INTRODUCTION OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
In 1972, first ever video games were introduced as home entertainment for kids and adults called the Magnavox Odyssey. The popularity of video games with children is tremendous and continues to draw their time and attention. A survey found that 92% of children, ages 2-17, play video and computer games. According to parents, children, between the ages of two and seventeen, spend almost 6.5 hours a day in front of video games, and computer. A study also found that 83% of children, ages 8-18, have at least one video game player in their home, 31% have more than 3 video game players in their home, and 49% have video game players in their own bedrooms.
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In 1993, video games have started to receive rate from the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) based on the content of the video games such as everyone, teen, mature and adults only. With the constant advance of video game technology, the ever-expanding variety of video games available, and the growing interest in children and teens to play video games, it is difficult to monitor what is available to minors.
THE BEGINNING OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
The video game industry is competitive and focused on the bottom-line. Video game companies are striving to capture this growing market share of young customers, namely children and teens. Mature-rated games are popular and are being marketed to children under 17 years old. Parents do not want their children to kill prostitutes, police officers, or even terrorist, basically anyone who might be deemed, in the video-game world, as a bad guy. The Law regarding this issue has been passed in 2005 to bar the sale of violent video games to children. It defines violence as anything depicting the killing, maiming, dismembering or sexual assaulting of human image.
The first major campaign came in 1976, over Death Race, an 8-bit arcade game in which a vaguely car-shaped blob runs over stick figures, turning them into tombstones. In 1993, Mortal Kombat, a fighting game that could end the opponent’s life by chopping off the head or torso-ripping with a technique so called fatality moves has become the most violent game ever. In 2001, a study has found that exposure to violent video games can increase the children’s aggressiveness. In 2004, one of mature-rated game made it in the top ten list video games for best sale, “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” and became the best selling game in that year.
MEANINGS ON VIOLENCE IN VIDEO GAMES
The violence in video games is different from the violent games in a real life. The violence in video games can be categorized along different dimensions, whether it involves fantasy characters or representations of human. There’s also how it can be viewed as in the video games, whether first-person or third-person. The context of violent stories also vary along dimensions of realism, involvement, excitement, how violent begin and end, whether they are presented in an erotic or humorous context. All of these issues have been studied thoroughly by the researchers in order to understand the variations in the nature of violent video games. Violence has always been the main issue in the media but never in the video games. Some even said that the violence in video games would have no effect on the player regardless of the degree of violence in a video game because they tend to focus on the game’s mechanics and its object, rather than its violence.
According to PC Data, in 1999, 6% of PC and video games sold contained violent content and of 338 computer games published in Denmark in 1998, 17 games could be judged to contain “a considerable amount of violence.” Of the top-selling games, 40% were shooters. Violence has always been a part of entertainment, from sports such as football, in which opponents “attack” and “defend”, to the board game such as chess, where it teaches us to be strategic in a war. Anderson and Dill (2000), have written in their article about the dangers of violent games that there are 3 reasons why violence in video games may have greater effects than violence in television. First, violence in video games let the player has their own experience in doing such violent activity by letting the player has control over the character in the video game such as first-person shooter games. Second, the active participation and involvement in video games and the last one is the addictive nature of video games. They also mentioned that violent video games are one of the ways how the children learn to be aggressive from the exposure of aggressive behavior of the video games character.
THE LAWS ON THE VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
Child advocate groups have long argued that violent video games are harmful for young children and teenagers. Laws are now being written in various states to restrict the sale of violent video games. This trend began after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings where the young killers were avid players of violent video games. Laws to limit violent content in video games have mostly failed because of First Amendment protection which stated that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. These laws appear to have more video game industry fighting against them.
Most studies and experiments on video games containing violent content have not found adverse effects. Video game producers would argue that laws regulating video games are inappropriate and unnecessary. A video game developer argued that 33 scholars, from institutions including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of London, have described the law as misguided. One of the arguments said by one of the video games developer who strongly disagrees on the laws regulating the video games, “People can continue to claim that psychological research suggests that video games lead to violence and that porn leads to promiscuity, but in the real world the evidence seems to suggest otherwise”.
DOES PLAYING VIOLENT VIDEO GAME CAUSE AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR?
