Video Games and Violence : are Games Really a Bad Influence, or Just a Convenient Scapegoat?by Theresa Hus Content Writer for RealEstateAgent.com
Today, video games are ubiquitous. Walking on the street, you’ve probably heard groups of children excitedly discussing their favorite games or gawking at new titles in the window of their local Gamestop. In the supermarket or the electronics store, the shelves are lined with the newest triple-A video games, in a variety of genres, for a variety of different platforms.
And that’s fine! Video games are great, right? Many studies show that video games improve higher brain function, increase multitasking capabilities, and lengthen attention spans. They bring people together and strengthen friendships in new and interesting ways, foster teamwork and encouraging communication.
For those of us who grew up playing video games, the sight of a now-outmoded console like the Gamecube brings back fond memories of pizza, sleepovers and childhood friendships. Summer nights spent racing your buddies in Mario Kart or skillfully beating the living daylights out of them in Super Smash Brothers are among our fondest memories.
Unfortunately, however, in recent years video games have been associated with some far more unpleasant discussions. As if raising your kids wasn’t difficult enough already, another question is now being asked: can video games can be linked to violent tendencies in children who play them? At first, you may be inclined to answer “yes” to this question, but upon further examination of the subject, the answer might not be so clear-cut.
While there are certainly a number of different ways in which electronics, specifically video games can negatively affect young children. Even teens can be negatively affected. Video game addiction, unhealthy sleep schedules and other unfortunate side effects can certainly appear if left unchecked. However, in this article we’ll focus primarily on whether or not video games cause violence.
Do video games cause violence?
In recent months, we’ve seen video games blamed for the shocking uptick in violent acts of terror such as the Parkland school shooting. Many individuals and organizations have postulated that these tragedies were due at least in part to the exposure of young children and teenagers to violent video games.
These individuals and groups, among whom are many mainstream media outlets and even the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and many other important and influential figures. However, upon closer examination, these claims lose a lot of their credibility.
Take, for example, the most common complaint against video games: excessive blood and gore. As the argument goes, seeing such grisly, horrifying imagery desensitizes children to bloodshed and makes them more comfortable with the idea of killing someone. Let’s dig in.
Mature Media is for Mature People
One of the biggest problems with blaming video games for violence becomes apparent when you compare them to other similar forms of entertainment. This is simply because virtually every art form or form of entertainment has subgenres that we would generally consider unsuitable for children.
Books have featured shockingly vivid descriptions of horrific imagery and gratuitous vice. Paintings have portrayed decadent hedonism, music has been sung recounting gruesome or crude tales of violence and promiscuity. More recently, the film and television industry has become saturated by a glut of ultra-violent and hypersexualized R-rated films and shows.
Video games are no exception, While there are thousands of titles suitable for all different age groups, there are also plenty of games that are neither suitable for nor directed at children. It is true that these games sometimes approach violence with a cavalier tone, but many are quite well written and tell relevant and thought-provoking stories.
A good example is Spec Ops: the Line. Well written and superbly executed, the game is a scathing critique of the fiscally motivated imperialist interventionism that is common among “civilized” western democracies. It deals with singularly relevant political themes and features a brutally accurate depiction of the horrors of modern chemical warfare. This is a product that is unsuitable for all children, and even perhaps some adults.
Another good example of a grounded and compelling game would be Battlefield One. Set in the period of the First World War, the campaign features a number of separate episodic storylines detailing a broad range of equally moving themes. These storylines are in equal parts stirring, tragic and compelling, and do a great job of showcasing the different conditions and environments in which the men and women of WW I fought for their countries.
All this is just to say that video games are a valid artistic medium, and obviously not always exclusively for children. As a matter of fact, they are in many cases decidedly not for children. Just like movies, books, TV shows or other forms of entertainment, there are video games that are not intended to be consumed by younger audiences.
Singling out video games for dealing with more mature themes is absurd. To blame video games for their depiction of violence is to blame every film studio, author or network for the same thing to the same extent. Either they’re all guilty or none of them are.
The ratings on films, TV shows, and video games are intended to designate which audience a product is intended for. As a parent, it is your responsibility to monitor what media your child consumes. If you were to buy your child the complete box set of Game of Thrones and then leave them to watch it unattended, it isn’t HBO’s fault, it’s yours. Right?
Are violent video games comparable to violent movies?
One of the most common counterpoints to the previous argument is that video games are not comparable to other forms of media because of the inherent element of interactivity that is present. At first, this seems like a plausible argument. Reasonable even. But upon further investigation, this argument fails to remain convincing.
Let me explain. First of all, let’s look at some books, movies, and shows that are considered to be exceptional examples of entertainment in their medium. First, let’s look at some books: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Both feature complex and morally questionable protagonists who are relatable and understandable, while still having serious character flaws.
In TV, some of the most critically acclaimed shows are Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones. As with the books previously mentioned, these also feature morally ambiguous but ultimately empathetic characters. In cinema, the same basic concept is present, with films like The Godfather and Citizen Kane following the same template.
So what does this have to do with video games, you ask? The answer is simple. In whichever medium, art is portrayed, heavy emphasis is put on making us relate to or understand the characters the art is portraying. You are put into the shoes of the protagonist, regardless of whether or not their actions are justifiable. You assume their identity, wincing when they are hurt, cheering when they succeed and despairing when they lose hope. This is what makes a good story; making the consumer relate to and understand the characters.
This relationship between immersion and empathy revolving around the characters of a story is also one central to video games. The interactivity in video games is simply a mechanism to further immerse oneself in the story and world of the game, serving the same purpose as the empathetic characters of good books, films, and TV shows. If this is the case.
Do violent video games make you more violent?
Now that I’ve (hopefully) established why video games shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as worse than films or TV shows or books, you may be saying “well that’s all well and good, but what do the scientists say?” Are people who play video games more likely to be violent? According to the University of Oxford, the answer is no.
In an academic study conducted by the University of Oxford found that there is little or no evidence to support the idea that video games, violent or otherwise, inspire violence. The study surveyed a wide range of test subjects and compensated for a variety of potentially subjective factors, to reach as unbiased a conclusion as possible. Over 2,000 male subjects between 15-16 years of age were surveyed, and they reached the conclusion that video games do not, in fact, create a tendency towards violence.
Researchers have actually suggested that video games can actually have quite the opposite effect, by providing an outlet for unhealthy emotions. It has been speculated that taking out aggressive impulses out on faceless or inhuman in-game antagonists can actually help with behavior modification.
This issue will likely remain contentious as long as video games are blamed by politicians and the media for violence. One can only hope that we as a society can tackle the issues causing violence in today’s communities, and resolve them. Whether you agree with the arguments laid out here or not, we hope you’ve at least given the issue some thought.
Created on Dec 19th 2019 09:38. Viewed 382 times.