How Violent Video Games Are Making Troubled Kids

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1969 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

Words: 1969|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Feb 9, 2022

Video games have been around since the 1950’s. Of course, back then, they were much simpler. Finding violence in something as simple in pong was quite difficult. As video games grew more complex and realistic, room for more volatile and immersive ideas opened up. When a child spends most of his time playing these new violent video games, parents start asking questions. Most specifically, ‘Are violent video games making my child violent?’ This is a question that has bedeviled children and parents alike over the past few years. Though not everyone agrees on the answer, the sheer amount of video games in the world make it an incredibly important question all the same. Herman Narula, the CEO of a game developing company, states that there are approximately 2.5 billion frequent video game players. This will only increase as the world grows more comfortable with the culture. Alongside this rapid growth, the USA tops the charts when it comes to adolescent violence. Whether this be school fighting or school shooting, the United States leads in both. It’s much more than violence, though. There are far more lingering effects, some undisputable, that video-games cause. The conversation was originally much smaller, just drawing connections between what many young mass murderers had in common. The idea that video games caused all of these tragedies, however, is just grasping at strings. For many reasons, it’s clear that video games are not the ‘root of all evil’ that many try to make it out as.

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

More often than not, school shooters were avid video game players. It’s also been shown that some adult shooters have been familiar with video games. “The gunman who killed 22 people … on August 3 made a fleeting reference to video game soldiers, indicating that he was familiar with video violence”. One of the greatest examples used however, is the Columbine shooting. The Columbine shooters were said to play the first-person shooter ‘Doom’. This very game is known for its gory and gruesome visuals. It’s easy to see how this link was found: Violent hobbies should lead to violent behavior, right? This would be somewhat convincing if it weren’t for the fact that tens of millions of people have played this game. Doom is so popular, in fact, that it has a sequel. “...a 2011 Supreme Court decision overturning California's ban on the sale of violent video games to minors, the late Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed a link between the games and aggression.” The same goes for Grand Theft Auto, another extremely violent game series. If there were any legitimate connections between Doom and the Columbine shooters’ actions, the thought of another Doom game would be blasphemous. “Fortunately, there is no hard evidence yet that such games lead to mass murders or grisly killings. Indeed, most correlation studies show at most a small effect.” These teenagers were also under many, many other stressors. Dylan Klebold, one of the assailants, was previously troubled by how he didn’t fit in in school and that he lacked a girlfriend. It is often overlooked how impactful social stressors can be, and a simple answer like ‘video games’ are often used to gloss over the complex machinations of a teenager's mind.

Mike Snider quotes a specific study in his article “Study confirms link between violent video games and physical aggression”. This study being “Meta Analysis of the relationship between violent video game play and physical aggression over time” by Anna T. Prescott et al. Upon further inspection, the conclusion this study comes to is that there is only a small link between aggression and video games. Things like ethnicity, culture, and age also have a large part in the statistics. Though one can technically say there is a positive link between the two, the connection is so minor that making such a claim is a stretch. Especially when other external factors make such a large ripple in the data.

Now, why are people so adamant on believing that video games have caused this surge in violence? In an article by Aaron Warnick, a well renowned journalist, he (like many others) believes that, once again, the Columbine shootings main the idea mainstream. When a crisis like that happens, it’s comforting to have one external cause that one has control over. Something that can not only be controlled, but stopped. What Warnick adds to the conversation, however, is the good that videogames can do. Some can encourage fitness, and puzzle games nurture critical thinking. In fact, puzzle games are more popular than first person shooters. So are adventure games. It’s cruel and unprofessional to acknowledge a possible negative while not addressing a proven positive. Especially when these positives (critical thinking and fitness) are something that are priceless to children. “Sports video games such as bowling and golf call for users to emulate moves of real players, and dance games require users to perform vigorous activity.” Many articles and journals arguing how harmful media like videogames can be do this same maneuver. Breathing too much oxygen outside of exercise can make one dizzy, and too much water can lower the salt in ones body to dangerous levels. The positives, however, drastically outweigh these negatives. Now, it would be foolish to say that video games are as important as air or water, but the same thought process can be applied.

What a lot of journalists get correct, on the other hand, is that video games are becoming more realistic than ever. “The technologies that are changing video games will start to be applied to potentially massive effect in the real world. Next year, games will start to feel more like real worlds than ever.” (Narula, 2019) The argument many make is that gamers know the difference between the real world and the digital one, which means it has no effect on aggression. The more realistic games become, however, the weaker this argument becomes. Since realistic games may be more influential, that small margin that aggressive behavior is increased might actually grow with time. Whether that becomes a noticeable trend, however, is something only time will tell.

