The Correlation Between Violent Video Games and Aggressive Human Behavior

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The video game industry has become one of the largest forms in entertainment today. DFC Intelligence (2006) states that the video game industry will grow from $29 billion in 2005 to $44 billion in 2011. On its opening day of November 9, 2004 the very popular first person shooter (FPS) Halo 2 logged a first day sales record of $125 million outdoing the reigning opening weekend ruler at the box office, 2002’s Spider Man, which sold $115 million in a three day period (McEachern, 2005). Despite this industry’s growing popularity there have been many debates regarding its affect on the human behavior. With the previous events and tests, it is evident as to why violent video games result in increased aggressive human behavior.

Recent school shootings by boys with a history of playing violent video games, at Bethel, AL; Paducah, KY; Jonesboro, AR; and Littleton, CO, have instigated public debate about the role played by this relatively new entertainment medium (Walsh, 1999, p. 423). Graham (2000), a 30 year veteran police officer, states that the school shooting in Kentucky involved one student shooting and killing six fellow students in the head. This student had no prior history of using a real weapon, but had spent more than 10,000 hours playing a video game in which the player was rewarded for shooting the enemy in the head. Perhaps the initiator of this topic, the Columbine High School Massacre, involved two students on April 20, 1999 carrying out a shooting rampage that killed 12 fellow students and a teacher, as well as wounding 24 other students before committing suicide. They were both avid gamers, and one of the killers, Eric Harris, was known for his website that hosted levels for the FPS game DOOM that he created as well as his later threats of shooting up his school (Wikipedia, 2006).

With events like these it has caused many to perform tests to try and determine whether video games actually cause aggression or if individuals are over exaggerating this subject. One study included 607 eighth and ninth grade students participating from four different schools. The test results showed that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more hostile, reported getting into arguments with teachers more frequently, were more likely to be involved in physical fights, and performed more poorly in school (Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004). There have also been tests on the different types of video games and what affects came from them. Rewarding violent game actions increased hostile emotion, aggressive thinking, and aggressive behavior. Punishing violent actions increased hostile emotion, but did not increase aggressive behavior. Results suggest that games that reward violent actions can increase aggressive behavior by increasing aggressive thinking (Carnagey & Anderson, 2005, P. 882).

Fig. 1. - Effect of video-game exposure on aggressive affect, aggressive cognition, and aggressive behavior. Results are shown separately for participants who played a game in which violence was rewarded, participants who played the same game but with violence punished, and participants who played a nonviolent version of the same game. Note. (From The Effects of Reward and Punishment in Violent Video Games on Aggressive Affect, Cognition, and Behavior, 2005.)

Even with all of the previous events, tests, and results there will always have those who disagree. Lowenstein (2004) states that some studies define violence as “the intentional injury of another person,” but he argues that it is illogical to compare vaporizing animated characters to the intentional killing of a real human being. He also states that many players perceive the aggressive content as fantastic and preposterous, with the result of them not taking it seriously, as they do not perceive their own actions as harming others since they understand that the animated characters are not real and do not feel pain. I agree with...
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