The topic of violence in the modern media has been debated for many decades, since television started increasingly broadcasting the shows with violent content. Parents, educators, scientists and authorities have become even more concerned with the issue with the emergence of the violent video games, whose characters were engaged in bloody fights, murders and many other demonstrations of aggressive behavior. Now that the technologies allow the developers of the games to reach an extremely high level of realism, an increasing number of researchers have been studying the problem to find possible connections between the violence in the games and the potential raise of aggression level and blurring of the moral boundaries of the current and future generations. Video games with violent content increase the frustration and aggression levels, instill in people and especially children the notion that the world is a dangerous and violent place, and can potentially teach children harmful behavioral patterns by the system of repetitions and rewards that the video games are based on.
Violent video games are not solely connected with the feeling of aggression that they cause, but also the frustration they experience during the moments of failure. People, who play video games, very often become aggressive while playing and can often scream, shout and get desperate to win, sometimes playing for hours till they achieve the goal. According to the April 2014 study by Andrew Przybylski of the Oxford University and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, the users that have been losing games, felt frustration because of the threat that failure imposed on their egos and need to feel competent, which caused them to be hostile and mean to people around (Maldonado). However, players often refuse to recognize that this aggression is harmful and claim that violence in games actually helps them reach the catharsis and relieve them of tension. But the studies by Anderson and his colleagues conducted in 2010 evidenced that games actually “aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior”, as well as make people less empathic (qtd. in Bushman). And while adults can take full responsibility for their aggression and frustration, children, on the other hand, may not fully realize that their feelings are caused by the game, but consider the real world an unsafe place instead.
While playing violent games, children usually dedicate their full and undivided attention to the process and gradually start identifying themselves with their characters, especially if they play from the first person point of view. Such strong identification with the character trying to survive in the world, where violence is put to extremes, can make a child associate the game with the reality, according to Dr. L. Rowell Huesmann, director of the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor (qtd. in Harding). Some people may refuse to believe that playing games is harmful, especially for children, by arguing that they have been playing violent games and have not killed anyone so far. But this is in fact a distort reasoning, as in reality very few people are killed every year in general, and the probability of them murdering someone is extremely low. However, what the scientists are trying to prove is that people become more aggressive after playing violent games, and they do not necessarily have to kill anyone to prove that violent video games are dangerous for society because there are many other forms of aggressive behavior, such as verbal, psychological and physiological abuse, and the continued experience of playing video games can reinforce bad behavior.
The main concern arises when the games are played many times, instead of being a one-time experience. In the former case, games become an educational material, as gamers are actively rather than passively engaged in the process of repetition and reinforcement. In order to win the game, a person needs to go through failure, frustration and behavioral rehearsals of killing, fighting and shooting in order to win. Victories, as well as cheerful dialogues and lines of other characters work as the reinforcement mechanism by providing gamers with the reward for lucky shots and precise violent actions (Bushman). Gamers, who have opposing views, can argue that shooters, in particular, can improve their eye-hand coordination. However, given the aforementioned harm from the violent video games, the hazard from playing them is higher than the benefits, and there are many more advantageous methods to increase one’s physical abilities.
Violent video games help to attain and develop negative behavioral patterns in people, who are actively engaged in playing. The process of developing these patterns contains the stages of a series of failures that cause frustration and negative feelings. In pursuit of getting rid of these negative emotions, people make new attempts to succeed and restore the good feeling about themselves, which reinforces them to play more and perform better at tasks, such as beating, torturing and killing other beings in the virtual reality. As modern technologies allow the game developers achieve highly realistic graphics, which gamers appreciate a lot, it becomes easier for a player to build associations with his or her character and, thus, with the characters attitude in the world, whose perception transfers to the real world. For these reasons, violent games can indirectly provoke the development of aggressive feelings and harmful behavioral patterns that can become a threat to both such person and his social life and the society.
Bushman, Brad J.. "The Effects of Violent Video Games on Behavior." ITHP.org. International Human Press, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://ithp.org/articles/violentvideogames.html>.
Harding, Anne. "Violent Video Games Linked To Child Aggression." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://edition.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/family/11/03/healthmag.violent.video.kids/index.html?_s=PM:HEALTH>.
Maldonado, Marissa. "Frustration with Video Games Leads to Aggressive Behavior." PsychCentral.com. Psych Central, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2014. <http://psychcentral.com/lib/frustration-with-video-games-leads-to-aggressive-behavior/00019446>.