Does violence in video games lead to real violence?
97% of 12-17 year olds in the US played video games in 2008, thus fueling an $11.7 billion domestic video game industry. In 2008, 10 of the top 20 best-selling video games in the US contained violence. (ProCon.com) Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics of violent video games argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts. On the other hand exposure to violent video games has not been shown to be predictive of violent behavior or crime. The link found between video games and violence is best explained by other variables.
Critics say that bullying can be attributed to the popularity of violent video games. In a 2010 survey of over 40,000 teenagers asked teens about their experiences with bullying. Half (50%) of the teenagers surveyed admitted to participating in bullying in some form or another. While just under half (47%) said that they were the victims of bulling (Hicks, 2011). A book published in 2008 called Grand Theft Childhood, says that 60% of boys who played a mature-rated game hit or acted violently towards someone, compared to the 39% of the boys who did not play a mature-rated game (Kutner & Olsen, 2008).
Advocates for video games have said that bullying was around long before even television was created. Violence in movies and on television have not been blamed for bullying so why video games? Even the authors of the book Grand Theft Childhood, with a third author, wrote in a scientific journal that playing violent video games lets young boys express aggression and achieve peer group status without physical harm. Playing violent video games lowers the amount of violent behavior in young boys by acting as a substitute for rough play (Olson, Kutner, & Warner, 2008). Most violent video games reward the player for violence of some kind. Critics say that this enhances the learning of violent behaviors. A study published in 1998 shows that players exhibit increased aggressive behavior when games reward violent behavior. Players that do not play violent video games, or are punished for violent behavior show little to no increase in aggressive behavior (Dietz, 1998). Many studies are designed poorly and measure violence and aggression unreliably. Many of the tests that they use to measure violence and aggression confuse the thought of aggression with aggressive behavior. To further complicate matters there have been no long term studies that follow children over a long period of time. In fact, the study Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test of Aggression in an Online Game shows that there is no causal link between violent video games and violent behavior, but the critics charge on and point to other studies that support them (Williams & Skoric, 2005).
It is common in video games for the character in the game to disappear when they “die”; it is also common for characters to have many lives and to keep returning. Critics point to this to say that it desensitizes players to real life violence. The FBI includes violent video games in its list of behaviors of school shooters. Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that children who have had their brain scanned after playing a violent video game show an increase in emotional arousal. At the same time, there is a corresponding decrease in the brain that shows less self-control, inhibition, and attention (Kalning, 2006). In recent news, a criminal profiler on CNN has stated that video games get psychopaths in the mood for killing. He has stated that they use it to train and get excited so that they can go out and do the real thing. This is in relation to the recent shootings that took place in Colorado (Kain, 2012)
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