Do violent video games really turn kids into cold blooded killers?


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I like video games. I almost always play them once or twice a day. Video games are something I am passionate about, it is something I like to do to entertain myself. It is one of my hobbies. But there are times that video games gets a bad rep from the general public.

More specifically, I'm talking about violent video games and the notion that they create killers and violence within our society. With more and more games coming out and most of them being for older people that includes lots of blood, gore, and gratuitous violence it can be hard for younger people to get games or play them that are suitable for them. Some of the most popular games these days are FPS's (First Person Shooters) which are games that put you in the shoes of a solder or space marine tasked with shooting people and bad gays of all kinds, sometimes with real world guns (like in the Call of Duty franchise). Another popular game is "Grand Theft Auto" a game in which you can steal cars, kill people, and rob banks among other things. GTA has been a key example of the idea that kids get turned to a life of crime if they play such a game and with the newest game in the series: GTA 5 coming out in the next few weeks, I feel like this is a good time to address this topic and also how I feel about it.

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One big incident that happened that was kind of the first instance of us asking this question was the Columbine incident in which students Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris of Columbine High School in Colorado opened fire on students killing 13 in the process. According to This article (and I will be referring back this this article more times in this blog) by Julia Layton one of the victims sued two big video game publishers Sony and Nintendo citing the reason was because the media found out that the two students played violent video games such as "Doom" and "Mortal Kombat". Clearly the woman suing thinks that since these two played the games they got the idea to shoot up their local school, but are video games to blame for this? She also lists that they were inspired by a movie as well in which there is a scene in which a student kills students with a shotgun, so who is to say they were not inspired by that instead?

The article goes on to list a study that was published in the 2001 edition of "Psychological Science" journal. They made some conclusions on the matter that include: Children who play violent video games experience an increase in physiological signs of aggression, and Children who play violent video games experience an increase in aggressive actions (Layton 2008). The test was conducted by having kids playing violent games and other kids playing non-violent games. They also tested kids playing competitive, violent games as well like FPS's in which the aggressive levels were measured higher then non-violent games. As a gamer myself, I can relate to the competitive part, if things don't go well or I am in a bad slump of losses i get frustrated and somewhat mad. But do I get mad an aggressive from JUST playing violent games solo or with others? I don't think so. In fact, even if the game is non-violent and it involves competition I can still get angry or frustrated if things don't go my way. It happens in all sports too! If I'm a baseball player and I give up a game tying home run to the visiting team I would no doubt be angry, or if I throw a interception in which the team takes to the end zone for a touchdown I would be angry as well. What I am getting at is, even if a game is violent or not and you are playing against other people you can still get angry just because you are not winning.

This brings me to the simple fact: Yes that violent video games according to the data, have been shown to increase aggression within the brain. But there is no clear cut proof that violent video games causes people to go on a rampage or commit acts of violence. Clearly the judge saw that as the article later explains the lawsuit from the Columbine incident was thrown out because there was no way that either Nintendo nor Sony could have foreseen such a terrible act of violence that took place (Layton 2008). There just is not enough proof that says that violent video games is what causes people to turn to a life of crime or go on rampages. The same thing has been said about TV, movies, and even music before by the media and "concerned parents".

If anything, when events like Columbine or even the more recent Sandyhook incident happen video games tend to be a scapegoat as to why the shooter(s) did it. People become so desperate for answers that the media takes it upon itself to declare that "he did it because of (insert scapegoat here)" and people eat it up without doing any research.

Maybe parents should do a better job of choosing what games are right for their kids, instead of buying them games just to keep them busy. If anything, these violent acts could be from bad/poor parenting as opposed to people playing the things they love.

Source: Layton, Julia.  "Do violent video games lead to real violence?"  24 March 2008.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-violence.htm> 6 September 2013.

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There's an opposing theory (and in my opinion, a much more credible one) that violent video games can in fact reduce real-world violence by providing a healthy outlet for aggression: http://cognoscenti.wbur.org/2013/01/17/video-games-ethan-gilsdorf The whole "video games cause violence" thing is very likely unfounded in fact. I've never gamed myself, but I know a lot of people that do, and they're no more aggressive in real life than anyone else. That same argument is popular in relation to music as well. I have more personal experience with that one: people see the Goth who listens to lots of songs about murder and assume I must be a psycho killer. (It's funny until it starts becoming the widespread societal belief.) Everything from "Mortal Kombat" to Marilyn Manson gets blamed for Columbine, and things like that are just people looking for an easy scapegoat. Considering that there's no valid evidence linking media to real-world violence, it'd probably be much more productive for researchers to examine the deeper psychological and cultural factors behind these incidents.

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