Violence can be defined as something that normally affects an individual in a way that hurts or harms him or her. Force may be of various forms, either in relation to students beating each other or in relation to grown-up people fighting for different reasons. Nowadays, with an increase in technologies, different devices, which were designed only to serve useful purposes, have now turned out to be negating those practical purposes. Games are one of those type of entertainment that has been developed. Games are defined as a set of activities that are usually done to satisfy the needs of entertainment. However, in recent years, with the development of video games and violent sports, it is seen that children are indulging a lot in gaming. Moreover, this has forced many individuals to conduct research to find out what effect games have on kids. Abuse is found to have a strong association with people interested in playing such games in real life. This research aims to promote the violent content of video games that have been contributing to the aggressive behavior of the individual player.
History and Extent of The Problem
Media is an essential and inseparable part of our daily routine in the modern age. It provides us new and technologically advanced modes of learning, working, and doing the regular activities rightly and accurately promptly. Media plays a critical role in influencing our opinions , attitudes and points of view regarding other people, relationships, problems and, in effect, the whole society. The excessively intense media reporting on current affairs results in negative or optimistic shifts in our views and perceptions on these issues being considered. The intense convergence of media in our lives leads to the troubling situation where the media representation impacts all of our lives and behaviors tremendously. Media doesn’t affect a particular community, ideology or class, but because of its role in every individual’s life today, its implications influence the entire social construct. Video games are one of the communication outlets that profoundly affect people’s perceptions and behaviours. Video games are increasing consumer attention as technological advances are becoming more flexible, more rich and more user-focused. Video games serve as one of the most popular forms of media to entertain children. The involvement of people in video games and their continuous interaction with the video game environment affects them negatively. This is specifically adverse when the games are violent with destruction, fighting, or combating as the major themes in it. There has been a strong relationship between exposure in video games and the rise in the crime rate of the younger generation. Because of prolonged exposure to video games, the violent acts, habits, and attitudes are observed.
The popularity of video games has been increasing, as shown by the investments made to meet the increasing demand. The innovations and technological advancements played a vital role in increasing the demand for video games. It has been observed that children of ages between 8 and 18 are found to have spent at least 40 hours per week in some form of media. This also includes a sharp rise in exposure to video games by the younger generation. The increasing popularity of video games has encouraged the exposure to video games to children aging two years with a minimum of 1 hour per day spent on games. It is found that children aged 8-13 years played video games about 7.5 hours a week. Anderson’s (2001) research further illuminates the fact that children are exposed to video games that are never supervised by their parents or elders. In terms of age-driven games, Adams (2010) further explains the problem that 85 percent of kids play a game designed and launched for adults. The argument of Adams points to the heavy exposure of violence and negative exposure in those games about the female body, relationships, and negative ideals. Anderson (2005) reveals the statistical data to explore the effects of media on individuals and society. Anderson explains that by the age of 18, almost every American child is exposed to 40,000 killings by one or the other form of media.
Video game history is associated with the 1970s. However, the video game that became a crucial part of video game history and raised debate on the issues related to video games was the ‘Death Race 2000’. This game consisted of a car that had to be driven over stick-made bodies. The game was not an extraordinary creation in terms of its graphics, yet the theme it was base on was violent. By the end of the 20th century, many new games are designed and distributed, which leave behind the Death race on having violent themes. Some favorite games include Mortal Combat, King of Fighters, Counterstrike, Tomb Raider, and Night Trap. These games are closely linked with violent activities or missions given to the main character. The King of Fighters is one of the favorite games of the children, and the theme it has is highly violent. This game is aimed at killing/hitting the opponent.
Such themes promote violence and form a significant debate over the effects of such games on children. This exposure and negativity of video games created a discussion, and it further grew as a national issue. The issue was also addressed at the Senate, and a leading member Joe Lieberman proposed to impose certain restrictions or boundaries on video games. Night Trap was consciously removed from the video game market as the shop owners realized that this sort of play might result in adverse public opinions about the gaming industry and stricter laws from the government. To straighten up things and make them easier and smooth, the video game industry created a body called as Entertainment Software Rating Board in the year 1994. It served as a supervising body to monitor the instances of violence and sexual exposure in video games. It was a good move as the researches were more and more concentrated towards the children’s changing behavior and passion for buying games with violent themes. The study revealed that children of 4th year in school were motivated and more enthusiastic about purchasing video games and enjoying them rather than inducing themselves in some other activity or non-media game. 59% of girls and 73% of boys showed that they enjoy playing violent games and prefer video games over manual or physical activity-based games. Such importance given to violent games by young children of the 4th year of their school grabbed the attention of people concerned with the development, growth, and behavioral patterns of children. The case of violent video games was, hence, presented in the court. As a result, in 2010, the Supreme Court of the US proposed that some restrictions will be placed to fight against violent video games owing to the negative impacts of it. (Anderson et al. 2001; Greenberg 2007; Suddath 2010).
Violent games play a great role in altering the behaviors of children. Early exposure to violence brings about a change in their viewpoints, habits, and practices. Anderson’s study provides ample information on the changes that occur due to violent video games and sports games. There is considerable research material available on this topic, and the results are in favor of the changing behavioral patterns of emotions.
Many research papers are created to understand the relationship between gaming, media, and violent behaviors. Funk et al. (2004) provide research conducted to find out the relationship between exposure to media violence (specifically video games) and then its effect on real life. Exposure to violence was used as an independent variable, whereas real-life violence and the showing of lesser empathy were used as a dependent variable. The study hypothesized that an increase in the exposure to violence in media does desensitize a child towards real-life violence.
There is another school of thought which rejects the idea that violent video games are in any way affecting the behaviors or crime trends in real life. The opposition group majorly consists of those associated with the creations and development of video games. