Violence in Computer Games

Ever since the book has been with us, parents and “concerned individuals” have raised “causes” against certain publications. Video games are now their latest target after their efforts on the film industry failed.

There is some evidence that suggests pre-teens are influenced by violent computer games. This is said to lead to more aggressive behavior. It’s been linked to attacks that have led to severe injuries and unfortunately, deaths. I actually have no argument with this and agree that under 18’s should not play violent games. You’ll never stop them though!

When I was (a lot!) younger it was not hard for my friends to lay their hands on a copy of the latest 18 rated film offering. Banned films were rarely a problem too. I’m sure it’s the same for many my age, nor current pre-teens. I can safely say I was never inclined to reproduce any of those acts shown! I did know kids who went around with knives, mainly to show off. However, they were the ones who didn’t play video games!

Because of this complexity of this subject, I decided to do some research like all good writers. And like all good writers I wanted evidence to support what I thought I already knew! None of my new found sources could agree on this issue though and I found lots of conflicting evidence out there. For example, there was an interesting book written called “Grand Theft Childhood”. This describes a study of over a thousand children and the games they play. They came to the conclusion that there is indeed a link between violent computer games and aggressive behaviour towards others. On the other foot, they also say that not playing these games can also increase a child’s level of aggression!

What’s going on here? Surely it’s one-way or the other?

When considering this I wondered if it was just lack of violent games, or lack of playing games altogether. After all, everyone needs to de-stress. Perhaps killing virtual coppers and pedestrians is more stress busting than a few hours of Zuma for some people? Again, calling upon my own experience, I was only allowed a certain amount of time on games when I was younger. Perhaps it’s the fault of the parents for their lack of game time monitoring? I’m not sure that fits though, since you’d only have to see that kind of on-screen action for a short time to become desensitised to it.

So is the answer to stopping making these games? Are RockStar and other game studios to blame? Surely eliminating violence from games will reduce the level of violent crime in the pre-teen demographic? Does anyone seriously believe that?

There’s always going to be violence, as a species we’re violent and greedy and mean. That’s not going to change overnight nor with the removal of such games. And unless you’re going to shut down the BBC, hide all the newspapers and throw out your television you’ve got no chance in removing violent and disturbing images from a child’s upbringing!

Maybe we should look into the root of violence. Again, like any good researcher on the project I typed in “causes of violence” into Wikipedia. From that I found an interesting section about a US organisation called the “US National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence”. On there was a very interesting quotation they made in 1969 (40 years ago!) which went like this:

“Children are inclined to learn from television because it is never too busy to talk to them, and it never has to brush them aside while it does household chores.”

The organisation was set up in 1968 so it took them 1 year to come to that conclusion. So should we look again to the parents? Have you seen the movie “Cable guy” starring Jim Carrey? In it he plays a cable repair technician who has a severe lack of social awareness due to watching too much television as a child. Because of this he doesn’t quite know how to interact with people. Does this mean that parents are sitting their kids down in front of the television rather than teaching them life lessons personally? Are they violent in response to lack of parental concern? I cannot in good conscience agree however much I’d like to. You could quite easily argue that it’s the violent messages on the television that encourages violent behaviour.

There may be some truth there too. Maybe kids can pick up behavioural traits from a video game, I know that my friends and I would do so from films. I’m not talking violent traits specifically here. But then when parents see them acting out skits from these films do they start to panic? Do they question from where they’ve learnt these bad words or strange phrases. Distinction between the virtual world and reality however would normally prevent these traits from “spilling over” into day-to-day life. This is where I feel the major problems start. Why some people have trouble with this distinction is not my area of expertise. However we’ve all heard on the news of someone re-enacting a film or game and it goes horribly wrong. This is normally because one of the participants has taken it far too seriously. In these situations I cannot help but believe that the individual in question is just plain mental!

On that note, is it the individual who has a problem? Has the issue got absolutely nothing to do with violent games but rather that some kids have psychological conditions? I’m sure in some of the extreme cases this is certainly true. But talking all things psychological and putting games/films aside, what other conditions actually spark off violence?

It’s widely believed that disagreements of any kind are usually the precursor to violent behaviour. It’s quite rare that someone simply thumps someone for no reason. So the disagreement escalates and reaches a point where dialogue no longer serves a purpose. Sometimes the reasons for the disagreement can be quite tenuous and it appears widely considered that Video games are often used as an excuse in these cases. After all, who wants to appear in court and say they killed someone because of “what he said about my football team”?

That brings us back to the main issue. Can PC and video games be used as an excuse for this behaviour? Are they the influence that has caused person A to harm person B? Would they have attempted to resolve their differences calmly if person A had not played Video Game C? There honestly doesn’t appear to be any proof that video games had any influence at all, other than the individual or parents using it as an excuse. There have been studies of course, but they appear largely non-conclusive.

I say that you cannot blame violent behaviour on video games alone. It’s obvious that they could contribute to some degree in some cases. But then so can TV, newspapers, even books. However the vigour with which some individuals blame video games is obviously unwarranted. Violent behaviour, having been with us for so long, is a product of all influences and environment. There is no single answer.

Personally I’ve played many violent games and they’ve not affected me. Not so much as a speeding ticket here. Therefore in my opinion, anyone blaming games for their behaviour is using them as an excuse. Either that or they don’t understand how they’ve been influenced by other factors such as friends, environment or parents.

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