You are on page 1of 8

Satcher, 1

Video Games and Their Dissociation to Violent Societal


Outbreaks
Many people from all over the world and of all different ages love and enjoy video
games, some more so than any other form of media. They are played on computers, handheld
devices, cell phones, and game consoles. They are played at home, at arcades, at school, in
vehicles, and virtually anywhere that an electronic device can be operated. Theyre highly
popular and one of the leading entertainment juggernauts when it comes to sales and the amount
of fans who play them. According to David Hinkle, in 2013 alone, video games made a revenue
of over 15 billion dollars. (Hinkle). Games have always received a lot of media coverage for the
midnight releases, sales, and more frequently, the violence incorporated in them. One major
aspect of news and media coverage has to deal with the coverage of violence, violent behavior,
and over all, plain behavioral disturbances. Many political leaders, parents, and others use video
games as a scapegoat and the main reason as to why these violent acts occur. Many people argue
that video games perpetuate violence in the players, especially teens and children, and that they
cause changes in social stability which is not the case. Some even argue that it can cause a player
to have negative, or even xenophobic (hatred for other cultures, antisocial, or even sociopathic)
tendencies. There are many ideas and thoughts that games cause players to become antisocial and
desensitized to social morality in the real world outside of the games that they are playing.
Antisocial is defined as a person acting contrary to the laws and customs of society and devoid of
or antagonistic to sociable instincts or practices. Popular games titles like Grand Theft Auto and
World of Warcraft submerge the player into a virtual world that allows them to do many things
that are literally, physically, and unlawfully incapable in a real society. This is one of many
reason as to why a large number of people find games to be wrongful alongside the

Satcher, 2

misconception of being overly violent. Many are subjected to the idea that games are the leading
contribution to violent outbursts in our current society. Parents are also the underlying factor as
to if their children are exposed to games that apparently cause negative changes. Video games
are starting to become less and less respected as a decent form of entertainment for their violent
tendencies by society not only in the United States but across the world as well when many great
things are incredibly overlooked about them.
One of the most popular styles of video games today is arguably the First Person Shooter.
First Person Shooters are three-dimensionally viewed games played from a first person
standpoint. Many high selling game franchises such as Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield all
play in this specific style. First person shooters are games in which the play style is centered into
any type of weapon or vehicle that the playable character can wield and views the world of the
game entirely from the way the playable character would see it. First Person Shooters date back
as far as 1993. An example being the game DOOM, often make players feel more integrated with
the games world and then the players become more immersed or interactive with the game. To
maintain the aspect of a first person visual, the crosshairs or markers of the playable character
are centered to the screen and is the main focus point for the player. The player can then move
about the game world freely to see things in a three-dimensional view as they would if they were
actually in the games themselves. These games usually offer a head up display (as shown in
Figure 2) to display the players health, ammunition, armor, a mini map of the games world, and
other vital parts to the players character. This keeps the player updated on what they need to do
in order to stay alive or complete specific tasks within the game. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a game
that traditionally plays in third person but was recently re-released for newer consoles with a first
person option of play. Games in first person are much more in depth than others. Author Andrew

Satcher, 3

Webster says GTA V in first person is all about speed. Even walking down the street feels
quicker when youre closer to the action, but things get really crazy when you push the game to
its limits. (Webster) First Person Shooters are rapidly growing in popularity amongst game play
styles and GTA V is a great example of that. Games with a first person view allow the player
more access to the world within the game and thus make them more playable. Because of this,
many find first person shooters to be the leading cause of violent behavioral changes in society
for being so in depth and realistic. The main element of the game is to go into combative, warlike
simulations. The style of this can vary depending on the specific game. Players then fight with,
or against the games artificially intelligent characters and complete a set of small objectives to
achieve one main goal. If the game has the capability, which most modern games do, the player
can also choose to go into combat with hundreds of thousands of other players in that game.
Then objectives are completed with others around the world, making games such as Destiny
(shown in Figure 2) so popular. In games like Grand Theft Auto, as mentioned before, the player
does not have to follow such linear tasks. They are able to explore an entire open virtual world
and play as if they were there themselves. The game has images similar to that of the real world
like steering dashes on motorcycles or cars and even watching television within the game.
As mentioned before, video games are one of the leading sources of media and
entertainment. Those of first person shooting play styles are among the most frequently played
and typically have the most violent or suggestive themes. There have been and continue to be
many tests relating to the psychological effects games might have amongst the people playing
them. Many studies are outlined to prove if the effects are negative, positive, or even if there are
any effects at all. As of now there is few evidence supporting any of the sides. Even Author Craig
Andersons, head of Center for the Study of Violence states There has been little research on the

Satcher, 4

effects of prosocial [behavior in] video games. (249). Only some studies and tests have been
conducted and of these few tests, there has only been evidence found of either prosocial or
antisocial tendencies from playing specific games. In relation to sales, the revenue of games is
constantly increasing while the number of violent crimes is decreasing. Although this may not be
of direct correlation, more video games are being played while the number of crime falls
showing slight evidence that games may not be a direct link to societal violence. As stated by
video game journalist Erik Kane, Why are violent crimes down? It may not have anything to do
with video games. Still, its also possible that relatively cheap, accessible, and time-consuming
electronic diversions keep people occupied who might otherwise be out getting into
trouble.(Kaine). Some studies also relate to increased amount of aggression in some while on
the other hand the recreational play can calm and bring happiness to the players at the same time
and have no correlation to antisocial tendencies. Violent video game playing is correlated with
aggression, but added, that its relation to antisocial behavior in correctional and juvenile justice
is largely unknown. (McNew, David) One major point people make out to video games and
violence are the horrendous shooting at Columbine. The two young men were known to be
players of the game DOOM. In this game the objective is to shoot and kill mutants and aliens to
save the world and human race. Many people feel that the graphic tendencies of this game
pushed them to their edge to follow through on their massacre. Morgan J. Tear and Mark Nielsen
argue the opposite with the results from their test stating We failed to find evidence that playing
video games affects prosocial behavior. Research on the effects of video game play is of
significant public interest. Parents in particularly may argue and point out that yes, a few of the
studies do show that video games cause slight behavioral changes or a rise in aggression. While
these statements are true many other studies point out and show the exact opposite. It is

