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Violent Video Games Essay, Research Paper

Violent Video Games: Should

They Be a Concern

Frank, Betty, you re right on time. Please come in, Glenna asked as she and her husband Chris greeted their long time friends at the door. Dinner is about ready, please have a seat, Glenna invited as she hustled to the kitchen. Can I help at all? Betty hollered as Glenna scurried along. Nah, thanks for the offer, but I m just finishing up, she responded from across the room. As Glenna set down the last bowl of food she bellowed for everyone to come and eat. Where is Mark, Betty asked, referring to Glenna and Chris 13 year-old son, as she sat down. He is playing those God-forsaken video games, Chris replied with disgust in his tone. Yeah, he hardly ever wants to do anything with us anymore, much less eat dinner, Glenna added with the same tone. I ll bring him a plate in a bit; let s pray.

Video games are a very popular means of entertainment among adolescents today.

They offer a much needed, long sought after, cure for Boredom. However, there are many concerns surrounding video games. The frontrunner among these concerns is video game violence. This is a very real and pertinent issue because the teens that are being saturated with this violence on an everyday basis are the only hope for a better tomorrow. Moreover, if this violence is influencing them to treat life as meaningless, then there must be some kind of action taken to stop this desensitization. The problem of violence in video games has been pushed off and ignored for long enough. It is about time that we confront this problem in a hard-nosed manner to see if there is a cause for concern about our youth. First of all, we will discuss what video game violence is. From there we will examine the effects it has on the user s family life, his social life, him physically, and finally, psychologically.

In order to draw accurate conclusions on this issue, we must first define and explain what video game violence is. Violence, in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, is defined as rough treatment; [or] use of physical force on others, esp. to hurt or harm them (1175). From this we can logically draw a definition of violence in video games as being any game that has the user (in the game) utilizing physical force on others in order to hurt, harm, or kill them. Nearly a third of the top 100 top-console games for the first quarter 1999 had at least some sort of violent content as described before (Quittner 50). What is even more startling is that an estimated sixty-two percent of North American homes have video game equipment (Ko 47). With this high of a percentage of homes having video game equipment, and nearly 33 of the top 100 games having violent content, it is, therefore, easy to see how prevalent these games are in America s modern culture.

When video games were first introduced in the 1970 s they became a preferred childhood activity for leisure (Cesarone 31). Parents responded with concern about the possible ill effects of the games on children (Cesarone 31). However, early research on these effects was inconclusive (Cesarone 31). Today, research is much more productive and exact. Games being put out today, because of their extremely gory and violent nature, have triggered many more advancements in how thorough the effects on the users are examined. Now that we have a good idea of what video game violence is, we ll take a look at some of the effects that video games have on the user s family life.

The effects on family life are probably more of a concern to parents than any other aspect of life that video games affect. This is because it does not stop at the user. The effects are felt at a collective level. All who are in daily contact with the user are susceptible to these effects. The first aspect of family life that is affected is the togetherness atmosphere. Those who are into video games can literally become addicted to them. In fact, a 1998 study published by Psychological Reports found that one in five adolescents could be classified as pathologically dependant on video games (Ko 47). That ratio is more than likely higher by now. With this addiction comes self-confinement to the game and isolation from those who are not involved in the game (Walsh).

Another aspect of family life that is affected is the education of the user. In a study of 225 college-aged students, those who had a history of playing video games as a teenager scored lower marks in school than their non-game playing peers (Ko 47). The main cause of these lower marks in school is from the fact that they will substitute homework time for game playing time (Ko 47). Therefore, because of the lower marks, the parents become upset and have to discipline the user; the parents troubles are increased along with household tension. Dr. David Walsh, PhD, lays out a few tips on the website for the Institute for Media and the Family for parents to follow in order that there will be less stress involved when dealing with their children about video games. They are:

1. Limit game playing time (recommended: No more than 1 hour per day.

2. Play with your child to become more familiar with the games.

3. Provide alternative ways for a child to spend time.

4. Require that homework and jobs must be done first; use video game playing time as a reward.

5. Do not put video game set in children s rooms where they can shut the door and isolate themselves.

6. Talk about the content of the games.

7. Ask your video store to require parental approval before a violently rated video game can be rented by children.

8. Finally, encourage play with friends away from the video game set (Walsh).

If parents were to abide by these tips, they would resolve many of the problems that occur as a result of video games.

The real problem arises when parents fail to show even the slightest amount of concern toward what their kids are involved in. What is even more problematic is when they, in some cases, condone their kids to abuse the games, using the games as a sort of babysitter. It s a little violent, but we think he can differentiate between a game and real life (Leland A-1). This is a very common thought of a lot of parents these days. The fact is that games can confuse reality and fantasy. For a young person the line between reality and fantasy is not strong (Walsh).

There are many aspects of the user s social life that is affected because of the video games. One is the amount of time they spend playing the games. In a 1993 survey of 357 seventh and eighth grade students, boys averaged 4.2 hours per week while girls only 2 hours per week (Strasburger 36). What s more, 15 boys in the [survey] reported playing 15 or more hours in an average week (Strasburger 36). From speculation, one would have to believe that these numbers have ballooned since 93. Because of the user s isolation from other things and people in his life when playing video games, he is socially downtrodden. His whole world point of view can revolve around the game he is playing, even when he is away from the game.

