video violence desensitizes the brain, 2006). Exposing children to the repetitive violence in video games serves as a conditioning for violent behavior.
Whether or not the allies of video violence believe that exposure to violent games does not cause a more violent society, teach motor skills and develop excellent problem-solving skills (White, 2004), without looking at the consequences of these games, our society is at risk for increased acts of violence.
The history of video games It was not so long ago that the video game industry was not the billion dollar monster that it is today.
The history of video games runs parallel with the development of computers and traces the advancements not only of technology, but also in the social and economical patterns of the United States over the last four decades.
The first video game was patented in 1948, by Thomas T. Goldsmith. The game used eight vacuum tubes to simulate a missile firing at a target, controlled by four knobs. By the 1970’s arcade machines and handhelds were added to already existing computer systems.
This was known as “The Golden Age of Arcade Games. ” Atari was founded in 1972. Pong, the first successful arcade game, consisted of hitting a ball across a simulated tennis net. Pong sold 19,000 units the first year it was released. The evolution of games progressed, bringing more realistic graphics that appeared to be life-like. The figures in the games movements seem like that of a human being. The three dimensional graphics created a simulated world much like that of today.
In the games of today, Eakes (2004) states players actively participate in the simulated murder of police officers, women, minorities and innocent bystanders. “The acts graphically depicted and include victims being shot, beaten to death, decapitated, burned alive, and urinated on. These games also present favorable depictions of prostitution, racism, misogyny and drug use” (Eakes, 2007). The days of simply hitting a tiny “ball” back and forth, where the only goal was to avoiding missing, are long gone. Research in the world of Violent Video Games.
Video game violence effects the brain, not only by making murder or robbery seem acceptable, but as stated in, USA Today, also by effecting the regions in the brain that are involved with recognizing, remembering, rehearsing or activating aggressive behavior (Video violence desensitizes the brain, 2006). By repeatedly playing these games, the participant has lower-levels of empathy. The brain stores everything, including the visions that are seen in some of the games. Some of the more violent games are conditioning the brain over and over with angry, vengeful images that encourage negative even prejudicial thoughts.
A game on the market at this time is called “Manhunt” in which the player has to murder or beat the opponent to death. There is no consequence for the “winner”, only points and positive feedback. Until recently, violent video game research has mostly comprised of studies revolving around participants playing violent video games and then measuring the participant’s responses when the participant is placed in different “real” world situations. The new studies now include the use of highly sensitive diagnostic equipment such as MRI to measure actual responses in the brain.
These studies are much harder to refute. A recent study now has found that exposure to video game violence results in diminished responses mentally to real life violence or death (Phillips, 2005). Participant’s brain waves were measured while playing violent videos using an EEG (electroencephalogram). The participant’s showed a desensitized view when shown violent or negative images. “But when the players were subsequently given the opportunity to “punish” a fake opponent in another game, those with the greatest reduction in P300 brain responses meted out the most severe punishments” (Phillips, 2005, para.7).
Eakes,(2004) states the studies on the effects of violent video games, has long been a source of great debate. There has been over 3,500 research studies done examining the correlation between violence and violent behavior. “All but 18 of the studies have shown that the more violence one sees, the more likely one is to be violent” (Eakes, 2007, para. 5). This is particularly true because the violence in video games is so realistic and portrayed without pain and suffering. Defenders of Video Violence.
The violence in video games today is not seen as a problem for some people, especially those in the gaming industry and adolescents. Even though there are exceptional amounts of research that supports the conclusion that violent video games cause aggression, their continued denial of these facts are due to one thing, money. There is billions of dollars at stake in the sales of video games and video game systems. To admit that video games do cause violence, could potentially cost the industry dearly.
The arguments used by defenders of video violence are that these types of games are a meaningful form of expression. The defenders believe that video games teach motor skills and help children and young adults to solve problems. Having also been criticized for being a factor in the epidemic of childhood obesity, the defenders argue that playing games are highly social. The proponent’s assert that a child, who would respond to real life violence the same way he or she would respond to video violence, is emotionally disturbed already (Jenkins, 2004).
The military has been using video imagery for decades to train soldiers in the act of war. The soldier’s skill in shooting improves as well as the actual response to violence. “Just as simulators help train players for real-world tasks, violent video games coax players into actual aggression and antagonistic attitudes” (Walsh, 2005, para. 38). With repeated participation in violent video games, players improve not only their violent techniques, but their mental attitudes as well. On the Army’s recruiting website, there is a video game called, America’s Army.
The game is available to anyone who logs on and is free. The game cost the military six million dollars to develop, and not only serves a recruiting technique, but also as a way to teach players how to actually fire a M16 rifle, throw grenades, and learn weapons identification. The game trains in various weaponry and teaches the player where to hit the intended victim to cause the most severe outcome. Effect of Violent Video Games Video games have become a training ground for learning how to shoot and murder.
Many of these games reward the player for hitting the victim in the most deadly of places. In the world of interactive video games, players play games that are endless. They play with people who are trying to kill them. Sometimes, when confronted with real life problems of violence a child or young adult, will not seek out adult advice due to the thinking that they can handle on the problem on their own as in the video game. Children who view repeated violence are more apt to accept violence as a way to settle conflicts.
