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Video Games and Violence: The Link Revisited

/ Jan 10th, 2013 No Comments

Gamestop Riot

The video game and violence link seems to be an old one, but it has a tendency to get re-examined whenever violence occurs and the offender is linked to video games with violent content. On Dec 14 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary was hit by an unimaginable tragedy. A 20-year old man shot and killed 26 people, 20 of them being children. There are no words that can describe the magnitude of such a disaster. It seems to be an act of pure madness without a sign of empathy for human life. When something like this occurs, it’s important to explore every possible cause and effect phenomena in existence to get to the bottom of it. Not only to try restore some sense of sanity, basic safety, and closure, but also in order to try and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

[adsense250itp]Violent video games do not get a free pass. Naturally, the controversy over violent video games and their effect on violent behavior is being re-ignited. It’s not an issue to be thrown aside as if it couldn’t be true, but the link between video game violence and real-life violence also fails to gain much evidence in its favor. The data in this area is all over the place. Some studies show that playing violent video games leads to violent acts in the future, while others show absolutely no link between the two. Besides that, there are criticisms of studies on both ends of the spectrum. Those that claim substantial links between video game violence and real-world acts of violence leave a lot to be desired. They are usually biased and their study methods flawed and/or limited. Beyond that, critics are quick to point to the fact that correlation is not the same as causality. Studies that don’t produce any evidence of the link between violence and video games seem to be accused of not looking closely enough. It seems pretty logical that someone who has the potential to commit violent crimes probably has a taste in movies, music, and video games that reflects those traits. So, do violent games make violent people? Or do violent people just happen to like violent games? Let’s dive right into the information that could be generally agreed upon in the context of this controversial issue.

One major theory that’s published in the Review of General Psychology claims that certain individuals are more susceptible to being influenced by the violence that exists in mass media. This doesn’t suggest that video game violence actually increases violence among the general population, but rather that those with “high neuroticism, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness” are solid candidates to be influenced to act out violence in real-life by mass media containing violence. In truth, it’s not hard to see that in the world around us. All the way from people who get inspired to steal something after watching a great heist film to the way that violent individuals and groups would be inspired and even feel morally content with committing violent acts if properly justified by religious media (holy books, inspirational speeches etc.). After some basic reflection, this seems like fairly intuitive knowledge without much room for debate. Plenty of studies have been done on this, and the conclusion always seems to end up being that there are other far more substantial predictors of violence than video games. Things like violent fantasies, general obsession with violence, and living in a home in which violence is common. But, even then, some people follow in their families’ footsteps, while others spend their lives with the mission to be as unlike the family they grew up with as possible. It seems as if community leaders and politicians are seeking answers that just aren’t as clear cut as they’d like them to be. If we’re being honest, there is literally no plausible way to prevent these events from happening. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be pin-pointed simplistically, like by finding out whether certain kids like violent video games or not. It’s abnormally difficult to try to find a gamer that doesn’t enjoy the violence that exists in games. Arguably, this could also act as a therapeutic and harmless way to release any personal violent jitters that may exist within the kids’ minds. At the same time, there is evidence which shows that playing violently stimulating games can cause gamers to become temporarily more aggressive, but it never goes much further than some annoying aggressive behavior that produces no tragic consequences.

With this information in mind, there is really only so much people can do. It is probably completely impossible to prevent a tragic event like this from happening, because we simply cannot predict which person plays violent video games and is a humane, empathetic, outstanding citizen, and which person plays violent video games to fantasize about what they’re planning to do in real life.

There is a word of advice that should be taken seriously by gamers and parents. If parents notice that their child engages in violent behavior and seems to take a little bit too much joy in the idea of violent acts, maybe it’s better not to buy them a Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty game that could potentially be a platform for them to build upon their violent obsessions. It’s hard to understand why it seems like a mission for parents to get to know their kids a bit. Too many parents just shell out the cash and buy their kids what they want so that they’ll stop whining about not having it. What is the point of the rating system anymore? At least in movie theaters they won’t let someone under 17 buy a ticket without a parent or guardian, and it’s a one-time experience in which the parent can experience it with them and offer some actual parenting after watching it. The problem with video games is that it seems like every kid who wants Call of Duty gets it because their parents don’t want to take the time out to actually be parents, and once they buy the game for the kid, he/she gets to play it all day and all night if they want to, especially if the parents aren’t around the house. So, in short, it can be dangerous for parents not to be parents to their children. They need to take the time out to get to know their kids’ strengths, weaknesses, hopes, desires, mentalities, and behavioral tendencies. They also need to take the time out to get to know what kind of products they’re buying their kids, and how it might affect them based on their specific personalities. Maybe events of horrible and spontaneous violence cannot be prevented with 100% confidence  but people can do something to pay attention to those around them (kids, friends, family members, etc.) and try to help create an environment where peace and non-violence is the goal.

Alejandro Grover

Alejandro Grover

Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Alejandro is an official contributor at Gaming Illustrated and part of the editorial team. He loves movies, video games, and music. He is also a composer.
Alejandro Grover
Alejandro Grover

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