Despite the claims of increased violent behavior among players of violent video games, there is evidence supporting the opposite point of view. No significant differences in aggressiveness were found between students after playing a non-aggressive, a moderately or a highly aggressive video game. Another study found violent video game play does not trigger the aggressive behavior. The second study, by Williams & Skoric, found that players who played a violent video game with an average of 56 hours a month were not statistically different from those who don’t. The researchers also reported that game play was not a predictor of aggressive behaviors. If the popularity of violent video games is on the rise among children and teenagers and if participation with such violent toys causes an increase in aggression, why then have the statistics for violent crimes been decreasing in recent years? So does violent video game play really leads to increased aggression in children? According to crime statistics released by the FBI, “The violent crime rate has further dropped 2.2% since 2003. The number of murders is down by 2.4%. As for trends in arrests of juveniles for violent crime, a comparison of 2004 data with those of 2003 indicated that the number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes declined 0.8 percent, 5.5 percent compared with 2000 data, and 30.9 percent compared with 1995 figures. So according to the FBI, the murder rate hit 40% low in 2004 than the past year which was also during the “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” became the best selling game.
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Another video game developer stated, “Much more telling is the fact that as graphically violent video games has become more popular, incidents of youth violence continue to drop when you would expect it to go the other way”. If violent video games cause kids to exhibit aggressive behavior, why are violent crime statistics down? According to Beck and Wade, “In reality, juvenile crime statistics dropped sharply (along with crime in general) at the very beginning of the period when the level of video game violence was hitting critical mass”. According to Lawrence Sherman, a criminologist at the University of Pennsylvania, “Just as violent video games were pouring into American homes on the crest of the personal computer wave, juvenile violence began to plummet. Juvenile murder charges dropped by about two-thirds from 1993 to the end of the decade and show no signs of going back up. The rate of violence in schools hasn’t increased, either. Since crime statistics are down, violent video game developers would argue that marketing video games to children and teenagers should remain unrestricted.
EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
Video games are said to be good for children and teenagers. According to Walsh,”Besides being fun, some of the games provide practice in problem solving and logic as well as strategizing.” Video game play does reap positive benefits for its participants. “Research has also identified benefits associated with creative and prosocial uses of video games, as in physical rehabilitation and oncology. Proponents of video games suggest that they may be a friendly way of introducing children to computers, and may increase children’s hand-eye coordination and attention to detail” Cesarone stated. Marketing video games to children and teens provides these young customers the opportunity to experience these helpful benefits at an early age.
Children and teenagers are growing and maturing physically and their brains are still developing. According to Baenen,”The 15-year-old brain is not the same as a 30-year-old brain, and so things are not going to affect it the same. And that’s true of alcohol, and it’s true of violent video games.”Violent video games may have a bigger consequence on children and teens than originally thought. According to the American Psychological Association, “Cartoonish and fantasy violence is often perceived (incorrectly) by parents and public policy makers as safe even for children. However, experimental studies with college students have consistently found increased aggression after exposure to clearly unrealistic and fantasy violent video games. Indeed, at least one recent study found significant increases in aggression by college students after playing E-rated (suitable for everyone) violent video games.” Children are prohibited from alcohol, tobacco, and pornography because these substances are deemed for adults only and could have stronger effects on young children and teenager’s brains than on mature, grown-up adults. It could be argued that these substances are harmful and lead to serious addictions for all age groups, not just children. Walsh stated, “Children (and adults) who play more violent video games are more likely to experience aggressive feelings, thoughts, and actions, and are also less likely to behave in positive, prosocial ways. This appears to be true for both boys and girls, and surprising, also for children who are not naturally aggressive.” Perhaps violent video game play does lead to increased aggression in children and adults who participate.
Video games laced with human atrocities help young, impressionable people practice killing without care.” According to Walsh, video games have a greater impact than movies or TV for the following reasons: “1. Children are more likely to imitate the actions of a character with whom they identify. In violent video games the player is often required to take the point of view of the shooter or perpetrator. 2. Video games by their very nature require active participation rather than passive observation. 3. Repetition increases learning. Video games involve a great deal of repetition. If the games are violent, then the effect is a behavioral rehearsal for violent activity. 4. Rewards increase learning, and video games are based on a reward system.” Also similar findings were obtained from the American Psychological Association website, “Violent video games may have even stronger effects on children’s aggression because (1) the games are highly engaging and interactive, (2) the games reward violent behavior, and because (3) children repeat these behaviors over and over as they play.”
Ultimately, parents are responsible for what their children are allowed to do in their spare time. In the end, they are responsible to know what video games their children play and have the authority to regulate what video games their children play or how much time they are allowed to play video games. Parents need to talk more with their kids about their experience with video games and be more involved when their children express an interest in video games. “Half the parents who participated in our survey said they do not allow their children to play M-rated games, but nearly two-thirds of surveyed students said they owned their own M-rated game. What could explain this gap? Maybe this statistic: only half of the parents say they were with their children the last time they purchased a game.” At the end of the day, parents have the final say as to what video games they allow their children to play and need to be actively involved when their children purchase video games.