Satcher, 5

contradictory for one to point out that there are only negative effects in video game play. It is
very subjective in which way these games may affect a player, if any effect is taken. There is not
enough research conducted to prove that games can actually harm a child or adolescent
psychologically. With the small amount of tests taken, and the fact that there is no direct answer
from the studies that have been conducted, it would be too general of a statement without further
exploration to say that games have harmful and negative effects. If this still isnt enough for
parents, there are other reasons as to why video games are not bad and can actually have a
positive influence.
Of these other positive influences, many people use and play video games as source of
comfort or as a therapeutic way of venting. Many might argue that a video game where the main
objective is shooting and killing can have any kind of positive outcome. Truth be told, when
players such as myself play games, they tend to only on focus on whatever the specific tasks in
the game are and lose all sense of anything negative outside of the world within the game. Video
games are often criticized for contributing to inactivity and if any activity, those of a violent
nature, which is quite the opposite. A new study discusses a specific genre of video games that
provide therapeutic value. The study, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine,
illustrates how therapeutic video games can show health-related benefits. The article of the study
written by Rick Nauert, PhD states, The team describes therapeutic video games, including their
own Patient Empowerment Exercise Video Game (PE Game), an activity-promoting game
specifically designed to improve resilience, empowerment, and a fighting spirit for pediatric
oncology patients.(Nauert). Basically the article is stating that the study shows that games with
specific goals and objects to be met, similar to quests in Skyrim or missions in Grand Theft Auto,
promote a feeling of self-empowerment to the players by going through and completing these

Satcher, 6

tasks. Games with objectives that need to be met can help the player eliminate anger, stress, and
many other negative emotions from the outside world. Still, some parents find the subject matter
in these games to be too graphic although they do provide therapeutic benefits.
One could understand and see from a parents viewpoint that their objective isnt to make
society believe that video games are of the devil or to do away with these video games as a
whole, but rather protect their child from these violent and subjective themes in games. As a
frequent player myself I understand that the subject matter of some games can be graphic and
sometimes a bit extreme. The same goes for all forms of media, though. If a parent feels a movie
or television show is unsuitable for their children, they simply read the label and ratings and keep
them away from it. Like every form of media, video games have these ratings too. The ESRB
(Entertainment Rating Software Board) is a specific company designated to make sure games
abide by specific rules and regulations by them and the FCC to produce and label which games
are appropriate for which audiences and to ensure the enforcement mechanisms used to ensure
that consumers receive complete and reliable rating information. (ERSB Website Council) If a
parent hears things in the media about video games being a factor in violence and behavioral
disabilities, and chooses to believe these statements, then it is solely their jobs as parents to make
sure they know what their children have access to and what they are playing. The ERSB strongly
enforces their laws and regulations to their best to keep certain things in games away from the
wrong audience. Games rated Teen (T), Mature (M), and Adults Only (A) require a certain age
limit or parental consent at time of purchase to actually obtain them. Although it does not have
the legal authority to implement or enforce retailer sales policies with respect to video games, the
ESRB works closely with retailers to: a) provide in-store signage which explains the rating
system; b) support their store policies pertaining to the sale or rental of Mature-rated games to

Satcher, 7

minors; and c) help educate and train store associates and employees with regard to the rating
system. (ERSB Website Council) These steps are used to ensure the consumer knows exactly
what theyre purchasing and the content within the games theyre purchasing. Parents can chose
to believe either side of the argument as to what video game may or may not do psychologically
but when it all comes down to it they are the deciding factor in which their children have access
to these games or not
Video games are often used as the scapegoat for violent acts in society which is
absolutely unfair and untrue. Too many of a number of people play video games who remain
relatively unaffected. Out of the dozens of studies conducted, very few have made a direct link to
violence or violent behavioral changes in the players. The games chosen to be played may have
violent structures and themes but can cause no change in persons mental make-up unless said
person is already mentally ill. Video games also promote feelings of joy and fun and are the
leading source of entertainment around the world. They provide a sense of empowerment when
tasks are completed and are considered therapeutic to those playing them. Games are available
for anyone at any age if the technology is present. From phones, computers and consoles, games
are everywhere and arent leaving any time soon, but they are definitely becoming less respected
as a form of media. If parents feel that their children are negatively impacted from video games
and choose to believe what is being said with little proof, it is strictly their duty to stop them
from playing. There are many forms of ratings to show what is and is not suitable for their child.
There is an entire rating board to inform players on the content of what their games may contain.
There is too little research to prove that these games even do affect players negatively, billions of
people buy and play them globally, and rating systems actively let the players know exactly what
they are playing. Video games do not perpetuate violence in any means and those that believe it

Satcher, 8

knew exactly what they were going to be consuming in a form of media before actually playing
the game that they purchased.