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As the popularity of videogames has increased, they have undergone much criticism. The idea of using violence in videogames as a form of entertainment seems vile and childish to some. One of the original games to hint at violence was the game “Death Race” which was released in 1975. Small stick figure shapes were to resemble “gremlins” and would turn into gravestones and squeal once hit by the small moving car. (cite) Today’s society would laugh at the content and context which this game is reviewed. Some might say it is because we are desensitized to violence today. With the advancement of technology and expansion of entertainment, violence will continue to be a key selling point of games.
In Psalm 11:5, the Psalmist writes “The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence”. Videogames are merely simulations, or even a release of anger and or boredom, therefore it could be argued if videogames truly count as violence or just a simulation. Colossians 3:23-24 states that “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” This verse has been interpreted in many ways. One perspective is that an individual’s talents, which were given by God, to play the game and share that belief and be proud of it when and if you attain a professional status in the game. Violence shouldn’t be endorsed but it isn’t detrimental to society either. (“33 Bible […] Games”)
Many activists against videogame violence correlate major events of terror and harm to videogames and gun control. For example, on December 20, 2012 Adam Lanza entered Sandy Hook Elementary with a 9mm SIG Sauer P226 handgun, .223-caliber Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle, and a 10mm Glock 20SF handgun. (“Sandy Hook Overview”) Lanza killed over twenty children in total; politicians will use this as a cornerstone for gun reform in the U.S. Many groups blamed his motive on videogames, and they caused his outburst. Iowa State University psychologist Dr. Craig A. Anderson said:
None of these extreme acts, like a school shooting, occurs because of only one risk factor; there are many factors, including feeling socially isolated, being bullied, not being accepted by peers and so on […] But if you look at the literature, I think it’s clear that violent media is one factor; it’s not the largest factor, but it’s also not the smallest. (Anderson)
On April 20, 1999 Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold enter Columbine High school with plans to launch an assault on their teachers and classmates. Their written plans indicated they planned to kill over 100 of their classmates, primarily athletes, and club members. They successfully murdered 13 and wounded 23 before killing themselves. Both Eric and Dylan were avid players of the popular game “Doom”, one of the first FPS or “first person shooter” games on the market. This game was assigned to the US military to help train soldiers to kill effectively. More evidence was found on the boy’s computers, which held a customized game of Doom with two players, both with extra weapons and unlimited ammo, set in a school. The victims were unable to fight back or touch the players when they were murdering the NPCs (Non-Player Characters).
There are small groups who have risen to fight against violence in videogames which include MAVAV (Mothers against Videogame Addiction and Violence) who have controversial claims including: “Textspeak Linked to Violent Videogames”, “Videogames Not Fun”, “Everything Just a Game to Gamers”, and many more on the group’s site. These groups seek to abolish violence as a form of entertainment. (“MAVAV”)
Violent videogames require constant participation and repetition with the violent character or player in the game. New game controllers allow more physical interaction, the games obtain more interactive characteristics and could increase the likelihood of juvenile violence. Violent videogames cause the players to associate happiness and reward with the ability to cause pain in others. Some games reward the person playing with new weapons, powers, and abilities depending on how much havoc or kills are achieved in the game. Studies have shown that when violence is encouraged and rewarded in videogames, players tend to exhibit an increased aggressive response and behavior compared to players of videogames where violence is harmful and punished. Some violent videogames desensitize players to violence in real-life. (Layton)
The repetition of death in these games makes life seem like a joke or a game where you have multiple chances to redo the actions if you make a mistake. A 2005 study showed violent videogame exposure was linked to lower P300 waves in the brain; these are linked with desensitization to violence and increases in aggressive tempers. (Peckham) Constant exposure to violence in videogames is believed to lower empathy in the players. In 2004, a study of 150 fifth and fourth graders by Jeanne Funk showed that violent videogames were one of the primary types of media associated with lowering empathy. Empathy being, the ability to understand, relate and enter someone’s feelings, emotions, and issues, which is vital for mental growth and moral equilibrium and is believed to inhibit aggressiveness. (Mosher) (“ProCon.org”)
Juvenile crime in the America has been on the decline as violent videogame popularity has risen. Arrest rates for juvenile murders have dropped 71.9% between 1995 and 2008. The arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes has declined 49.3%. In this same period, videogame sales have more than tripled.(Corriea) In Brad Bushman’s recent article “Do violent videogames play a role in shootings?” Bushman states:
The problem is that people are looking for a yes-or-no answer about the role of videogames in violence, when there is none. Violent videogames alone likely didn’t cause Alexis to go on his rampage. But these games aren’t harmless, either. Recent reports suggest he may have been mentally ill and had anger control issues. But it isn’t hard to believe that videogame use may have been a contributing factor. (Bushman) with regard to the Navy yard shooting by Aaron Alexis on November 16, 2013.
