Dylan Woehrle March 29, 2005 Violence in Video Games and Its Effect on Youth In America today video games have become a fast growing pastime of youth and even young adults. This activity, once thought to be totally harmless by society, has been coming under serious debate between parents and the makers of these games. The effect of media on youth has been a major topic of research for most of the 20 th century, and a solution has yet to be found. There are many explanations for the indifference felt by children toward violence, but the topic most recently debated is that of violence in video games. Looking at the link between a rise in hostility and the playing of violent games by children, organizations such as the American Psychological Association have found evidence that television violence has a strong connection with aggressiveness in youth who view it. In correlation with this study, researchers theorize that video game violence has an even greater relation to aggressiveness due to the first person perspective taken by children and "active" involvement that these games require.
These factors combine to change the physiological effects of violence on a child's mind (Walsh). The dangers of media violence have been public knowledge for years, but the action taken by society has not influenced a change in the accessibility and regulation of these games. Children have enjoyed video games for years, but the content of the games have changed as the technology has improved. From the creation of "Pong", one of the pioneer Woehrle 2 video games, grew a multi billion dollar industry that created a new genre of games (violent) with a new following (youth).
The draw that video games have on children, and people of all ages, is the quality and realness of the games themselves. The quality of these graphic games has increased at a dramatic rate making games like "Grand Theft Auto" (GTA), and "Metal Gear Solid" popular with all ages of people due to the high violent content. According to David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family, a major critic of violent games, children between the ages of seven to seventeen spend eight hours a week on average playing video games (Walsh). The games that these kids play are not always violent, but according to research done in the Journal of Adolescence, 89% of video games "contain some violent content", and around half of those include violent actions toward other characters (7). Although games such as "Mario Brothers" and "Pac Man" are quite harmless, as children's ages increase so does the access to violent games like "GTA." This high percentage of violence in video games has changed how youth pre sieve violence in reality. Based on information from David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family playing violent video games (compared to non-violent games) shows a rise in "physiological arousal" and an increase in the amount of adrenaline.
This study suggests that this increase in "physiological arousal" corresponds to the signs that children show during aggressive instances. These findings also relate to the idea that participating in these games gives the player increased aggressive thoughts and creates a more hostile psychological state of mind (Walsh). Becoming detached from reality through video games is not a new insight into playing video games. Since the debate started, there Woehrle 3 has been research done that has favored both sides of the argument, which is why it is such a heated topic. According to James D.
Ivory, there are studies that have been done that suggest that the aggression that is felt by children is not anger, but the feeling of adrenaline. A theory that backs this style of thinking is the catharsis theory, that explains that "the emotional drive evoked by violent video game play reduces the chance of a child actually exhibiting violent behavior; the child's fantasy play and imagined actions causes the child to have reduced urges to act out aggression in actual behavior." This theory is used to explain the aggression or rise in adrenalin that is felt by the players of violent video games. Most critics of the video game defense, on the issue of violence, say that there is no long term evidence that partaking in violent video games breeds violent tendencies (Ivory). In today's society, violence is a key selling factor in many media venues, from movies and TV, to comic books and video games. The marketers of video games, and other types of media, have focused their attention on capturing the youth market.
The intentional marketing to youth of "M" rated games raised debate after the school shootings at Columbine High School. Where on April 20, 1999 two Colorado youths, Dylan Kle bold and Eric Harris went on a killing spree: killing thirteen and injuring 23 before taking their own lives. According to Wikipedia, a free internet encyclopedia, both Dylan and Eric were enthusiasts of violent video games like "Doom" (Wikipedia), a game that is used by the military to simulate real world situations and train soldiers (Wired News). After these highly publicized killings President Clinton called for an investigation to look into the marking directed specifically at youths. The evidence found showed that out of the 118 games chosen with a mature rating, around 70% targeted youths under the Woehrle 4 age of 17. The commission that investigated these games could only present these findings to the public since they had no authority to enforce change.
