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Violence in Video Games

February 3, 2010

Do video games cause real-world violence? To many, the answer is an obvious “yes.” Unfortunately, misinformation and ignorance fuels the arguments of the uninformed, and causes them to strike out so harshly against something they hardly understand. Parents are very familiar with movies. They will let their child watch a Disney movie, and stop them from watching SAW V. Parents have a deep understanding of the film industry’s products, and understand that kids aren’t really supposed to watch these R-rated movies meant for adults. They understand that watching somebody wield a gun in a movie won’t necessarily cause the viewer to dart to his nearest gun store. Video games aren’t as familiar of a medium, and so parents can’t really make those connections. This is unfamiliar to them, and probably somewhat scary as well.

The idea that violent video games cause actual violence was brought about largely by the school-shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, simply dubbed “Columbine.” The actions of the two students who went on the killing spree, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were explained to be caused by the excessive amounts of video games that they played. People believed this for 10 years, mainly because that is what was explained by officials such as Jack Thomson, active video game protester and now-disbanded layer who has yet to win a case. The word of video game caused violence spread like an airborne disease, and many began to support anti video game efforts without a full comprehension of how kids react to them. It wasn’t for 10 years that researchers actually looked deeper into the Columbine case and actually produced accurate results. Peter Langman, author of Why Kids Kill: Inside the Minds of School Shooters, discovered that the two students had deep set psychological issues before video games even became a factor. He tells that “These are not ordinary kids who played too many video games. These are not ordinary kids who just wanted to be famous. These are simply not ordinary kids. These are kids with serious psychological problems.”

Violent crime rate. The emergence of violent video games has certainly made a big impact on crime... right?

Whether or not violent video games cause real-world violence has researches and hobbyists alike on a frantic and furious mission to discover the truth and argue their case. John P. Murray, a psychology professor at Kansas State University, says that a group of kids playing games for a short span of time caused “an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention.” When the kids where subjected to short clips from the boxing movie “Rocky IV,” the same feelings and emotions were shown at roughly the same scale. So these games, that arguably cause the youth to commit such nefarious acts, are about as likely to actually cause conflict, as say, Rambo. A researcher at England’s University of Essex, Patrick Kierkegaard, comments “Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. With millions of sales of violent games, the world should be seeing an epidemic of violence. Instead, violence has declined.” In fact, juveniles who commit acts of violence often consume far less media than most average citizens, according to a recent study.

Many adults consider video games to just be a mindless release of emotion and anger, but they what they are ignoring is far more important. Many researchers and authors, from Ralph Kosher to Ian Bogost, talk about the positive effects of video games on not only children, but adults as well. Professor Oscar Williams at the University of Illinois, says that “Games are about solving problems, and it should tell us something that kids race home from school where they are often bored to get on games and solve problems. Clearly we need to capture that lightning in a bottle.” He also discusses the ability of games to teach, when saying “How often can someone direct and coordinate a group of eight or 40 real people to accomplish a complex task, as they do in these role-playing games? That’s a real skill.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 10, 2010 4:06 am

    I think the focus on video games is, because older generations don’t understand games. There is no strong scientific link between games and realworld violence. You only have to look at the low crime statistics in Japan to figure that one out. For more info you can read on my blog. I would really appreciate it if you would share your point of view on my opinion article!
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