Some studies have shown playing violent videogames reduces overall violence in adolescent boys by serving as a substitute for rough housing and harmful play. Playing violent videogames allows juvenile boys and girls to express aggression, or anger without causing physical harm. (“ProCon.org”) Some say, playing violent videogames provides a safe outlet for aggressive feelings. A 2007 study reported that 46% of boys played videogames because “it helps me get my anger out” and 62% played because “it helps me relax.” (Chang) Research that shows violent videogames causing more aggression, and violence is because the comparative game is not as involving and exciting. A short-term increase in aggression and arousal doesn’t mean a child is going to leave their house and commit a violent crime or act. Youth and juveniles model violent crimes and acts on actions they’ve seen in videogames, but the violence still occurs even in the absence of these games. Videogames provide safe and controlled environments for children and youth to virtually explore laws, rules, and the consequences of their violent actions. Some violent games also allow youth to experiment with issues such as violence, war, and death with no real-world consequences and side effects. (Whiteman)
Violence plays a vital role entertainment, the statement may seem harsh but when looked at as a whole it is clear. Football for example, essentially it is a broken game of fetch where the players seek to slam into and harm the other team to achieve a common goal, a touchdown. Football is one of the most watched sports in the US. But when violence in video gaming is mentioned other forms of violence in everyday life, like sports, don’t come to light. Wrestling is violence at its rawest form, with the goal being either to: hurt the other person as much as possible until surrender is achieved, or cause enough harm until the other person’s body gives up and is knocked unconscious. This type of entertainment is nothing modern; it can be seen as far back as the gladiator era. These forms of entertainment are not shunned when the topic of violence is mentioned.
When the topic of violent videogames is mentioned, the majority of people seem to be focused and worried primarily for children and youth. As people mature they tend to shed the skin of their former selves and develop new moral ideals and personalities, generally for the better. First Corinthians mentions this in chapter thirteen, verse eleven saying: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” (“33 Bible […] Games”) This applies to violent videogames also, when playing a game its solely that, just a game. If you mean no true harm and are playing the game purely for the entertainment value there is no harm to be done. A child will retain some input of anything given to them, violence, tragedy, and war should be given in moderation.
When the topic of violence in videogames is mentioned and how it ruins children today, I get defensive. Both my brother and I were raised on videogames and love them as a form of entertainment and only entertainment. I feel they benefit much more than as a form on entertainment but also help things like: reaction timing, teamwork skills, tactical skills, puzzle solving abilities, and even as a learning/teaching tool. Reaction timing is essential to being a good gamer, which is not only beneficial in the game but also in real life daily tasks like sports and driving. Teamwork skills help you grow closer to friends, work together with peers and coworkers and even help excel you in your career. Puzzle solving skills apply to test taking, general problem solving in daily situations, which can also help you excel in your career. Videogames are also a great teaching tool. The popular game “Minecraft” is being implemented into elementary schools because of its simplicity and its ability to capture the attention of the students.
I have played videogames for the majority of my life, both as a stress reliever, free time consumer, and a way to bond with friends. The social aspect alone of videogames and how it bonds today’s youth greatly outweighs its potentially “harmful” aspects. Videogames are competitive, entertaining, educational, and can even become a profession. There are hundreds of thousands who actually get paid and sponsored to play videogames, which could be a very viable solution for working at home.
I believe that when the statement that says “videogames make people more aggressive” is completely false. During the game you are going to be competitive and try your hardest to achieve victory. Any obstacle which hinders you from achieving that goal is frustrating. The player may seem aggressive during or in the game but once it is over, it’s over, and gamers realize that. Also, the claim is made that “life becomes like a joke” but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This could cause people to become more outgoing and joke around a lot more, serious issues are still treated respectfully because most games don’t virtualize the boring or hard decisions that must be made in life.
When the aspect of desensitization is brought to light I also have a conflicting opinion. Being desensitized to violence isn’t endorsing it, it merely teaches you to deal with it. Soldiers deal with death, gore, and violence on a daily basis and I’m sure exposure to it as a juvenile helped them compensate and understand what is truly going on. It helps the person not to overreact or exaggerate a small issue or problem like a broken bone, or blood in general. These types of skills are good to have as a parent, doctor, or even a bystander to a crime or murder.
In my opinion, there is no need for activism against such a simple topic like violence in videogames. Groups like the MAVAV seem unneeded and have no large impact on the topic. Those mothers should not allow their children to play those types of games, they should have no say or opinion in how other mothers and parents raise their child. If they feel the need to deprive their children of both the social aspects of video games, and the other skills mentioned, that is their choice but should not be forced on other parents. The claims of the MAVAV such as: “Textspeak Linked to Violent Videogames”, “Videogames Not Fun”, “Everything Just a Game to Gamers” are outrageous considering their evidence. On the topic of “Textspeak Linked to Violent Videogames” the argument they supply is “Textspeak is the process of shortening words and adding numbers to a text message to make it “cooler.” The form of text messaging is highly annoying. One example suffice: “RU cmin out 2nite?” Deciphered: “Are you coming out tonight?” (MAVAV) This type of language only to shorten the amount of characters when typing and still convey the same message, how this is applied to violent video games is beyond me.
Violence will continue to be a key selling point of games as technology advances even with results and new research coming out daily. Overall there are many varying opinions on the subject of whether violence in videogames are necessary shown by researchers and the data of different studies. Those who are against violence in videogames seek to show the negative events of Major terroristic events and temporary psychological effects. The actions carried out by Aaron Alexis, Adam Lanza, Eric Harris, and Dylan Klebold were outliers of the whole community of gamers who enjoy more interactive and semi-violent games. The psychological benefits shown by the pro-violence side seem to outweigh the hindrances claimed by the anti-violence side.
The bible does mention that violence is despised by God and he “hates the wicked and the one who loves violence”. As mentioned previously, gaming is merely a simulation and form of entertainment. If the player intends for the actions he/she is committing in the game to be violent, then those are the ones who should not be encouraged to play. But the fact that people seek to remove all violence from games is too big of a task and hindrance to people who do not abuse that form of entertainment.
However, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 states to “Abstain from every form of evil.” Some might consider videogames a form of evil. Psalm 119:37 says “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.” In conclusion, there are well developed arguments for both perspectives. As Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. The decision of videogames should be left up to the parents when the child is young. The key is to teach the child correct morals, and to create a healthy character and child that is spiritually mature.
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