The Effect of Modern War Games on the Prejudices of Children

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Aron Rottier
Prof. Emma Ramey
Writing 150-37
25 October 2011
The Effect of Modern War Games on the Prejudices of Children
The rise of video games among youth in recent decades has spurred many new studies into the psychological effects of continued video game usage on a high level. According to a study by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, 97% of children and teens play video games (Lenhart, 2008). Video games and violence have also had a positive correlation, meaning they have some relation to each other in increased violence levels in adolescents. In recent years there have been a multitude of multi-platform supported games all with a plot that involves Middle Eastern cultures in a negative context. Could the effect of psychological conditioning and consistent positive reinforcement from the gameplay against radical Islamic terrorist groups develop into prejudices and generalized stigmas toward Middle Eastern cultures? These games that are being represented also share a close similarity to military simulation used to condition soldiers to combat, which I believe also proves that aggressive gameplay is indeed supportive, if not at part causal, for aggressive actions or thoughts.

The groups who would be affected most by this would be children and teens, as they have the highest usage on a regular basis with teens up to fifty percent who had played a game “yesterday” (How Can Advertisers, 2009). Looking at both the pervasive and regular usage of children under the age of eighteen, it seems evident that whatever effect may be present would be experienced by a large portion of youth. Video game usage for these youth is happening at a time in their lives when they are forming and developing social ideology. In the stage of human development at this time in their lives, full reasoning skill and acknowledgement of the fact that it is only a game may not be present in all children.

The game itself would be very important in the way that it would affect the player. In the same study done by The Pew Internet & American Life Project, 86% of teens play games on a console such as a Xbox 360 or PS3 and 73% play games on their computer (Sood, 2008). If we look at record sales of games in the last few years we can see that the Call of Duty series has been extremely successful. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare sold more than 13 million copies since released according to figures from 2009 since the game was released in late 2007(Activision to Showcase, 2009). Its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2, set records with selling 4.7 million copies within 24 hours of its release (Molina, 2009). Another hit game series is Battlefield, especially in its versions Bad Company 2 and now Battlefield 3. In all of these blockbuster and hit games that were just mentioned there is an element of Arab hostility in which the player has to fight against a Middle Eastern militia or military faction. With video games now emerging as a significant industry affecting millions of people, we must consider what possible impact these games could be making on their customers. The psychological effect of conditioning is always in use by our brain, as it perceives stimuli and attempts to analyze it in conjunction to the situation surrounding it. This effect has been experimented on by many, but was fathered by Ivan P. Pavlov and later deeply researched by B. F. Skinner, a strong behaviorist (Staddon, 2003). This psychological paradigm states that all actions can be accounted for, both experimentally and in one’s natural development, by conditioning. Classical conditioning is based on the basic principles of a response that is generated by an unconditioned stimulus (US) which then results in an unconditioned response (UR). In cases, conditioning takes place when certain elements are present that, by themselves, initially do not produce the corresponding UR, this is called the conditioned stimulus (CS). After the conditioning process has occurred, the CS...
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