On April 20, 1999, two heavily armed boys walked into their high school in Littleton, Colorado, and shot 12 of their classmates and a teacher to death. Then they killed themselves (Eakes, 2004). During the investigation, it was discovered that these two boys played thousands of hours of violent shooting video games. The boys pasted the pictures of their fellow classmate’s onto the game’s imaginary victims. Perhaps, this may not be the single reason these boys committed this horrific act of violence, but how can the hours spent rehearsing this act not be a factor?
If nothing else, these games served as a training ground for the execution of the crime. Whether or not the boys were emotionally disturbed to begin with will be speculated upon for years but looking at the role these games played in this tragedy is essential. The use of violent video games has shown to have a negative effect on academic performance and social skills. Based on a survey of 189 high school students, users of violent video games held more pro-violent attitudes, more hostile personalities, were less forgiving, believed violence the norm, and behaved more aggressively in every day life.
The researches were surprised the relation to violent video games was so strong (Anderson, 2007). Another issue of rising concern is regarding whether or not violent video games are addictive. On June 27, 2007 The American Medical Association called for more research in the designation of video games addiction a mental illness. The fact that a game is controlling someone’s behavior and taking over their daily life’s, is about compulsive behavior. Some of the games are played in an online community, where the game is demanding of the player’s time.
Once a child is hooked, it becomes very difficult, for them to stop (Walsh, 2007). Today in South Korea, which has seen a widespread amount of video game addiction, there are over 40 treatment programs to deal with video game and internet addiction. “If the situation in South Korea is any indication of what is to come here, we will be largely unprepared for the number and intensity of cases of such addiction” (Walsh, Gentile, 2006, para. 16). Attempting to control video game violence The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is an organization that rates computer, internet, and video games.
The ESRB was created in 1994 to rate and restrict the sale of video games. Many of these games, even though they are rated M for mature, are sold to children. The new trend in violent video games is to hide explicit material within the game to avoid receiving a rating for adults only. Much speculation and questions surround the creditability of the ESRB. Recently, a game named “Grand Theft Auto: San Andres”, included sexually explicit material that could be accessed using a code found on the internet.
This game already full of violence, with the players shooting police officers, beating up prostitutes and carjacking, also had an added “bonus” with graphic sex scenes. This caused a scandal as the game was only rated M for mature. “Before long, the so-called “Hot Coffee” scandal, named after the modification that unlocked the extreme scenes, became a hot news item the rating was changed to A for adults” (Terdiman, 2005, para. 7). That was after thousands of copies had already been sold.
Even if the rating’s alone were more reliable, it is almost impossible to enforce the rating system at the retail level. Everyday underage children buy games rated for adults or over 17 in stores all over America. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Bureau of Consumer Protection head, Lydia Parnes, “There are still too many kids purchasing inappropriate games” (Bangeman, 2006, para. 2). The commission’s most recent study sent underage “shoppers” into stores and 42% were still able to purchase M-rated games. What can be done about Video Game Violence?
“If there was ever any doubt about the impact of video games on children of video games on children it has finally been laid to rest” (Walsh, Gentile, 2005, para. 39). Whether there is a rating given to the games or not, many times the people who are selling the games are not responsible enough to make sure that these violent games do not fall into the hands of children. Video games are most likely going to remain a part of our society, so it is going to be up to the parents of children and young adults to strictly monitor what their children are playing.
“First and foremost parents need to pay attention to the relevant research and the industry needs to stop denying research-based conclusions” (Walsh, Gentile, 2006, para. 8). Once parents come to terms with what is at stake, they should start limiting game time and keep mature rated games away from their children. Parents should also take advantage to new technology for parental controls in many of the current game systems. Educating children as to the dangers of viewing these games and being aware of what types of games they are being played will help to change the views on what is acceptable, and what is not.
Perhaps the debate over whether or not violent video games cause violence will always be an issue. As long as there are billions of dollars at stake, clinical studies will be challenged, fingers pointed and denial will be used in the debate. One thing is for certain, video game violence does not add anything positive to the health and well-being of today’s children or young adults. How can learning and practicing killing or robbing people have a positive effect on the brain?
Children are spending large amounts of time playing violent video games during a fragile time when they should be learning healthy ways of dealing with life and solving problems peacefully. When will society accept that the world is full of negativity and exposing children to repetitive acts of violence reinforces that negativity?
Hopefully, the answer will be sooner than later for the sake of all humankind. References Anderson, C, Buckley, K, & Gentile, D. (2006). Violent video game effect on children and adolescents. Iowa: Oxford Press. Eakes, P.(2004). Do you know what video games your children are playing?
The Video Game Revolution. Retrieved June 20, 2007 from http://www. pbs. com Jenkins, H. (2004). Reality bytes: eight myths about video games rebunked. The Video Game Revolution. Retrieved June 28, 2007 from http://www. pbs. com Phillips, H. (2005, December). Violent video games alter brain’s response to violence. New Scientist. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www. newscientist. com Terdiman, D. (2005).
Unlevel playing field for video games. Retrieved June 29, 2007, from http://www.cnetnews. com Video violence desensitizes the brain. (2006, April). USA Today Magazine, 134(2731), 13-14. Retrieved June 3, 2007 from EBSCO database. Walsh, D. , Gentile, D. , Walsh, E. , Bennett, N. , Rodideau, B. , Walsh, M. , Strickland, S. , & Mcfadden, D. (2005). Tenth annual video game report card. National Institute on Media and Family. Retrieved June 10, 2007 from http://www. mediafamily. org White, J. (2004, September). Defenders of the video game realm. Playthings, 102(8), 10-14. Retrieved ProQuest database.