Opinion: Video games present a potential danger

By Ann Voight


The issue of media violence and its impact on people has been hotly debated in recent years, with each side having compelling arguments defending their case.

One argument is that the more one regularly sees and engages with the violent images, the more likely one is to react in a more aggressive way.  Another argument says the way the violent act is depicted and intended makes all of the difference, that killing people is okay since they were the “bad guys,” thus promoting “good” violence.  Specifically with violent video games, it’s argued that they are a form of entertainment, and some of the more violent games act as a sort of mood stabilizer, increasing one’s feelings of competence.

Instead of justifying, shouldn’t we focus on not being violent toward others and try to figure out better, more non-aggressive ways to resolve heated issues?  Or are we becoming so desensitized to violence within our culture that we’ve begun to expect and accept the fact that tragedies like Nairobi and Sandy Hook will keep happening?

Is our only option to simply start restricting the amount of violence that we see daily?  And how much of an effect does seeing these regular, violent images in the news, movies, TV, and especially video games have on the people?

Video games are regularly targeted as having a negative impact upon a person, especially on someone who commits these mass killings.  Many studies have shown that there is a correlation between playing these violent games and having a higher amount of aggression.

Casey Jones plays Grand Theft Auto at his home.  He spends over 10 hours a day playing video games. Photo by Rex C. Curry/Dallas Morning News/MCT

“The short term effects presumably wear off pretty fast, but what happens over time is that repeated exposure over a long period of time does increase the likelihood, for example, of kids getting into fights at school,” said Dr. Craig Anderson.

Iowa State University Professors Matt DeLisi, Doug Gentile, and Craig Anderson, along with professors from Saint Louis University and the University of Pittsburg, studied the effects of violent video games among juvenile delinquents who were institutionalized.

Through a series of interviews, they found that playing violent games, having a predisposition toward violent behaviors, and having an antisocial personality all contributed toward someone reacting in a more aggressive, violent and delinquent way.

They also found out seeing those images regularly will reinforce the idea of acting in a violent way, but this is not the only cause for violent behaviors.  Other important factors are how much one enjoys the game they are playing and the frequency at which they play the violent video games.

Does this mean we should stop playing video games?  No, it doesn’t.  Games with a pro-social theme can improve the player’s helpfulness.  There are positive effects associated with video game playing, even with the violent video games.

“One study I was involved with showed that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were much better at advanced surgical skills.  This is a very interesting finding, because these surgeons were playing the same commercial games that you and I play — they weren’t playing surgical simulators,” said Dr. Doug Gentile.

The only solution all sides agree upon is that it’s necessary to have a media diet, similar to a food pyramid diet, limiting the amount of violent and negative images one sees daily, and viewing more positive and pro-social media.

The other factor that’s stressed is that parents need to be more involved with their children’s lives and know what sort of things they are viewing and playing.

I think these are reasonable solutions.  The only other solutions, like banning all semi-automatic guns and rifles or censoring the images within the media, seem far too drastic and would cause a rift within the culture.  I think we should hold each other accountable for the amount of violence we see daily.  That way the blame for these tragic incidents is on the people involved for not realizing how much they enjoyed the simulated killings.


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