Synthesis Essay "Do Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior?"

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Violent Video Games Made Me Do It

School shootings years ago in Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Littleton Colorado, have raised the question time and time again. Do violent video games have an influence on children and their aggressive behavior? In all three of these brutal shootings, all the shooters were students who habitually played violent video games. The Columbine High School students who murdered thirteen and wounded twenty-three in Littleton before committing suicide after the shooting, enjoyed playing Doom, a bloody and violent video game. One of the shooters made a customized version of Doom: two shooters, unlimited ammunition, extra weapons, and victims who couldn’t fight back. This customized version of the game was surprisingly similar to the actual school shooting.

To investigate this question to find out if it is true, I read two articles: “Does Playing Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior?”, by Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, and “Children and Violent Video Games: Are There ‘High Risk’ Players?”, by Jeanne B. Funk. In Goldstein’s article, he explains that controlled experiments cannot determine if violent video games cause aggressive behavior in children. He argues that children choose to play those violent video games because they want to be stimulated in that way. He argues that this cannot be truly measured because kids do not “play” when they are being tested in a laboratory. He says, “They

enter an imaginary world with a playful frame of mind, something entirely missing from laboratory studies of violent video games. One of the pleasures of play is this very suspension of reality. Laboratory experiments cannot tell us what the effects of playing video games are, because there is no sense in which participants in these studies ‘play’” (Goldstein 43). However Goldstein does believe that violent video games in some way, there is just no clear way to prove it. In Funk’s article, she argues that some children are more vulnerable to aggressive behavior than others because they are drawn to violent video games from pre-existing adjustment problems. She calls these children “high risk” players. Like Goldstein, she also believes that children play these violent games because they want to be stimulated in that way, it just depends on the child and their situation on how they react to it. She says that children know that they understand the rules in these violent games do not apply to rules in real-life. They understand what is right and wrong when it comes to these violent video games, but they still enjoy playing them. She also says that the direct relationship between violent video games and violent behavior remains to be determined.

Both Funk and Goldstein recognize that there could be a link between violent video games and violent behavior, but both believe that other factors need to be taken into play before making the assumption that only the nature of the video game is the reason for a child’s aggressive behavior. But neither of them gives specific examples where children acted out aggressively from a violent video game that wasn’t in a controlled experiment. The study of this problem needs to shift from focusing on lab experiments altogether and focus on real-life, day-to-day interactions with violent video games to determine whether or not they cause aggressive behavior. Studies should be focused on examples like the school shootings, or any acts of

violence in school or at home, to see if they are video game related. Neither of them also gives any positives that can come from playing these violent games.

Funk and Goldstein both realize that children may be affected by violent video games, but they disagree on the reasons why they are affected. Funk believes that a child’s age, social situation, or emotional problems are the only reasons why they could be affected negatively by these video games. For example, Funk says that a bully or a victim of a bully is more likely to...
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