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Video Game Violence

Abstract

The debate on whether video game violence is associated with violent behaviors like mass killings has remained controversial for over two decades now. Hearing about media outlets putting the blame on violent video games whenever a shooting disaster occurs in large scale is no longer a surprise. Some scholars and findings point to the indication that video gaming is related to such violent behaviors as mass killings, school shooting, and bullying. On the other hand, those opposing the existence of a relationship between violence in video games and real-world violence like mass killings have maintained that no study has ever proved the alleged notion. Though saying that violent video games are mass murder simulations may be an overstatement, violent video games cannot be said to be just games.

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The increasing cases of mass killing have led to increase in concern about the role that video games have played in this process. Putting the blame on video games whenever there is a mass shooting has been a common phenomenon. Hearing about media outlets putting the blame on violent video games whenever a shooting disaster occurs in large scale is no longer a surprise. The debate whether video game violence is to be blamed for mass killings had been on the right from the year 1999 when 13 people were massacred in Jefferson Country, Columbia High School. This was after a revelation that the two students who carried out the shootings avid players of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, which is a weapon-based combat game. With such revelations, though saying that violent video games are mass murder simulations may be an overstatement, it may also not be fitting to claim that violent video games are just like other games.

The controversy on this issue started in the year 1993 after the release of two video games, Night Trap and Mortal Kombat which elicited public outcry. This made the congress debate on the need to regulate video games sales. The argument was that the games desensitized young impressionable minds (ProCon.org, 2014). The debate culminated into the setting up of a regulatory commission at the federal level. Subsequently, the Entertainment Software Rating Board was voluntarily established by the video game industry stakeholders. The board created a system that would see the effect of every video game being rated to establish the effect they would have on the players (ProCon.org, 2014).

Those who advocate for video games have continued to argue that violent video games are just games like any other game or form of entertainment. They maintain that most of the studies done on this topic are biased. To them, there is no causal relationship between such social violence acts as mass killings and violent video games. The argument of this group is that there is a high probability that those who play violent video games will realize a reduction in violence. This is because the game will reduce their possibility of being involved in tumble and rough play. The argument is that violent video games act as a substitute to worse forms of play, since it provides its players with a safe outlet for both angry and aggressive feelings (ProCon.org, 2014). The claims are supported by findings of another study conducted by Cheryl Olson and Christopher Ferguson. The authors had found out that taking part in video games even had a calming effect on those youths who have attention deficit symptoms (Nauert, 2013). With such revelations, some scholars have emphasized on the need for the society to stop its continued use of violent video games as an excuse for failing to address such problems as xenophobia, gun laws, religious fundamentalism and issues of mental health which contribute to aggressive actions and motivations (Perez, 2012).

On the contrary, scholars who argue that video game violence is mass murder simulation attribute the majority of school shootings to avid gamers. The notion is that children who play video games are normally desensitized to violence and rewarded for having stimulated violence. This way, it teaches children that violence is among the accepted conflict resolution methods. Such children grow up having been trained to kill (Usher, 2013). A study conducted in 2005 linked the exposure to violent video games to a reduction in P300 brains amplitudes. This effect is closely linked to increased violence and aggressive behaviors and has also been used to explain certain cases of mass killings (ProCon.org, 2014).

Initially, the inability of scholars who were opposing video game violence to demonstrate the link between the real-world violence and video game violence had been the major argument of those in support of video games being similar to other games. Their argument was that there ought to have been an increase in violent crimes associated with juveniles as additional youth join in to play violent video games. On the contrary, a study conducted between 1995 and 2008 revealed a tremendous fall in the rate of crime among juveniles, by 49.3%. It was surprising that it was during the same period that the amount of video games that were sold quadrupled (ProCon.org, 2014).

Another argument by this group is that even though video games started in 1970s, the issues of mass killings only became great concern since 1990s. This followed the innovation of such systems as the Sony Play Station. The system made it possible for artists to come up with new lifelike graphics at a faster rate. As the graphics became more lifelike, there has been an increasing level of interest in as far as the relationship between such violent behaviors as mass killings and violent video games are concerned (Barker & Petley, 2005).

However, there have been additional findings to discredit such arguments and reinforce the existence of relationship between violent video games and such acts of violence as mass killings. It is a simple fact that gaming has never been passive. For one to play and manage to win, he/ she must be an aggressor. It is unlike watching violence on TV. Here, the player is actually committing the act of violence. Some researchers have attributed the kind of active participation required in video gaming to certain negative thoughts normally expressed by avid gamers. The case of a murderer at an Alaska high school who used a gun to kill a number of his classmates is a good example. While being interviewed by Evan Ramsey, the boy said, I did not understand that if I...pull out a gun and shoot you, theres a good chance you are not getting back up (Usher, 2013). He added, You shoot a guy in Doom and he gets back up. You have got to shoot the things in Doom eight or nine times before it dies (Usher, 2013).

Another issue has been the fact that even after committing such acts of violence as mass killings, the gamers receive rewards and are not being punished. This is evident in sniper and army games where players are able to level up depending on the number of people they have been able to kill. This is the reason behind the argument that frequent gamers, especially the young people, get their perception regarding violence and its resulting consequences being skewed. Whenever they are rewarded, video gamers do exhibit increased levels of their aggressive behaviors such as wanting to play again and kill more people. This is directly opposite to what normally happens in case of other games where there is a punishment of violence. Thus, violent video gamers are more likely to grow into being mass killers compared to those who prefer other games (Video Game Addiction, 2013).

The position that video game violence could be related to such violent acts as mass killings is best explained through the General Aggressive Model. The model had been developed by Bushman and Anderson in the year 2002. The two scholars based their arguments on the role of thoughts, physiological responses, and feelings in peoples interpretation of behavior. They observed that some people will naturally be hostile (Barker & Petley, 2005). The GAM also acknowledges that there is a possibility that gamers interpretation of aggressive acts do change when they are exposed to violent games. Also changing is how they respond to such acts. The study revealed that even people who are not predisposed to aggressive acts show an increase in the level of hostility in their response after taking part in a violent video game (Aboujaoude & Koran, 2004). In this case, violent game plays the role of a situational variable and change video game players way of reacting to aggressive behavior, as well as their perception of the same. It means those who take part in these games can easily be involved in such aggressive acts as shootings (Gimpel, 2013).

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In conclusion, though saying that violent video games are mass murder simulations may be an overstatement, it may also not be fitting to claim that violent video games are just games. With the findings in this study, the theory that when one is excessively exposed to violent video games, the likelihood of him/ her forming aggressive beliefs and attitudes and making gamers less sensitive to violent behaviors is very true. Even with no clinical documentation on how video game violence will affect its players in the long term, its increasing trend over the last few decades indicates its potential in increasing cases of mass killings. Evidently, violent video games are not just games and parents must control the amount of time their children are spending playing video games while also monitoring the effects.

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