However, not every violent kid will become a tragic headline. Violence also isn’t the only negative effect video games are said to have. “Given the likelihood of individual variability, it may be useful to consider the impact of video games within three broad domains: personality, situation, and motivation.” (Harvard, 2010) Notice how Harvard Research says ‘impact’. There can be both positive and negative effects on one's personality, situation, and motivation. The article explores in depth how video games can alter an adolescents mind. For example, how video games and other media impact teens mentally and socially.(Harvard, 2010) Maybe video games causing violence is the least of our problems. “...assist the field in moving past the question of whether violent video games increase aggressive behavior, and toward questions regarding why, when, and for whom they have such effects.”(Prescott, Sargent and Hull, 2020)

Given I am someone who plays video games (some with gorey and violent aspects), I felt I may be biased. To remedy this as much as possible, I asked some parents what they thought. These parents are my own and my mother's friends. Out of all 5 people, 2 thought that video games make their kids more violent. All of them thought that it was a good stress reliever, and none of them believed it would make their child a mass murderer of some sort. Due to recent events, I couldn’t ask more people or get more questions, but it’s still an interesting insight. Four of the five added that moderation is important. Given they had no contact with each other about this topic beforehand, the fact that they all conveyed the same message is telling enough. Video games can have negative effects, but moderation is the key.

In a study by Joseph Hilgard et al., around 400 people were tasked with playing the same game. The difference being how gory their version was. While some had to kill exploding monsters, some just had to teleport wandering aliens back to their home (Hilgard, 2). Afterwards, they were given partners and were tasked to do a variety of tasks. At any given moment they could submerge their partner's hand in freezing water (Hilgard, 3). They noticed that there was no difference between those who played the incredibly gory version and the friendly version of the game.

Maybe moderation is the key factor to all of this. It’s likely even talked about more than violence in games is. With media like video games being more accessible and consumable by the day, it’s no surprise kids and teens are overindulging. “About 41% of teen boys and 20% of adolescent girls play video games every day, the poll found.”, says Lisa Rapaport, a frequent health and wellness writer. Almost half of all teen boys play video games every day, anyone would be concerned. “In addition, 42% of parents with daily gamers reported that playing video games negatively impacted teens’ moods, compared to 32% of parents whose teens played less frequently.” (Rapaport, 2020) Too much of anything can be a bad thing. As much as I believe social media and video games don’t cause violence, even I have to agree that they are just as vulnerable to this clause. It’s commonplace for parents to limit their child's time on things like their phones and computer, and with good reason.

There are extreme cases of this, in fact. Too much gaming is enough of a problem to be addressed by the World Health Organization. It’s called ‘Gaming Disorder’, and the WHO say it is

“...characterized by impaired control over gaming, increasing priority given to gaming over other activities to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other interests and daily activities, and continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.” (WHO, 2018)

For something to be serious enough to be addressed by the World Health Organization, it’s quite serious. One could see this as another reason for video-games being a ‘root-of-all-evil’ for some people. Though the WHO state it only affects a small portion of ‘gamers’, everyone should be aware of the amount of time they spend playing games. Whether or not this overactivity leads to habits like violence has yet to be listed on their website.

I looked at many, many studies and journals. They all seemed to have conflicting data, even though they used similar ways to test people. However, many studies that I’ve looked at seem to be susceptible to something called priming. Priming is how the brain reacts to one stimulus directly after another. (Kuhn, 2019) It’s easier to solve a puzzle if someone has just recently done one, opposed to if someone just played a video game. Many of these studies measure someones ‘level of violence’ immediately after someone playing a video game. Of course someone would be more likely to think of violent things directly after a violent game. The articles that argued that video games did cause violence seemed to just be a result of priming. Those that measured long-term effects seemed to say the opposite. I find the latter to be more accurate.

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All in all, there's a lot to be said on the topic of video games. While some may argue that they cause violence, other state just the opposite. At the same time, research shows how video games can be a hindrance to education, but also nurture critical thinking. Opposed to what I originally believed, video games clearly aren’t the best things in the world: too much of them can be addicting and even lead to gaming disorder alongside a myriad of other negative effects. They are, however, not as malicious to adolescents as people make them out to be. With proper time management and moderation, one can enjoy video games as a hobby with no negative effects.

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How Violent Video Games Are Making Troubled Kids. (2022, February 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 28, 2024, from
“How Violent Video Games Are Making Troubled Kids.” GradesFixer, 10 Feb. 2022,
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