This type of monitoring of the gaming industry has a positive effect on persuading public opinion and indirectly changing marketing strategies. The policing of the video game industry are not just coming from government agencies but also from citizens that have been affected by youth violence (Walsh). Many critics of violent video games target games like "Postal", and "Grand Theft Auto", due to their very graphic and gory content. In these games players can kill and destroy just about anything, from shooting random people to blowing up buildings. Games like these have been in the spotlight because of their connection to school shootings like Columbine and to other acts of violence associated with kids. Critics debate that these games are simulators to kill and destroy, without any regard for the repercussions.
In a TV report on the news program, 60 Minutes, Ed Bradley reported on the subject of "Grand Theft Autos"exceedingly violent" content and its role in the killing of three people, two of them being police officers. In Alabama an 18-year-old named Devin Moore, while being processed on suspicion of stealing a car, grabbed a gun from the police officer and shot and killed three people in the station. The murders were allegedly influenced by the situations that appear in "GTA", which is at the center of a lawsuit that is being filed against the creators of the game. The lawsuit states that the game was a "murder simulator"; because the situation that presented its self to Devin was an almost exact recreation of a scene in "GTA." The lawsuit argues that without the influence of this game, Moore would not have acted violently, for instance, Moore is reported to have said, 'Life Woehrle 5 is like a video game. Everybody's got to die sometime.' (CBS News. com).
The idea that suing the creators of these games might bring about a change is yet to be seen since there has never been a successful lawsuit. The Along with the lawsuit stated above, there have been similar lawsuits that have been filed for the same reasons. Lawsuits bring attention to the problems, but do not usually bring about change on a large level. The voluntary rating system that is being used by the gaming industry has been in effect since 1993, after Dawn Wiener agreed to implement ratings instead of having regulations on content. According to James Ivory the effectiveness of the rating system to decrease underage viewing has done little to stop it. The gaming industry states that regulation of the games violates the First Amendment, so what action can be taken to ensure a solution? Obviously there is no catch-all solution but steps can be made, in Illinois a law was passed that makes it illegal to sell violent games to anyone under 18.
Making the punishment a fine of $5, 000 and 6-12 months in jail (National Constitution Center). Illinois along with other states are taking action, making the accessibility of these games harder for youth and the start of a new movement toward changing the gaming industry. In today's society media with violent content can be found in almost every home, but it is the violence in video games that is having the biggest impact... Violence in video games might just represent greater dangers than those in movies and television. Video games are becoming more realistic as the years go on, and with that there will always be the debate over its role in desensitizing youth.
If these studies are correct then the ever increasing popularity for violent games will change how future generations react to the Woehrle 6 subject of violence. There is no clear cut way to deal with this problem as research has shown. Parent involvement is always the first option but their inability to recognize the problem has been shown in countless cases where teenage violence has gone unchecked. The results of these studies have been known for years, yet nothing has been able to impede the effects of video game violence. Government is moving in the right direction on some levels though, states like Illinois are implementing laws that ban the sale of these games to minors. It is these types of actions that will have the greatest effect, although the gaming industry claims that these laws intrude on the First Amendment.
This argument has been proven to be unmerited since video games present no idea of free speech, therefore can be regulated by government. More states need to apply these types of laws so the youth of America can't be subjected to the violence that is portrayed in video games. If we are able to limit the amount of violent media witnessed by children then maybe these acts if violence can be ore vented. Woehrle 7 Work Cited " Can A Video Game Lead To Murder?" 60 Minutes. CBS. 6 March 2005.
15 April 2005... Dill, Karen E. "Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 78 (2000): 772-790.
American Psychological Association. 29 Mar. 2005. Gentile, Douglas A. , et al.
"The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance." Journal of Adolescence 27 (2004) 2-22. 28 Mar. 2005. Ivory, James D. Video Games and the Elusive Search for their Effects on Children: And Assessment of Twenty Years of Research.
2001. 6 April. 2005. Riddell, Rob. "Doom Goes to War." Wired News 1997. United States.
National Constitution Center. Banning Violent Video Games. 21 Mar. 2005. 11 April 2005. Walsh, David.
Video Game Violence and Public Policy. National Institute on Media and the Family. 4 April. 2005.