Video Games and Violent Behavior

Updated on February 5, 2018

Video games have long been the center of controversy due to the violent nature of some of the most popular games played by millions across the world. Children have been fascinated by video games since they were first created dating back to some of the original arcade games, such as Pac-man and Space Invaders, but these games didn't display the kind of violence that has become so popular since consoles have soared in popularity.

Despite numerous studies that have shown that video games do not cause violent behavior in children, there is no denying that spending hours on end in front of the TV screen cannot be a good thing for a developing mind. Children are very impressionable, and they pick up on social cues from media more than ever nowadays since there is practically no way to escape it. More than anything, people want to be right, and they want to hear from media what they already believe to be true. This becomes much more disturbing when talking about violent media because those who are most likely to act violently in real life are also more susceptible to play violent games.

Correlation, Not Causation

It is a very common stereotype that kids that choose to play video games that contain violence are most likely violent kids, or that they have some sort of deep rooted issues. In reality this is not the case, however, people who have committed violent crimes and offenses, are likely to be fans of violent video games not because the games caused them to act out, but rather that the games were a reflection of their predisposed aggression. The Columbine High School shooting in 1999 was an attack made by two of the students on their innocent classmates and teachers. After the incident, it was revealed that the gunmen were avid fans of violent shooter video games, and many jumped to the conclusion that this was the reason they killed all those innocent people. That conclusion was entirely false, and it is now known that it was merely a correlation, and wasn't the cause of the shooting.

Benefits of Playing Video Games

Although many believe that nothing positive comes from playing video games, studies have shown results to be quite the contrary. Video games can help increase many cognitive functions in those who play them often including an increase in mental flexibility, improved multi-tasking abilities, and more efficient eye-hand coordination. Video games can be used for positive purposes, but not if the stigma remains that they are all bad for you and have negative health and behavioral effects. There have been so many myths and false reports that have shaped the public thought on the matter that it has become much harder to convince anyone otherwise.

Personal Experience

Video games were a big part of my childhood growing up and it was a hobby that I enjoyed for many years. I was always a fan of Xbox instead of Playstation, and I have played many games that can be considered violent, but sports games were always my favorite. For me, there was always a clear distinction between reality and the virtual world of video games that some people get so caught up in. Some players obsess over the games and it becomes a huge part of their life, almost as though the actions in the game have consequences in the "real world." If one cannot differentiate between the gaming world and the actual one we live in, then there can be serious issues and the games may impact lives in a negative way.

When I was younger and in my prime of video game playing days I could sit in front of the TV for hours, but when I try to sit down and play nowadays I lose interest rather quickly. I'm almost certain it is just because my taste for entertainment has changed, as I would rather watch a series on Netflix or watch TV in general as opposed to playing video games. Playing with friends is, in my opinion, the best part of video games because it creates a social environment that otherwise would not exist had it not been for the media platform. When playing online, gamers take on a different role than they have in everyday life, and one can even pretend to be something he/she would never be able to in reality. For example, role playing games allow players to be soldiers, doctors, and even criminals, which they would otherwise never experience without playing the game.

Age and Content Ratings

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) gives an idea to consumers, and mostly parents, about what each game contains and their recommendation on the suitable age range for each game. The ratings range from E (everyone) to M (mature 17+) and each disc or box that contains a disc has a rating on it. This allows for some control and regulation, but like anything else there are ways around the ratings. If a parent does not understand the rating system or simply does not care, then the child may be exposed to graphic material that is not suitable for someone of such an age.

In Conclusion

Almost every child will be exposed to video games in one form or another, and many will become fascinated with them too, but the games they play do not have a direct causal relationship that leads to violent behavior. There are so many news sources nowadays that are just simply not reliable nor credible, and yet many people will believe anything they hear because it is what they want to hear. Perhaps there will never be a clear and definitive answer to the age old debate, and that is totally fine because it is always important to consider all sides of an argument. However, to say that video games cause violent behavior despite the countless studies and years of research that prove otherwise is quite ignorant. Not every kid who plays a shooting game wants to actually kill people in real life, but it just so happens that shooting games are very popular and many criminals and psychopaths play them too and reenact their sadistic fantasies on real people.

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