Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Violence Breeds Violence: Do Video Games Influence Our Behavior?

Harvard Health: “2008 that 97% of youths ages 12 to 17 played some type of video game”

One of the most popular games in 2008 for boys and girls was Grand Theft Auto, an ultra violent game that has been given a mature rating by the ESRB for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content, and use of drugs. Some organizations such as the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) believe that video games with violent themes in them can desensitize and cause kids to behave violently in real life. If this is true, then wouldn’t kids be running rampant in the streets, killing cops and stealing cars daily? The media suggests that there is a correlation between violence in video games and violent behavior in kids, however I, being a video game enthusiast myself, do not believe that violence in video games directly causes kids to behave violently.

Source: Deviantart
Two years ago in 2011, after a California Law wanted to ban the sale of mature video games to children, the Supreme Court ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment because they are classified as a piece of art. The public often just wants someone to blame quickly, to have the answers everyone wants without having any regard for the logical explanation. For example, the recent shooting at the Washington naval yard caused by Aaron Alexis has been severely skewed by the media. Despite Alexis having military training, in which he was trained to kill, the media blames the video game Call of Duty for his violent crimes. “If some guy who shot a bunch of people played shooters all the time — blame video games!” (TIME). Instead of blaming video games, we should be asking ourselves more meaningful questions. Was the perpetrator prone to mental illness? Were they bullied or abused? How did this person get access to weaponry in the first place? In cases of mass shootings, these questions need to be answered.

Over-sensationalism by the media is backed up by some research; there have been studies that show a correlation between video games and aggressive behavior. For example, a study showed that girls in elementary school who viewed aggressive behavior on the television were more likely to repeat that behavior at school. The Surgeon General agreed in 2001 that there was a correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior in youth. The main concern with video games is the role-playing aspect, putting the player in the shoes of the aggressor can be more influential. Rewarding the player for perceived violence in the game is thought to skew a kid’s sense of right and wrong, obscuring the line between fantasy and reality. Someone suffering from mental illness may be more susceptible to having their sense of right and wrong distorted. Some people would go so far as to say that video games contributed to the tragedies of Columbine and Sandy Hook.

Many of the arguments against video games are hypocritical, even alternative forms of entertainment use violence, “But several parent concern groups maintain that the violent content of video games is unsuitable for young people, and children should be encouraged to try more traditional means of entertainment, like the plays of Shakespeare (eg teen murder/suicide drama Romeo and Juliet, or mass family slaughter epic Hamlet) or the cinema, where nothing violent is ever shown.” If we look at the statistics of video game sales vs. violent behavior in America, as video game sales has steadily rose from 1996, total violent crimes has decreased. If video games truly caused violence, then wouldn’t we see violent crime rise with sales?

I cannot speak for parents, seeing as I am only a kid myself, but I think it would be beneficial to show our kids who the bad guys are, who the good guys are, and teach them how to tell which is which. I have been playing video games for as long as I can remember and if anything they have given me a better concept between right and wrong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying 6 year olds should be playing Grand Theft Auto, but the fact is that violence has been around forever, from Hansel and Gretel to Looney Tunes. So don’t try to hide your kids from violence, help them to understand and respect the consequences of it.

Update: November 14, 2013

Thank you to everyone who viewed and commented on my blog. I really enjoyed reading and responding to the comments. For the most part, my view on video games hasn't changed; I still do not think that video games create killers. However, this experience has shown me a different perspective on the topic of video games. Even though I don't think video games are evil, I do acknowledge that video games in excess are not healthy, like most things. Those who play video games should pay attention on the amount of time they spend playing every day. Over the period of time that I spent writing this blog, the time I spent gaming became minimal to non-existent, and now I do notice a difference in how I feel on a day to day basis. Not to say I was on the brink of snapping, but less time with a controller in my hands has made a difference. I still love video games, but too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As far as selling mature games to little kids, I realize that this is a problem. Kids not even tall enough to look over the counter should not be playing games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. Maybe this starts with the parents or maybe this starts with the video game retailers, but there does need to be stricter rules for young kids playing mature games. This blog has been fun to write and I learned a lot from the research that went into it.                  


  1. Video games are great, that's a no brainer. The violent ones are usually the better made ones and are simply more fun. However, kids at a young age definitely can be influenced by violent video games. I'm sure you've run into many unruly children during your gaming sessions. I know I sure have, and I know you would agree that they really should not be playing games like Black Ops 2 or GTA. In the aftermath of tragedies caused by disturbed young people, the media and other people frequently blames videogames for the incidents. (Jack Thompson) But where do they get the games? As a teenager I can't go to Best Buy and pick up Cod: Ghosts without a guardian unless I'm over 17. They simply won't sell it to me, it's store policy, anyway. Most kids get their videogames from their parents, and most parents don't look at the ratings, think that Little Bobby can handle Blood, Gore, and Strong Language, or just don't care. They won't know what kinds of things their children will experience during gameplay. As for access to weapons, that also the parent's fault. There has been more than a few cases of parents or siblings being murdered or accidentally killed by children with the parent's weapon. Many weapons used in school shootings are from the perpetrator's parents. Lock up your guns, please. Another reason to keep kids off videogames is that they're just annoying. I don't know about you, but I keep my hands over the mute button when joining a session. Squeaky voices and constant obscenities will drive any gamer insane. Keep the children off violent video games. For the both the people and the gamers' sake.

    1. Thanks Jeff for your comment. I can definitely relate to hearing little kid's shrill voices coming from the mic. As far as preventing kids from playing violent video games I think it can be very situational. One kid may have been educated by their parents on the topic of violence while another's parents just want the game to be the babysitter. I have a link to an article from a video game clerk about selling video games to young children: http://kotaku.com/i-sold-too-many-copies-of-gta-v-to-parents-who-didnt-g-1371011511. Gun control in general is an issue across America that needs to be addressed.

  2. I enjoy playing video game and this is a pretty prevalent topic for myself. Often times myself and other people are bombarded with more, admittedly, conservative ideas that all violent video games are bad, and that playing them turns people into killers. Some of this is true as well. If someone is exposed to hyper realistic, hyper violent video games for extended periods of time, especially at a younger age, can result in desensitization. But being desensitized to computer violence and going out and killing 10 people are very different things. There are cases in which people who play video games have committed violent acts, but in these cases there are always other explanations such as depression, mental instability, and in some cases things such as brain tumors. Violent video games don't create killers, but sitting inside and playing Grand Theft Auto for eight hours isn't healthy for anyone. People should get outside more. Great blog Nightwing.

    1. Thanks SiestaMan27 for your comment. Excessive video gaming is definitely not good for anyone, however there are some positive effects of video games. Thing2's blog talks about the benefits of gaming, such as better reflexes and better eyesight. Mental instability is a problem in America and the fact that video games get blamed for the lack of mental health care is ridiculous.


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