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Video Games and Violence: Is There a Link?

By Courtessa Mar 24, 2013 1549 Words
Jillian Marcus
Prof. Reitinger
Eng 121-115
23 Oct. 2012
Video Games and Violence: Is There A Link?
Society today surrounds itself in wraps of violence and gore. Popular action movies like The Dark Knight and The Hunger Games are driven by a sadistic taste for heroic kills and survival violence. Music such as rap and hip-hop focus on harassment and abuse. News stations don’t hesitate to present graphic depictions of victims from the latest serial killer. In a world where barbarity runs so rampant throughout the media, the question begs to be asked: Why are video games blamed for violent crimes? Video games have become very technologically and graphically advanced over the years. A game from the PlayStation console in the mid-1990s to early 2000s would not phase parents as the graphics in the game are primitive and unrealistic (as the technology was new). A game from the Xbox 360 console from the early 2000s to now would be very graphically advanced. The developers of modern games incorporate better character interaction, plot, action, and overall design, making the game more enticing and interesting to the player and engrossing the player in the universe of the game. This being addressed, many parents, teachers, and psychologists are concerned about how a couple elements of these games will affect the players. There are arguments that, because of how involved the players are in the game, playing violent games will: desensitize killing, cause social isolation, and evoke aggressive or violent behavior (Anderson). However, there have been positive outcomes from video games. Situational analysis, visuospatial cognition, resource management, perseverance, inductive reasoning, problem solving, strategy, and challenge acceptance are only a few out of many beneficial skills a child or adolescent learns from playing video games, as discussed by Christopher John Ferguson in his paper “The Positive and Negative Effects of Video Games”: Results from the current analysis supported the conclusion that violent video game exposure is associated with increased visuospatial cognition. However, results of the current meta-analysis did not support a relationship between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior (Ferguson 314). This being said, it is not probable that video games cause violence. Tests on this topic remain either mixed or inconclusive, not considering outside factors such as school life, home life, and psychological state of being. Statistics also undermine the claim that violence is caused by video games. Christopher John Ferguson appropriately questions, “…can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?” Theories and hypotheses have been tested on whether or not there is a positive correlation between violent or aggressive behavior and violent video games, all with mixed results and inconclusive data. A study done by C.A. Anderson and C.M. Ford states that hostility and aggressive thoughts were apparent during a high-aggression game, but yielded different results for post-gameplay (Anderson and Ford). Several papers have been written about experiments on violence and video games. The discussions in the papers fail to mention whether or not said experiments took into consideration the subject’s school life, home life, and psychological state of being, almost completely voiding the results of these experiments. Even Anderson and Karen Dill emphasize the importance of these factors in their Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Both kinds of input variables–personological and situational–can influence the present internal state of the person–cognitive, affective, and arousal variables. For example, people who score high on measures of aggressive personality have highly accessible knowledge structures for aggression-related information. They think aggressive thoughts more frequently than do those individuals who score low on aggressive personality measures, and have social perception schemas that lead to hostile perception, expectation, and attributional bias. Without these factors, the results are not valid, making it seem as though the psychologists behind the tests of video games and violence were simply basing their findings off of the Social Cognitive Theory; “a suggestion that people are more likely to imitate characters they see as attractive or similar to self” (Lachlan, Stacy, and Tamborini). In layman’s terms, monkey see, monkey do. Luckily, thanks to whatever made us human (Evolution or God), we are not monkeys. Countless stories of school shootings have named violent video games the cause of such tragedies, specifically the Columbine massacre in 1999. Some argue that “violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior” (Anderson). Many speculators and angry parents simply need something and someone to blame, as the killers often commit suicide after the massacre, leaving the mourning without someone to be angry at. The truth of the matter is that there are numerous factors that lead to violent behavior which are not often considered, such as: school life – are they bullied-- and home life – are they exposed to violent behavior from parents or siblings. The final and most important factor is the psychological state of being: …there are special populations for whom video game violence may pose a particular risk. Specifically, individuals already at risk for violent behavior may respond more negatively to violent games than the majority of individuals (Ferguson 314-15). Eric Harris, one of the killers from the Columbine massacre, grew up in a non-violent home with mild parents and was bullied in early childhood. Later psychological analysis showed that he was a malevolent psychopath (Immelman). Yes, Eric Harris played dark video games like Doom and Quake, but those had about as much influence on his plans to kill as the victims had on their own deaths. Besides, if video games were the sole cause of violence in youth, violent crime rates would be increasing instead of decreasing, and the number of video game consoles being sold would be decreasing instead of increasing. Brandi Booth, Vincent Van Hasselt, and Gregory M. Vecchi stated in their article “Addressing School Violence” that “homicides in schools have decreased since 1994 despite periods of copycat shootings during the late 1990s and 2007 to 2008”. According to the article “Juvenile Violent Crime Statistics” from, violent crimes went down from 115,592 crimes in 1995 to 73,970 in 2008. That is a total deduction of 41,622 violent youth crimes in the last thirteen years, averaging a deduction of about 3,202 crimes per year. Also, according to the article “Xbox Statistics” from the same website, 57.8 million Xbox 360s have been sold (verified in September of 2012). Sixty-five percent of the US population plays video games, with forty-nine percent being between the ages of eighteen and forty-nine (“Video Game Statistics”). If violence was truly caused by video games, said games would have been censored and moderated a long time ago, along with violence in movies, news programs, books, and television. Studies that do not include the subject(s) school life, home life, and psychological state of being cannot be verified as true until those details are factored in. Statistics disprove the theory that violence is caused by video games as the violent crime rates from juveniles have gone down while sales of games have continued to climb exponentially. In the end, it is up to the parent to monitor what the adolescent plays and what age is appropriate to allow more mature games. What the opposition has to remember is that while there are negative effects for certain people, the positive effects excel in application and number.

Works Cited
Anderson, Craig A. "Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions." American Psychological Association. (2003): n. page. Web. 25 Oct. 2012.  Anderson, Craig A. and Dill, Karen E. “Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 78.4 (2000): n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. Anderson, C. A., & Ford, C. M. (1986). “Affect of the game player: Short-term effects of highly and mildly aggressive video games.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 390-402. Web. 29 Oct. 2012 Booth, Brandi., Van Hasselt, Vincent., and Vecchi, Gregory M. “Addressing School Violence.” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. (May 2011): n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. Ferguson, Christopher John. "Psychiatric Quarterly." Psychiatric Quarterly. 78.4 (2007): 309-16. Print. <>. Immelman, Aubrey. Eric Harris: Personality Profile. (2004): n. page. Web. 25 Oct. 2012 Juvenile Violent Crime Statistics. Statistic Brain. Web. (2012): n. page. 30 Oct. 2012. Kenneth, A. Lachlan, L. Smith Stacy, and Ron Tamborini. "Models for Aggressive Behavior: The Attributes of Violent Characters in Popular Video Games." Communication Studies 56.4 (2005): 313-29. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 30 Oct. 2012. Knaus, Bill. A Profile of the Virginia Tech Killer. REBT Network. (2006): n. page. Web. 28 Oct. 2012 /

“Positive and Negative Effects of Video Games.” Raise Smart Kid. n. page. Web. 30 Oct. 2012

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