Argumentative Essay

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Ricker 1 Heather Ricker Professor Lunsford English 167 23 September 2004 Video Games: Buyers Beware! “Stay alive at all costs! Find the key! Kill the bad guys!” This is how one eighth-grader describes the principles of playing video games. Such games might seem like harmless fun, but what if the violence attracts and addicts young players, affecting their behavior and their view of reality? Some say that violent video games have minimal impact on young teenagers, pointing out that most video-game players live completely normal lives. The weaknesses in that argument are almost too obvious: first, “most” is not “all.” More important, just because a player does not immediately imitate specific violent acts found in video games does not mean the games will have no long-term negative impact on that player’s views and behavior. Because of this possibility, parents should assume responsibility for evaluating video games and should prohibit young teenagers from purchasing those that are especially violent. To begin with, a number of authorities claim that playing a violent video game does present a threat to the user’s psychological health. As early as 1983, Geoffrey and Elizabeth Loftus, in their book Mind at Play: The Psychology of Video Games, warned about the dangers of violent video games: “Although we can never be sure in any individual case, a substantial body of evidence indicates that viewing excessive violence on the screen is associated with aggression and violent behavior among

Source: Andrea A. Lunsford (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004)

Ricker 2 children and teenagers” (98). More recently, studies have measured changes in behavior and emotional responses to video games, ranging from “assertiveness” (Journal of Child Study, qtd. in Boal, “Shooters”) and withdrawal (Jeanne Funk, qtd. in Boal, “One Step”) to “aggression, anger, and hostility” (A. Mehrabian and W. J. Wixen, qtd. in “Social Effects,” sec. 1). While Mediascope, the publication of a nonprofit research organization, concludes from its survey of research on video game playing that there are not sufficient studies, especially of current games, to make any definitive statements about the dangers of video-game use (“Social Effects”), parents should be concerned--maybe more so precisely because so few studies have been conducted. In addition, playing violent video games adversely affects psychological health by actually addicting players. One of the most troubling influences video games have on players is the medium’s remarkable ability to fixate a player’s attention or, to borrow psychologist Sherry Turkle’s term, its “holding power” (30), a state well illustrated in Fig. 1. Addictive reactions in the body can be linked to some of the visual and aural signals found in video games--signals that cause the eyes, for example, to stop blinking for extended periods. This phenomenon triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter thought by some to be the “master molecule of addiction” (Quittner). Is this chemical association the reason forty out of the fortyseven top-rated Nintendo games have violence as their theme (Cesarone)? Admittedly, according to a report in the New York Times, the very bestselling games are nonviolent (Miller). But even without being top sellers, the violent games sell well. The National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) rates the

Source: Andrea A. Lunsford (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004)

Ricker 3 violent content of games and concludes that violence is indeed a theme in more than half of the games on the market. As reported by Cesarone, the NCTV rates 55.7 percent of games as unfit or highly violent. Games that mimic military combat training not only encourage brutality but also totally ignore teaching players about restraint-one more reason violent games should be offlimits. One of the main proponents of this Fig. 1. Bill Varie, Boy Playing a Video Game, Corbis, 12 Sept. Grossman, an expert witness in federal and 2004 ....
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