There’s been a lot of talk in the past regarding whether or not video games make kids violent. The game that caused the biggest splash was Grand Theft Auto (and arguably Mortal Kombat), which featured the main character – for the first time in a video game – who could beat the shit out prostitutes and steal their money after having sex with them.
Looking back on the game now, it’s funny. I played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto 4, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and even Grand Theft Auto 3 when I was a young kid.
Since then, I can safely say that I’ve never fucked a prostitute, stolen her money and then killed her, unless my blackouts are worse than I thought.
I read two essays in one of my old University textbooks recently that tackled this issue directly, from both sides of the equation.
Some academics argue that it does cause violence, while others say it’s bullshit. However, for the most part, the studies have been inconclusive because there have been negligible results on both sides.
This conversation isn’t a lot different from prior discussions regarding if the media – in all its forms – cause violence. Personally, I think it’s possible to increase THOUGHTS of violence. However, the correlation would be hard to prove, and it would be just that, a weak correlation.
In the United States the media plays a role in perpetuating fear, not intentionally, but merely because “if it bleeds, it leads.” Human beings secretly find catastrophes intriguing, as long as they don’t suffer personally from it.
Despite the fact that aggressive crime has slowly been decreasing in the majority of American cities (with some exceptions) for the last 40 years, people in everyday life think that the streets are more violent than ever. While that may be true for some neighborhoods in Chicago or Detroit, for the most part, the cities are relatively safe.
However, the media reports so much on the incidents of violence that people think that it’s much worse than it is. As a result, people lock their doors more often and arm themselves in some states so if an intruder breaks in, that motherfucker gets shot.
This idea is documented pretty well in Michael Moore’s documentary, Bowling For Columbine. And while there may be a lot of things wrong with that film – and to be honest I don’t like Michael Moore because he’s a typical pretentious and insufferable celebrity like the rest of them – I think the point made in that movie is salient.
The point that I’m getting as it the tendency of news organizations to oversensationalize horrible incidents in society can indirectly contribute to aggressive tendencies in society. Does that mean we should ban the news?
Either way, media – especially in 2017 – is a massive part of our lives. For kids between the ages of 8 and 18, video games play a prominent role.
A survey of kids between the ages of 8 and 18 revealed that they play 13 hours of video games per week on average and 72 percent of households in the United States have video-game players.
When I grew up, I spent around 3-4 hours a day playing Super Nintendo, PS1, PS2, and PS3. I played all kinds of shit, from the NHL titles, Resident Evil 3 and 4, Call Of Duty, Final Fantasy 7, Chrono Trigger, Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, and a bunch of others.
Maybe, it’s sad to say, but those days were probably some of the best times of my life. The moments I had playing Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 7 was well spent. I don’t regret it all.
Occasionally, I’ve found myself thinking that I should get a PS4 and get the newest Resident Evil title because I’ve heard it’s badass.
I’m sure I would love playing it, but I think it would be better focusing on other things in life, things that will help me in the future.
Anyway, back to my original thoughts. Yes, a lot of kids play games, and as I said before, I certainly did.
Most importantly, a majority of these games are violent. What games do you play – that are fun – which aren’t violent? I can’t think of a single one.
They’re all relatively violent. Nearly every game features some violence, even if it’s between cartoon characters or between animals.
Many organizations consider violent games as a contributor to aggressive behavior. The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that video games are a cause of aggression and are a “significant health risk to children and adolescents.”
Researchers have conducted studies in laboratory settings where they have seen that violent media can contribute to aggressive thoughts. I think it’s entirely possible that games can add to aggressive thoughts, but thoughts aren’t the same as actions.
I think back in the past when I played games like Street Fighter for Super Nintendo; I would fantasize that I was Ryu kicking the shit out of people. Or even wrestling games; My friend and I would play-fight on the trampoline.
It was always in good fun though. There were never moments where we tried to kick the shit out of each other due to malice.
It was just playing around. If another person did get hurt, everyone always felt terrible, and if the parents found out that someone got hurt, then we would all have to go home.
Some people would think that this type of fucking around is “violent,” but from what I understand, psychologists have concluded that “Rough and Tumble” play as they call it, is good for the socialization of children.
Kids learn to respect boundaries, how to enforce limits; they determine what behavior is hurtful and what action isn’t harmful. Kids learn how to act appropriately in the world through “socialization.”
Researchers have found that – in controlled situations where children have been exposed to violent games – the kids are more likely to finish incomplete stories with violent endings if they’ve been exposed to games. But, is this a big deal?
It’s kind of like if you watch movies where there are a lot of cars in them, maybe you just watched the first two films of Fast and the Furious over and over again for a week.
You might have your mind on pimped out Honda Civics for the next couple of days. If asked to make up a short story, it’s probably more likely for a person to create car-related narratives.
Additionally, in a competitive environment involving test subjects who had the option of blasting their opponent with loud noises, researchers showed that children who had played violent games recently would be more likely to “punish” their opponent with a loud noise.
Personally, I think these are merely aspects of “Rough and Tumble” play that are hardly a big deal. Even rats fight each other for fun, and psychologists who study this shit say that if they don’t fight each other in their youth, they don’t grow up properly.
While there is evidence that video games contribute to aggressive thoughts, games aren’t the only thing that causes potentially dangerous behavior.
Cartoons like Bugs Bunny, men wearing black uniforms, pictures of the American Flag, violent lyrics, passages from the Bible, and even hot temperatures have been linked to aggressive thoughts.
This all ties into the modern tendency to infantilize the youth. If hot temperatures are linked to violence, maybe we shouldn’t let our kids out on a hot summer day? Obviously, that would be ridiculous and more harmful than anything.
In conclusion, I think games – like nearly everything else in life – can increase aggressive behavior.
Going out to the bar can potentially cause aggressive behavior because someone can say something rude to you which makes you mad. I think the fear of games, media, and many other things are just extensions of the cultural tendency to infantilize the youth as well as the general public. I’m really not a fan of moral panics.