Violence has always been a hot topic, no matter the relevance. But violence with regards to video games has been a sore spot in society for as long as they have existed. There are countless positive uses for video games, many happen to be violent, but many people tend to focus on the negatives. These negative seem to have an awfully large impact on society though. The impact I am speaking of is the effects of video games on young minds today. Ever since I was little I was told to not to play any video games with violence in it, but what my parents don’t know won’t hurt them. This moral dilemma of whether to restrict children from playing adult games had been rooted in our culture for years. But is there any scientific proof to back up the fact that violent video games leads to a more violent society? Most recent results point to no.
But before we get to actual statistics, I feel it is important to talk about some recent history within the topic. Recently, on June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision on the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association ruling that established that video games were covered under the First Amendment and established that video game content could not be regulated by governments. This ruling created enormous freedom for the creators of video games because of this protection under the First Amendment. Just like any book or movie, video games can contain any information the creators want without fear of prosecution from the government, with the exception of libel, slander, etc. But this doesn’t exclude violent video games from everything. Just because we have the right to create and play these games doesn’t mean we can do so without any restrictions if the society feels it is necessary. The Educational Software Rating Board, or ESRB, was created “as a voluntary system where video games could be rated according to violence or other inappropriate material. Rating video games according to age-appropriate categories was intended to prevent underage children from playing games considered too intense for them” (Vitelli). Anyone who has played video games in the past has come into contact with these ratings, whether you have realized it or not. These ratings are usually located on the back of your game, on the bottom right hand side. There are several ratings that vary depending on the game you are playing. C is a game intended for early childhood. An E rating means the game is generally suitable for all ages. This includes most of your sports video games. E 10+ is to signify content suitable for everyone above the age of 10. A T rating generally means the game is for players 13 years old and up. M stands for mature and generally is targeted for players 17 and up. This section is usually where most of your shooters are located because of intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. The last rating category is A, which stands for adults only, ages 18 and up. This is the highest rating and usually includes the worst content. While this isn’t a restriction on inappropriate material in video games, it is an attempt to limit the amount of violence children are exposed to. It helps buy giving parents the necessary information needed to decide if a particular game is inappropriate for their child.
Now you may ask why is all of this debate necessary? To some these reasons may seem like common sense, but none the less they must be evaluated. Karen Dill states in her article “I think the reason is that children are vulnerable and, by definition, immature. They haven’t fully learned to make decisions that are healthy for them. And, by extension, we’ve decided as a culture on a group of things that are unhealthy for children. These include alcohol, tobacco and X-rated movies” (Dill). While many people may say that she is just stating the obvious by defining what a child is, she makes a valid point. Children are immature, and therefore don’t understand the consequences of their actions. It is also proven that at young ages children tend to have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy, of the world within a video game. This problem seems to be relevant up until the brain is done developing. The problem this poses is that they see what is acceptable inside the game, and can potentially allow it to cross over into reality, where it would be obviously unacceptable for the child to carry a gun or drive a car. The second part to her statement made even more sense to me. There are already so many restrictions to what children under the age of 21 can do, why is there so much opposition about keeping them from doing the same things they aren’t allowed to watch in movies? If certain movies require parental consent, shouldn’t similar video games? I feel the main problem here is that game developers and marketers know that children account for a major part of the demographic who buy their games and they don’t want to lose money. This poses an enormous problem because not many people can successfully beat large companies in court.
Aside from the position taken above, there seem to be many supporters of violent video games. Now don’t misunderstand what they are trying to say, they are not lobbying to allow children to play violent video games, but what they do want to prove is that violent video games don’t have the same affect most people believe they do on the general public. Patrick Markey made several good points in his article. He points out that often times horrible events happen, and they drastically change lives forever. As a result of these events people what to know everything they can. Why did this happen? How can we prevent this from happening again? And so on. People need a reason, they need something or someone to blame. Patrick believes that video games tend to get a bad rap because of this, and unrightfully so.
He also goes into detail and sheds a little light on some of the studied done on people who play violent video games. “The average experimental study in this area involves having one group of people play a violent video game while another group plays a non-violent video game. After a short game play session (usually around 15 minutes) participants’ aggressive thoughts or behaviors are assessed. Using such a methodology, researchers have found that individuals who play violent video games are more likely to expose others to loud irritating noises, report feeling more hostile on a questionnaire, give longer prison sentences to hypothetical criminals and even give hot sauce to people who do not like spicy food” (Markey). These experiments do prove that violent video games do lead to a more hostile and aggressive, temperament but even Patrick states himself that “Although these various outcomes are related to unfriendly thoughts and behaviors, it is quite a leap to imply that the desire to expose others to loud noises or hot sauce is similar to the violent events which occurred at Sandy Hook” (Markey). I agree, that after playing violent video games you may be more prone to aggressive behavior, but it would be quite a stretch to say that it would lead someone to use violence in pubic. This raises a question though, what are the long term effects? The study depicts your immediate behavior after playing a violent game, but what about down the road? And what about if you play more than fifteen minutes? What if you play everyday for multiple hours? Does that affect your long term health?
Along with the benefits that come from this testing, many people are calling for different types of testing because flaws in how the tests actually work. The biggest complaint is that people claim that this test does not directly measure real world violence. From what I understand, this complaint is based more within the violent acts within the games themselves. How can you correlate the idea that playing games like Call of Duty will lead kids to grow up and think it’s ok to shoot up their neighborhood? While the game does depict you using guns and aiming at people, shooting in a war where you have to in order t survive is a bit of a stretch from randomly shooting up a residential area for no particular reason. My only problem with this assessment is that how can you get any study to accurately correlate the effects of violent video games to real world violence. You can ask someone after they have been playing a game if they want to go commit a random act of violence. my overall opinion is that being introduced to violence at a young age is only one factor that leads to violent behavior if the child isn’t taught that such behavior is unacceptable. While video games probably aren’t the best things for a young and developing mind, there are many other factors that attribute to violence.
Lets look at one last statistic. The five biggest video game markets in the world are the US, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United Kingdoms in that order. They bring in $13.3 billion, $7 billion, $6.8 billion, $5 billion, and $3 billion respectively. Now lets look at the deaths per 100,000 by firearms. The US has 10.2, Japan has 0.07, China has 0.19, South Korea has 0.13, and the UK has 0.25. Several things thing can be taken away from this statistic, but one of the first ones that should be looked at is how easy it is for someone to obtain a gun in this country. This should be extremely evident after we learned that the Sandy Hook shooter was denied a gun but still managed to find one. Now I know my topic is about video games and violence and not about gun control, but my point is that while violent video games may not be the best thing for children, its shouldn’t be looked at as anything more than one possible factor in a long list. More definitive research must be done before we can say if violent video games are a major source of violence.
Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark.” The New York Times. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.
Dill, Karen, PhD. “How Fantasy Becomes Reality.” Sex Is Too Obscene for Kids, but Violence Isn’t? Brown v. Entertainment Merchants. Psychology Today, 27 June 2011. Web. 28 June 2013.
Markey, Patrick. “In Defense of Violent Video Games.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.
Tassi, Paul. “The Numbers Behind Video Games and Gun Deaths in America.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 June 2013.
Vitelli, Romeo, Phd. “Media Spotlight.” Can Video Games Cause Violence? Psychology Today, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.