10 Reasons Violent Video Games Contribute To Youth Violence
For most of the population under the age of 40 it will seem as though computer games have been around their whole lives. From the beginning with simple (yet addictive) games like pong games have morphed to become fully immersive real world environments in which a person can lose themselves for an hour or two (or perhaps more) a day.
People who grew up playing Snake, Pac-man or Donkey Kong or even early experiential games like TIE Fighter but who have not played some of the more modern games might be shocked at how realistic the gaming experience is today. Add in an internet connection that allows real time play and communication with other gamers and it really is a very different experience. Many games might be harmless fun but some contain some very disturbing scenarios indeed.
Gaming is a part of modern life whether we like it or not, 97% of US children play video games of one sort or another but the sad truth is that approximately 50% of these games contain violent scenarios that, when enacted, reward the player. We firmly believe that playing such games can contribute to a whole host of problems that result in negative impacts for society and that therefore they have no place on the shelves of American shops (or online warehouses).
We believe that violent video games should be banned and after reading our 10 compelling reasons we think you will agree with us.
10. The US Military Use Video Games To Teach Troops To Kill
It may seem somewhat surprising but in recent years the US military has turned to video game manufacturers to help develop training tools for US soldiers. When we think rationally, however, it should not surprise us at all. After all pilots use high tech simulators to learn to fly new aircraft and land at new airports so why should the military not put technology to good use.
The truth is violent video games are very effective at teaching people how to shoot and kill. In 1996 the US Marine Corps worked with Doom to create Marine Doom an interactive video game. By 2002 the American Army had released their own ‘shoot em up’ game called, unsurprisingly ’America’s Army’ to aid in recruitment drives. The game was, at the time, one of the most realistic weapons games ever designed.
A psychology professor from West Point says that allowing civilians to access violent video games without the support, discipline and context that military training provides allows them an introduction to some serious weapons technology.
When this technology is used from the comfort of home to ‘kill’ people without consequences the ‘safety catch’ that exists within the brain of most people is disabled when these games are played regularly. The net result is that playing violent video games provides people not only with the skills (taught by the game) to kill but also disables the normal psychological restraints that prevent them from doing so.
9. Video Games With A Negative Attitude Towards Women Encourage Such Attitudes In Real Life
Negative attitudes towards women are still pervasive across some sections of society. Sadly some video games play up to these negative attitudes by expanding on them and incorporating them into their games.
Many choose to treat women as sexual objects with no other role other than to satisfy men. Studies of such games have led to very worrying results. In 2012 a review in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that games featuring women as objects and encouraging violence towards women within the game result in those who play the game developing an attitude of hostility to rape victims.
These concerns are not new. Reviews in 1998 showed that 21% of games involved some level of violence towards women and that 28% of them treated women as nothing more than sex objects. One more modern game (Grand Theft Auto V) includes a scenario where the gamer can choose to murder a prostitute in order to recover their money.
The real concern is that the more those who play violent video games are exposed to (fictional and on screen) situations where their character reacts violently towards women the more likely they are to behave in this way in real life. As time goes on a player will be more likely to view women as inviting rape. Through exposure to the game a gamers psyche will start inextricably to link sexual gratification with violence.
8. People Who Play Violent Video Games Tend To Have Lower Empathy And Are Less Kind
Empathy is a particularly important personal skill. It grants a person the ability to understand the feelings of others and therefore the impact that their behavior has. It is a powerful inhibitor of bad behavior. Empathy as a skill is something that we learn to develop from early childhood onwards.
Playing violent video games leads, it seems, to a reduction in the capacity of someone to show empathy. Tests on the impact of playing violent games show that those who play them are significantly less likely to want to help others while children who play video games with a violent element to them are significantly less moral than their peers. While concern has been raised, in the past, about violent videos (Child’s Play springs to mind) it seems that violent video games are in a completely different league and are the only form of media that can truly damage a child’s ability to develop or maintain empathic skills.
The reason violent video games have a much greater impact than any other form of violent media is because of the unique combination of the on screen violence and the viewer/gamer’s participation in the events they see unfolding. The gamer is not just a passive viewer but a key player in what happens. They choose which path to take and then watch as the results of their decisions unfold on the screen. However, because of the nature of the media they are never exposed to the negative impact that their choices have on others leading them to believe they can act as they want with impunity.
7. Playing Violent Video Games Desensitizes People to Violence In Real Life
We have already seen (above) that violent video games can result in a reduction in the capacity for empathic behavior in gamers. This is because the gamer is an active participant in the fame.
Playing violent video games for no more than 20 minutes a day has been shown to have an impact on a gamers’ understanding of the effects of real life violence. Effectively they become less provoked by violence or, in other words, it takes more violent behavior to shock people exposed to violent video games. Those who play violent video games are much more likely to respond to real life scenarios with greater levels of aggression than their peers who do not play such games.
The level of violence that children are exposed to through participation in violent video games is not small. It is estimated that, by the time they turn 18, an American child will have seen approximately 16,000 murders (and many more acts of extreme violence) through all forms of media but, most particularly, video games. This level of violence is simply not normal and the impact it has on our young people is of significant cause for concern.
6. Children Imitate The Actions Of Characters From The Games And Find It Difficult To Separate Reality And Fantasy
Violent media is a problem, over 280 studies have shown that those who watch violent media become more aggressive (known as the aggressor effect) but they also see the world as a much more frightening place in which they need to protect themselves, for example by carrying weapons (the victim effect) and of course, as we have seen above, it causes people to be desensitized to violence and reduces their capacity for empathy.
While this is true of all violent media the problems are exacerbated with video games. When children play video games they really enter into the spirit of things. Many times they are not just playing a game they are the character and they are dealing with the challenges and issues that confront them in the scenarios they face. Unlike a film, a game requires a player to be an active participant and to make certain choices that impact on the flow and story of the game. This makes for a fun (if troubling) experience for the children. The problem comes when they put the game away and return to real life for a few hours. Their experiences in the video games have conditioned them to respond to situations in a certain way and have desensitized them to violence. When faced with a difficult situation, therefore, they respond in the way they do on screen, i.e. violently. This troubling phenomenon was acknowledged by Supreme Court Justice Breyer in his powerful dissenting opinion in Brown v ESA in which he stated ‘the closer a child’s behavior comes, not to watching but to acting out horrific violence, the greater the potential psychological harm’.