Where’s the Proof that Video Games Promote Violence?

Where’s the Proof that Video Games Promote Violence?

violent video gamesRebecca Mallory

If you haven’t been bombarded with an endless litany of pros and cons concerning violent video games, guns, second ammendment rights, reasons why we need to “revamp” that dusty old constitution thing, etc., then you obviously live under a rock with no ties to the outside world.  Inimical chatter is only getting louder and more vociferous attempting to prove who’s wrong and who’s right. How about we use some critical thinking skills and then make up our own minds?

Remember clear back in 2007? When anyone who owned shoes and could chew gum could make money?  The economy was booming, government regulators had not yet crawled from the swamps… remember those days? My husband and I had an acquaintance approach us and explain this pretty great way to make some fast money by investing in an exploding industry: video games. This new game (I honestly can’t remember the name of it!) Was supposed to far surpass “World of Warcraft” and be the hot new item. Now, being one of nine children, eight of us girls, and having four daughters, I had close to zero experience with video games – unless “Donkey Kong” gives me any credibility. (Incidentally, my husband announced over the pulpit last week at church that I am addicted to Instagram. Does that count? Thanks dear…)

Violence as a business

This business presentation started with statistics on the demographics of the millions of online gamers, what gaming entailed, how they spent their money to beef up their game, have greater chances of winning, become stronger, more buff (is that still a word?) or whatever. They could play people all over the world! I was dumbfounded, intrigued and spellbound. Wow! That’s incredible! What a blast! The presenter then went on to imply how it was so cool because these gamers could be the biggest nerds ever at work, come home to an empty house, turn on their computer, log onto this game, create their character, and voila! They became the man/woman they’d always dreamt of: beautiful, rich, famous, etc. He admitted that a teeny weeny downside could be that these people sometimes had a more difficult time relating to coworkers, neighbors, even family members because of their intense desire to be their imaginary personae.  So what? He/she didn’t need these people anyway, because he/she would soon be in the middle of their fantasy world living their dream. All they needed was their PC and a credit card. Wasn’t that awesome that we could “help” people like that??

We didn’t commit that night as we wanted to talk about it. We both had that sick feeling inside like when you eat six Krispy Kremes before you even realize it.  How could we consciously be part of such a revolting industry that preyed on the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of others? Who, out of their desperation, would pay any amount just to live a few moments of fantasy?  It suddenly seemed so eerily dark.  Something about money being the root of all evil came to mind. But the return on our investment seemed to be instant and endless. How could we pass that up?

Well… many may think we were brainless, but we said no. The only other experience I have with video games is simply observing my grandchildren as they play seemingly harmless games on the computer, iPad, Tablets, iPhones.  I thought it was difficult keeping my own kids from the TV for hours on end in the ‘80’s, but now technology is at our fingertips, in every room, car, and store. Are there any lingering effects?

Only a bazillion studies have been done on this subject and the answers seem to favor that group trying to prove their particular point. Some say video games are perfectly fine: that they promote dexterity, improved peripheral vision, decision making, etc. Probably true. What are the negatives?  Being that this is an above-average intelligent audience, I’m not going to answer that. Even Justice Antonin Scalia said, “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively,”

Well, ok then! There you have it! Video games must be ok! Straight from the highest court in the land….

Common Sense

Here’s my thought. Can we please use our own brain for one millisecond?  If you need the government or some university brainiac study to tell you that your kid needs to play with other actual (not virtual!) kids, or that he/she needs to get outdoors and get some exercise on a real (not virtual!) bike or swimming pool, then you may as well grab that other console or joy stick and stare at the screen for hours on end right along with them.

Still aren’t sure there are any downsides to video games? – especially violent video games, here are a few things to think about. Studies show that most parents have no idea about the content or ratings of their children’s video games. Most are just happy that the kids are quiet and not bugging each other. Big deal, right?  Prolonged exposure to violent video games show that many boys are much more aggressive at home, school, and are more defiant to authority in direct relation to the content of their video games. Why would this be shocking to anyone? How do children usually learn? Through constant repetition. One psychologist observed,

 “…violent acts are continually repeated throughout the video game. This method of repetition has long been considered an effective teaching method in reinforcing learning patterns because players are able to make decisions affecting the actions of the character they are imitating. After a limited amount of time playing a violent video game, a player can “automatically prime aggressive thoughts” (Bushman & Anderson, 2002, p. 1680). [emphasis added]

The researchers concluded that players who had prior experience playing violent video games responded with an increased level of aggression when they encountered confrontation. This study goes on to say that aggressive affects are not immediate but are gradual and increase over time.

Recently, the NY Daily News printed an article by Mike Lupica who broke a story on the New Town, Connecticut shooter, Adam Lanza, and his obsession with violent video games. Apparently Lanza was trying to “score” a high body count and earn killing “points” according to “Call of Duty” his game of choice. He allegedly had been planning this travesty over many years and in great detail. Why did he choose Sandy Hook Elementary? Simple. It was a no gun zone. No opposition, and more importantly, he could score the most “points” by killing the most people possible. He even killed himself to earn those “points”. He made sure that the policemen didn’t earn points for killing him first. Wow… because of an obsessive video game addiction.

Adam Lanza must have not been aware of the strict anti gun laws in Connecticut. Surely he would have never committed this horrific crime if he had! Did it make any difference? How many lives would have been saved had armed guards been there to protect those innocent children? But I digress… this is not a second amendment article. This is a “what’s the big deal with violent video games?” article. You need to figure it out for you and your own family. But never fear! President Obama has proposed a $10 million study on “the relationship between video games, media images and violence.” The study has not gotten congressional approval.

Gee, I wonder what they’ll find out. I mean, think about it. What happens to you when you do and see something over, and over, and over? What happens when you continue to practice the piano over and over and over? Throw a baseball over and over and over? Cook the same dish over and over and over?  Does it affect your proficiency? Of course.  You don’t need someone else with twelve letters behind their name, or “US Department of______” to tell you that. Hey… I think I just saved the government $10 million.

Not sure I’ll hold my breath before congress calls to thank me. Gotta go… Instagram calling!

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