Video Games and Violent Children

Video Games and Violent Children Brittany Hern 02/02/2011 Critical Thinking and Composition Home video games, an industry worth $11 billion domestically that is now 30 years old, continues to be thrown into legal and moral debates regarding what age is deemed appropriate to participate. Video games, especially those deemed to be violent or rated “mature,” are at the center of the controversy. There are two sides to this debate. Video game companies and their supporters lead one side arguing that video games have no affect on children, and maintain that video games deemed “mature” are meant for those ages.

The other side of this debate consists of psychologists and parents who argue video games are responsible for what they feel is a growing epidemic of increasingly violent and desensitized children. Video game companies continue to assert that the ratings issued by The Entertaining Software Rating Board (ESRB) are to be followed and any results stemming from games being purchased against those ratings fall back on parents. There are five rating categories: Everyone, Everyone 10+, Teen, Mature, Adults Only. The ESRB rates every video game that is to be sold in the United States.

Companies like Rockstar Games, which produces some of the most controversial video games, continue to maintain that their video games are produced for adults and are not marketed towards children. Rockstar developer Lazlow Jones was quoted in 2010 as saying “Our games are not designed for young people. If you’re a parent and buy one of our games for your child you’re a terrible parent… ” This quote came after the backlash of the release of another Rockstar Games title that was attacked for being too violent for children.

Parents and psychologists agree the ratings are a first step in the right direction, but insist these titles should be pulled from shelves because the continuance of accessibility by children across America. Although the ratings are in place, children in most states are able to buy video games rated “Mature. ” In those states where identification is necessary, parents argue that homes often filled with adult gamers expose children in the same household to inappropriate video games. They contend that an epidemic of violence and desensitized children are the product of violent video games and not enough supervision.

Numerous video game companies have turned to national crime statistics to prove their opposition wrong. Video games have been blamed for several high profile cases. One of the most infamous cases linking violence and video games is the massacre of 13 people at Columbine High School. Jerald Block, a researcher and psychiatrist in Portland, concluded that the two teenage shooters, both avid gamers, went on their shooting rampage after their parents took their weapon-based video game away.

Linking video games to high profile violence around the country has not been uncommon. The Virginia Tech shooting was wrongly attributed to video games by several news stations and TV personalities around the country before it was concluded that the shooter did not play video games. Video game companies continue to point to crime statistics to disprove these links. Gaming gained mass appeal in the mid 1990’s and since then sales domestically have quadrupled. From 1995 to 2008, when the industry took strides, juvenile violent crimes fell 49. 3%.

With these statistics in hand, video game supporters maintain that violent video games are not to be blamed for any acts of violence committed by underage gamers. The Federal government has played its own role in the debate on relating violence in video games to violent tendencies in children. In 1996 the US Marine Corps licensed a version of the then popular game Doom in order to train soldiers. Psychologists argue that if violent video games play no role in training children to become violent, why would the US Marine’s use a violent video game to train adults.

Those against violent video games propose the question: If these adults are trainable via video games then why wouldn’t children, who are far more persuadable, take the things in the games as instructions or guidelines. In 2002, the US Army released a first-person shooter America’s Army in order to recruit soldiers and prepare those recruits for what the battlefield is like. Those against violent video games see this as a direct link between violent video games being a teacher and influencing rather than just being used as a form of entertainment.

Furthermore, America’s Army, has been pointed out to look very similar to other first-person shooting games. There have been numerous studies conducted and while the results often are different, video game companies insist there is no formal research that shows any type of link that violent video games cause aggression. A study conducted in 2007 and published in the “Journal of Adolescent Health,” consisted of 1254 participants, which were pre-teens in demographically diverse schools. The results showed that playing a “Mature” rated video game was a positive way to manage anger in half of the participants.

While the study does say this could be an unhealthy way to manage emotions depending on the child, the participants correlated positivity with the “Mature” rated video game. Other studies have either been inconclusive and those ruling that violence is linked to violent video games have been dismissed by video game companies and supporters as being blind to other factors. The studies, they explain, do not divulge other contributing factors like a predisposition to aggressiveness, exposure to violence, and family dynamics; all factors that could contribute to violence.

Those who oppose violent video games point out a 2000 FBI report entitled “The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective,” which documents likely characteristics of a school shooter. In their research, the FBI concluded that a fascination with violence-filled entertainment is a risk factor associated with a possible school shooter. The report lists “the student spends inordinate amounts of time playing video games with violent themes, and seems more interested in the violent images than in the game itself. Another study conducted was based on short-term effects of violent video games. The 2009 study conducted by members of the Department of Psychology from both Iowa and Kansas State University, had 91 participants and not only surveyed those participants, but monitored the heart rate to see if there was any deviation. The study added to existing literature that shows violent video games in fact increase aggressive behavior, aggressive feelings, aggressive thoughts, and arousal from baseline to post video game play.

Whichever side of the argument you may land on, the opposition is fierce. The debate of whether violent video games produce violent children will rage on, both sides undoubtedly not losing any momentum with their opinions. Video game companies will continue to protect their multibillion dollar investment while parents and psychologists will continue putting pressure on lawmakers and the media to dive further into the numerous studies conducted on the possible link. References Barlett, C. , Branch, O. , Rodeheffer, C. nd Harris, R. (2009), How long do the short-term violent video game effects last? Aggressive Behavior, 35: 225–236. Whitworth, D (2010, May 01). Red Dead Redemption hoping for emotional response. BBC. Retrieved 02/01/2011, from http://www. bbc. co. uk/newsbeat/10136311 Nizza, M (2007, July 05). Tying Columbine to Video Games. The New York Times. Retrieved 02/02/2011, from http://thelede. blogs. nytimes. com/2007/07/05/tieing-columbine-to-video-games/ O’Toole, M (2000) The School Shooter: A Threat Assessment Perspective. p. 0. Retrieved 02/01/2011, from http://www. fbi. gov/stats-services/publications/school-shooter Olson, C et al. (2007). Factors Correlated with Violent Video Game Use by Adolescent Boys and Girls. Journal of Adolescent Health. Retrieved January 29, 2011, from http://www. jahonline. org/article/S1054-139X(07)00027-4/abstract. Croteau, S. (2010, November 26). Virtual Violence – Video game developers say blame misplaced. Telegram. Retrieved 01/31/2011 from http://www. telegram. com/article/20101126/NEWS/11260474/0/eworcester

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