Violent Video Games: How are they affecting our Youth? In this day and age it seems as if America's youth is becoming more violent. Concern for those aspects in our society which influence violent acts has become an issue since the tragedy at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999. Many feel one aspect of today's society affecting our nation's youth in a negative manner is video games. Is this form of entertainment really a factor in teen violence? I think not.
Video games are not to blame for increased teen violence. According to the article, "Video Games and Children", by Bernard Cesar one, ever since the 1970's, parents have been placing their children in front of televisions and allowed them to waste away the hours playing video games (31). As technology and a national surge in violent entertainment grows, so does the onset of violent video games. A major concern about violent video games comes from the innocence of a child. The media easily influences children and teenagers.
Kids dream of becoming professional athletes from watching their favorite sports stars on TV. Ad agencies strengthen this desire with ads containing slogans such as, "like Mike, if I could be like Mike", referring of course to Michael Jordan. Yet there is no concern that they could get seriously hurt from having the dream to be an athlete. In fact, most youth are encouraged to go out and play, and practice to get what they want.
For some reason, though, video games are approached differently. This is not a real life situation, but Joshua Quittner, author of "Are Video Games really so Bad?" states the idea of one's child controlling an electronic character whose objective is to steal cars and kill police officers is socially dangerous. Studies have shown that kids do not actually have illusions of doing these things (52). Kids do know that killing is bad. We all have morals implanted genetically; they just need to be strengthened through parental guidance. Many kids do, however, act out scenes from movies and fights on TV.
Is it therefore safe to say that because two teenagers go into the backyard and begin to kick box after watching a kickboxing movie or begin to backyard wrestle after watching "Raw is War" that they are so easily influenced by video games? Royal Van horn showed in his 1999 article, "Violence and Video Games", a large stance on the issue is not one of influencing kids actions. David Grossman, a retired Lieutenant Colonel for the U.S. Army and former professor of psychology at West Point believes it is the desensitization parents should be concerned with. It is not in human nature to kill one another and for this reason soldiers must be trained to shoot on instinct (173). In fact, only one-fifth of all American soldiers in WWII ever fired their rifle (Quittner 52). For that reason, simulators similar to video games such as Doom and Quake have been used to train soldiers how to kill without thinking.
This may be true, but the simulators used show real soldiers in enemy uniforms, and users are told to take a single head shot at all enemies in the room. Games like Quake and Doom however similar require numerous shots to kill an enemy and do not distinguish between where the enemy is shot i.e. a shot to the foot equals a shot to the head (Quittner 173-4). Another concern for games like Quake and Doom is their setup. These games are first person.
The player sees through the eyes of the electronic "eyes" of their character, seeing only their own weapon and whatever is in front of them. The game boards are also set up to resemble hospitals, and often areas that are quite similar to school hallways. One must account for the fact that many of the weapons used are those of the sort that do not exist or are only seen in movies. Laser guns and triple barreled grenade launchers are not lifelike and are even less lifelike when used against four armed monsters. Ken Schroeder's 1997 article, "Halving Fun" showed that when confronted with questions concerning the appeal of these games many will say that they enjoy doing things that they "could never do in real life". In fact, a ten-year-old girl was quoted to say, "a video game with someone smashing a guy's head in is not going to make the kid go out and smash their friend's head in (73)".
So whether or not they are desensitized to the violence does not necessarily make them more prone to it. The article, "Video Violence: Where does the Buck Stop", by Deborah Enders explained that video games are also rated for violence. These ratings do not prevent a kid from buying a violent video game though. It could be a good idea to incorporate a movie type of system, which requires proof of age to purchase specific titles (27-28). This however could also be the parents' fault. Although many kids can come up with the five dollars it often takes to see a movie, it is difficult to come up with the money to buy titles for fifty plus dollars.
If parents are giving their kids the money to buy these games they need to at least be aware of what their children are buying and if necessary, screen certain titles. It is true that there are some children that could be more prone to violence than others. A study in Quittner's article showed that our nations youth plays, on average, four to five hours of video games a week (53). According to Van Horn's article, there are also the extreme cases of kids playing up to twice that number a day.
These kids are probably much more prone to act out what they see (174). Is this really the fault of the video game? I am sure there are statistics that state that a child who is involved in any single activity for eight to ten hours a day will be adversely influenced by it. There is also a concern for video game addiction. Video game designers use tactics to change the "blink rate" of the users.
Once a player becomes so involved, their "blink rate" decreases and they become fully involved. Video games require the use of mind and body and when this gets to an extreme the body produces a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. This is a molecule believed to be a master cause of addiction (Quittner 53). Addiction could be a factor in video gaming, yet studies show that users get "burned out" on games (Quittner 53).
In general, one can only play so much of a game before the desire to play it becomes lost. If this is the case and players get tired of playing certain games, how can they truly be influenced adversely by the game? Obviously, it cannot be directly stated that violence in video games causes their users to act out violence in real life, it seems obvious that some titles actually benefit their young users. Many of the fantasy violence games that I have spoken of include tremendously difficult problem solving.
Not only can these puzzles be difficult; many of them have time limits in which they need to be completed. In other words, many games induce not only problem solving in their users, but also quick thinking (Quittner 50). It is a benefit to our society if we have a generation of youths that are quick problem solvers and have increased hand-eye coordination in this computer age. In conclusion, if you feel that video games are a problem for you or your children remember these rules given in an inset to Quittner's article by Claudia Wallis titled, "Learning to Love Zelda": 1. Know what you are playing, if necessary rent the game before you purchase it.
2. A new game is like a fever; it must run its course. 3. Set strict game play time limits.
4. Parents: if you can bear it, play with your children. 5. Begin to worry if the video game fever doesn't break. (54)
Cesarone, Bernard. "Video Games and Children". Emergency Librarian 22.3: 31-32 Enders, Deborah. "Video Violence: Where does the Buck Stop?" Amusement Business 107.22 (20 Mar. 1995): 27-28 Quittner, Joshua, and Maryanne Murray Buchner, eta l.
Are Video Games Really so Bad?" Time South Pacific 19 (10 May 1999): 50-55 Schroeder, Ken.
Halving Fun". Education Digest 63.1: 73-74 Van Horn, Royal. "Violence and Video Games". Phi Delta Kapp an 81.2: 173-174 Wallis, Claudia. "Learning to Love Zelda" Time South Pacific 19 (10 May 1999): 55.