Over the last couple of years, there has been a growing wave in the video gaming world. Video games have developed into an ingrained feature of human lives. In US alone, it was found out that (88%) of the youth between the ages of 8 and 18 play video games (Gentile, 2009). Though only a handful was found to overdo it, (from 8-13 years), there is a wave that is slowly encroaching the world at large. Video game addiction has been linked to frequency of play and the overall time spent in play. Also, the fact that other gadgets other than the computer can be used to play video games, have contributed a lot to video game addiction. Several effects have been associated with video game addiction and should serve as guidelines on the way forward in this matter. This paper is a discussion of the behavioral effects of video games on users. The paper discusses the aggression behavior in children involved in, and addicted to, violent video games. It has been shown that their behavior could change as these persons are growing up, and thus, they are at a position to adopt these violence behaviors, thus developing aggressive behaviors (Gentile, 2009).
The Effect of Violent Video Games on Children Aggressive Behavior
First introduced in 1970, video games have continuously become very popular among people of all ages. The first video games generations were merely simple geometric shapes, and could be controlled easily by a game player. However, the technology increased rapidly, and in the 1980s, the computer technology saw the video game technology going digital with every milestone in the development of the computer technology. The emergence of the ‘playstation’ developed by Sony Corporation, brought in new video games generations, which were much human friendly and which most people could get easily and found entertaining. The video games became very popular among children, adolescents and the youth, mostly because it involved very challenging tasks, which often included violent scenes. The characters have to fight their way to achieve a certain goal, a characteristic of most video games. These characteristics have been found to have some adverse effects on the users, especially psychological and mental development. It is therefore still debatable that violent video games instill violence and aggressive behavior on the children and youths due to exposure to violent scenes during their mental and psychological development.
Since the start of video gaming in the 1970s, multiple generations of the games have occurred, and each generation is always an improvement of the previous such that the degree of entertainment and leisure increases with each generation. In addition, each generation incorporates the newest technology in computer and allied technology. As at the present, the most popular of these games have their characters taking the shape of real objects, human and animals, as well as well developed imaginary creatures.
Companies have made huge profits developing and selling these games and their related software, and it is a fact that despite any affect or concern, there is little that could be done to solve this issue. Right from the beginning of the video gaming in 1970s, parents were delighted to learn that the technology well suited the children. Children were taught how to play and took long hours in the process. Parents found it an easy way of entertaining their children, and even relied on it to make their children stay indoors even when left alone. Parents also believed that rather than taking their older children to the then costly day care, it was possible to tame these children using video games. They therefore went on looking for the most recent and the most entertaining games in the market, and thus increased the demand for the games. Companies realized this, and struggled to produce the most modern video games that the market demanded for, and the resultant was that companies struggled to dominate the market, and outdo each other each and every time.
Video games with violence scenes have been found to be both addictive to the children and the youths, and even affect their behavior. Addiction is the most important effect that changes the children behavior as they grow up, often developing some kind of bravely and aggressive behavior. The virtual of playing alone does not qualify as addiction. Addiction is best defined as an increasing urge to continue with a behavior regardless of its negative effects. In trying to find out who the video addicts are, researchers have come up with a system of evaluating certain symptoms in a gamer. Thinking about playing video games frequently, spending more money or time to feel excited, failing when playing for shorter periods, becoming restless or irritable when attempting to end playing, using game as an escapism, lying to family or friends about playing time, stealing video games or stealing money to buy video games, avoiding responsibilities, skipping homework to play, academic performance decline, and needing friends or family to provide extra money are the symptoms that define addiction. Gamers are thus said to be addicted if they show these symptoms listed. It has been noted that the excitement associated with video games leads to addiction and that the secret that keeps gamers motivated is not fun alone, but rather the rewards, liberty and the bond strengthened between the players (Anderson, & Bushman, 2002).
Addicted players are known as a pathological players and their frequency of play is twice that of non pathological players. They have mastery of the games’ rating symbols and researches show that it’s the time they’ve been in the game that determines their state. In a recent research, 1 in 10 children and teens that play video games show behavioral signs that may indicate addiction. According to Media Research Lab at Iowa State University, about 8.5% of 8-to-18-year-old gamers can be considered pathologically addicted. This is an alarming rate considering the age of the child. Video producing companies have been recording escalating sales of video games. This interpreted would mean that the play of video games mostly among the youth is on the increase. Internet has also played a great role in the video game addiction. When kids log in to internet, they find web pages filled with adverts on the latest version of a certain game and so on. This gives the child an urge to try it out leading to mastery of the game and eventually addiction (Lin, & Lepper, 1987).
