Playing video games, or “gaming,” has become a common hobby for individuals of all different ages. Some games could be deemed as educational, but many of the more popular games, however, positively feature acts such as killing, abusing drugs, committing crime, using bad language and acting according to stereotypes based on race, sex and gender. Much research has been done which highlights potential problems with violent video games. Aside from real world violence, studies reveal that there can be many other negative effects on children and young people who engage in regular gaming, and very few positive ones. While it seems that gaming alone cannot be blamed for violent behaviour among players in the real world, there is a significant relationship between them.
There is currently more research being undertaken regarding the effect that games can have on young people. There are worries about how children are effected by playing violent video games when they spend excessive amounts of time playing them (American).
Computer video games have been widely accessible for the past three decades (pamf). These types of games are a distinctive kind of entertainment, as they support players in being actively involved with the game's script. The nature of contemporary video games means that players have to pay continuous attention to the game, as opposed to sitting back and watching a movie. This can have both positive and negative effects on players (pamf).
According to the Paulo Alto Medical Foundation website, a frequently listed affirmative effect such games are thought to have is that they “may improve a player's manual dexterity and computer literacy.”
Constantly developing technology offers players improved graphics and a more accurate virtual encounter. This element makes the video game industry a popular element for many children and young people. However, various research studies reveal that video games, particularly those with violent subject matter, lead to increased levels of aggression in teenagers. Apparently, the increased aggression is partly linked to the quantity of time young people are allowed to spend on the pastime. The pamf website mentions a study in which most of the teens interviewed reported that their parents put no limit on the number of hours for which they could play the video games.
In a different study, also listed on the pamf website, it was shown that female teens played video games for around five hours weekly, while male teens played for around thirteen. The scientists carrying out this particular research also reported that teens who partake in gaming for long stretches of time are likely to show higher levels of aggression, are more likely to engage in disagreements with their school teachers, as well as fighting with peers. Furthermore, the authors state that such teens are also prone to underachieving at school, whereas previously they were achieving more highly (pamf).
It is possible that one of the reasons playing violent games increases aggressive behaviour is because the violent actions are repeated frequently during the game. This system of reiteration has for many years been believed a successful coaching technique in emphasising learning (pamf).
Games also inspire players to relate to and pretend to be their choice of character. This is termed a “first-person” game as gamers are required to undertake judgements which influence the movements of the fictional person they are acting as. Research suggests that after only a short time of playing a game with such encouraged violence, players can begin to conjure violent thoughts routinely and are much more likely to react in an aggressive manner when confronted by another person in the real world (pamf).
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry website, studies of children open to game violence have revealed that they can become: “immune or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behaviour with greater exposure to violence.” A number of young people adopt the opinion that violence is a constructive way of handling issues in life. Research has also suggested that the more realistic and regular the violence is, the higher the effect on the child. Furthermore, children with learning, emotional and behavioural difficulties are likely to be more susceptible to violence in gaming (American).
In his article, “Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?” Joshua Gardner discusses the tragedy that was Adam Lanza, shooting twenty-seven people in 2012. While Lanza’s access to powerful guns has led to a public discussion about gun control, the incident has also raised the now familiar argument about violent video games. Senator Joe Lieberman, speaking about this to Fox News, stated that the realistic violence in video games influences young males to be more violent in the real world (Gardner).
Gardner’s article goes on to report on a conversation between Justice Antonin Scalia, who believes that there is too much blame placed on gaming, and Laura Davies, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, who firmly feels that the issue of violent gaming is as serious as it could be.
Scalia compares violent video games to traditional children’s fairy tales, pointing out that both are violent and that there is little real difference. Davies disagrees, arguing that the level of active involvement in video games is the difference. Children and young people are actively rewarded for anti-social, and law-breaking, behaviour within certain games. She asys: “Video games like Grand Theft Auto turn the consequences into positives. You kill a prostitute and get points, you’re rewarded” (Gardner).
While some people dismiss the link between video game violence and real world violence, arguing that there is no conclusive evidence that the two are positively related, recent studies definitely report a correlation. The Science Daily website features an article which discusses a study published in the April issue of Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice. The scientists scrutinised the video game behaviours, and the degrees of gaming, for 227 juvenile offenders in Pennsylvania. The offenders had committed, on average, nine acts of violence within twelve months.
The results of the research reveal that the regularity of gaming and the tendency to play in the first place, was significantly linked with criminal and violent conduct (Science Daily). Craig Anderson, Professor of psychology concluded that while violent gaming experiences are not the single origin of violence, this research proves that it is as aspect which carries risk (Science Daily).
Children and young people can become obsessed and even addicted to videogames. Spending vast quantities of time playing such games can result in inadequate social skills, time away from friends, school-work and other leisure activities, poor school grades, partaking in less exercise and gaining weight, and violent thoughts and conducts (American).
There has been some research, and much more conversation and debate, into the link between violent video games and violence among players in the real world. Credible studies seem to imply that there is a significant correlation between children and young people engaging in violent video games and then engaging in real world violence and aggression. Some people dismiss the correlation, arguing that playing a violent video game is no more harmful than reading a violent fairy tale. However, there is a distinct difference in the level of active involvement between the two. While a child or teen will passively read or listen to a story, they are crucially involved with playing a video game. Unlike a fairy tale, a game is interactive and gives rewards and incentives to the player, often resulting from violent or criminal behaviour within the game. Studies show that some children and teens spend many hours per week playing video games, so it is easy to understand how a gaming world can begin to spill over into the real world for a young person. Aside from the real world aggression, studies show that young people who are spending significant amounts of time gaming frequently display negative symptoms such as a decrease in academic achievement, social withdrawal and fluctuating moods. Clearly, these are serious effects in themselves. It seems that the only positive effect of video games is an increase in dexterity. When compared to all the negative effects that have been reported, it appears obvious that the world needs to address the growing industry of gaming.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. “Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence.” 2006. Web. 27 April. 2013.
Gardner, J. “Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?” ABC News. 2012. Web. 28 April 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2012/12/17/do-video-games-make-kids-violent/
Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “The Impact of Video Games on Children.” 2013. Web. 28 April 2013. http://www.pamf.org/preteen/parents/videogames.html
Science Daily. “Violent Video Games Are a Risk Factor for Criminal Behavior and Aggression, New Evidence Shows.” 27 Mar 2013. Web. 28 April 2013. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/03/130326121605.htm