In most violent games women are seen as weak and helpless and, therefore, must be rescued or given some sort of assistance in order to survive (Welsh). This can give the user that same point of view. Therefore, this leaves the user with a fantasy ideology that needs to be stopped.

It seems as though the social effects of video game violence were put into perspective on April 20, 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made their infamous mark on American history. People focused on those kids in Columbine using violent video games, they should have focused more on the guns in their rooms (Leland A-1). There is no argument there. However, video games are just as much to blame for the crime as guns are. The connections are inescapable. If there were fewer guns, fewer people would be shot to death; if there were fewer violent images, fewer people might be moved to seek violent solutions (Strasburger 37).

The physical effects of video games should be as much of a concern as any other. When a user is playing video games he is usually sitting or lying down. This does not help out in the chubby department, especially when he is munching on chips or some other snack. One who is engulfed so much into a game that he does hardly any exercising at all, more often than not, has a weight problem. On the other hand, there are those users who get so into a game that they will simply forget to eat, or would rather play the game than depart from it to eat.

Many have claimed that the use of video games and its controllers helps with hand-eye coordination. Well contrary to popular belief, playing video games does not increase hand-eye coordination skills (Strasburger 36). Certain studies have confirmed that the greater the game s violent content, the greater the player s hostility and anger toward others (Strasburger 36). There have also been many medical concerns about video games. However, most have centered around their ability to trigger epileptic seizures in certain susceptible children (Strasburger 36). On the other hand, there are a few positive applications discovered for video games. Playing video games during chemotherapy can decrease anxiety, and [they] can facilitate in the rehabilitation in upper limb burn victims (Strasburger 37). Take caution though; don t give the chemotherapy patient the game Duke NUKEm to play. You might want to keep that game away from the burn victim too, considering one of Duke s many weapons is the flame-thrower, in which he uses to torch anything and anyone that comes in his way.

The psychological effects of playing video games are probably the most hazardous to the user. Moreover, these psychological effects are where most of the other problems stem from. The main reason that these problems occur is because of the violent content that is before the child s very eyes. As children come into adolescence, they are particularly vulnerable to melodrama, sentimentality, impulsiveness, and self-centered thinking. Problems can arise when adults saturate children with vivid images glorifying violence as the legitimate solution to all problems and provide point and shoot video games that desensitize them to the act of killing ( Violence 10). One might be thinking, that s great, but you would have to play a lot of video games for this to be evident. Not true! As a matter of fact, even small doses of violent video games are harmful to children (Ko 47). After only 15 minutes of playing violent video games the user begins to show more aggressive tendencies (Ko 47). A parent might respond to this saying: I don t have any more aggressive tendencies after I play violent video games. This is because things that merely amuse a grown up can injure a child, whose brain undergoes a powerful development surge before age 14 (Lacayo 38). Playing violent video games are not a healthy way of spending time. They fail to teach anything of significance to today s culture and are mood-altering (Colman 12). Violent video games reinforce in children the notions that violence is a common aspect of everyday culture and that pleasure is to be gained from inflicting it (Strasburger 37). These violent games are even more dangerous if the user has other mental illnesses that make them more susceptible to acting them out. Ordinary kids may be a bit desensitized to violence. More susceptible kids are pushed toward a dangerous precipice (Lacayo 38). There are some people who find video games as a whole are not as negative as they are made out to be. Patricia Greenfield, a psychology professor at UCLA, finds that there is a positive correlation between video games and intelligence (Quittner 50). Her research attributes an increase in world-wide non-verbal IQ (spatial skills, the use of icons for problem solving and the ability to understanding things from multiple view points) to the spread of video games (Quittner 50). However, this increase in non-verbal IQ comes at a sacrifice of more important social skills (Quttner50).

We live in a day and age that feeds off of violence in the media. It is only natural, it seems, that it has seeped into the multi-billion dollar video game industry. The reality is that the main audience, or target group if you will, for this industry is our country s young people. It seems, not just ironic, but down right foolish that we spend millions of state and tax dollars on violence prevention in our schools while $6 billion a year is being spent on games where compromise does not exist and that conflict can be resolved only by competition, aggression, and death (Strasburger 37). Don t misinterpret the message that is attempting to be conveyed here; video games itself are very fun and, used within a reasonable set of boundaries, can be a good way to pass time. The fact is that violent video games prepare kids to kill and even teach them to enjoy the experience. Of course not everybody who plays these games will become a murderer. Just as not everyone who smokes gets cancer. But they will get sickened.


Cesarone, Bernard. Video Games and Children. Emergency Librarian. Jan.-Feb. 95:


Colman, Adrian. Video Games. Youth Studies. Mar. 96: 12.

Ko, Marnie. Mortal Konsequenses. News Magazine (Alberta Edition). 22Mar. 2000:


Lacayo, Richard; Victoria Rainert. Toward the Root of Evil. Time. 6Apr. 98: 38.

Leland, John. Family s Choices Can Blunt the Effect Video Violence. New York

Times. 25 Sept. 2000, late ed. : A-1

Quittner, Joshua. Are Video Games Really So Bad? Time. 10May 99: 50.

Strasburger, Victor C. Adolescents and the Media (Medical and Psychological Impact).

London: Sage, 1995.

Violence Experts Warns Parents About Video, Computer Games. Children Services

Report. 11Jan. 99: 10

Violence. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. New Ed. 1987.

Walsh, David. Institute for Media and the Family. 23Oct. 2000.

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