Like any other addict, video game addicts get the high when playing just like drug addicts since there is production of endorphins in their brains. It’s the want for more of this high that keeps the gamer glued to the gaming device. One of the effects associated with video game addiction is aggression. Due to playing more violence based games, the brain is oriented and triggered into violence. Hence addicted gamers will more often be reserved and violent even with the slightest provocation. Gaming has also been implicated with other physical and emotional health complaints. Addicts have developed “Playstation thumb” and “Nintendoitis”, a recurring strain injury in their arms and hands from the maneuver of controllers. Other recorded dangers of too much play include fatigue and headaches. Sleep is another issue that’s affected by addiction. This is because players tend to spend too much of their time playing at the expense of sleep. This in the long run results in poor performance at the work place as well as ineffectiveness (Douglas, 2004). Breaking of family and friends relation ship is also a notable effect brought about by addiction. Addicts seem to spend a lot of time in solitude and are reserved, affecting to a greater extent the social bondage between the gamer and other people around. Weight gain due to lack of practice, and weight loss due to poor feeding are some other health related issues caused by the video game addiction (AACAP, 2006).
Serious effects like death have also been reported in various countries like China, Vietnam, South Korea, Canada and the United States. The reported deaths have either been that of the addict or that of someone else but caused by the addict. A good example is a case of teenager called Daniel Petric who shot his parents killing her mother for confiscating a copy of Halo 3 game in October 2007 (James, 2008).
Nevertheless, not all effects are harmful. The game has been found to have some educational and therapeutic uses. One, for example is the playing of games like ‘Sim City and ‘Rise of Nations’. These games increase one’s creativity, problem solving skills and proper planning skills. This has led to the education stakeholders thinking of implementing the games into the curriculum. The social and interactive aspects of the games can be used to preach peace, and cohesion. It might also be adapted for humanitarian issues like natural calamities and hunger. This if properly adapted, they moulds the character of the young player to a responsible adult. In the medical arena, games have found their notch in several ways. Children with chronic diseases can adjust to them by playing games like Pack and Marlon, a pair of cartoon elephants coping with diabetes. They can also be used as a pain management tool for children being treated for cancer and sickle cell disease (Douglas, 2004).
Recent research on the topic of the effect of the video gaming on the children’s behavior was initially very minimal. A resurgence in interest on the video games effect on the users occurred in the late 1990s due to some observed behavior in children frequently exposed to violent games. Several studies were carried out, but few correlations were found, while the results were conflicting. Some research showed that the amount of video games played by a single user had a significant positive correlation with some measures of aggression in school boys. Teachers in various schools also showed that most of their aggressive children admitted being addicts of the games in their early ages, and tried to copy the characters in the games scenes. Among young children it was found that video games was a topic of discussion, and each child had a hero among the charterers, which they tried as much as possible to copy. It is possible that children always have some role models in these imaginary but observable video game characters. For instance, a very popular game known as the Spiderman, which takes the name of a film series and copies the very same characters, has become very popular among youths and children. The characters are very violent, always involving themselves in fights to achieve something. This has an impact on the behavior of the growing children (Kooijmans, 2004).
The growing children always tend to adopt the behavior of the people they associate with, whether physically or through the media. These children will try as much as possible to emulate these behaviors, which are often displayed as heroes. The psychological and mental development of children and youths is affected by the scenes they are frequently exposed to, and since video game is addictive, these children will adopt some of the behaviors displayed in the games. They believe that they have to use violence to achieve some goals, especially among themselves.
In conclusion, video gaming is actually addictive, and being so, affects the behavior of the persons, especially the youths and the children which are developing psychologically, mentally and physically (Kooijmans, 2004). The development of the video games is therefore affecting the behavior of the future generations, and mostly in a negative manner as it instills violence and other forms aggressions. In addition, this may continue as long as nothing is done to resolve, few researchers are interested in the topic, and as long as the video gaming industry remains highly profitable.
AACAP. (2006). Children and video games: playing with violence. Facts for familes. Retrieved from http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_video_games_playing_with_violence
Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology,
Douglas, A. G. (2004). The effects of video games on children: what parents need to know? Pediatrics for parents. Health publications. Retrieved from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0816/is_6_21/ai_n9772319/
Gentile, D. (2009). Pathological video-game use among youth ages 8 to 18: A national study. Psychological Science.
James H. Austin. Zen and the brain: toward an understanding of meditation and consciousness. New York, NY: MIT Press
Kooijmans, T. A. (2004). Effects of video games on aggressive thoughts and behaviors during development. Rochester Institute of Technology. Retrieved from http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/kooijmans.html
Lin, S., & Lepper, M. R. (1987). Correlates of children's usage of video games and computers.
Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 17, 72-93.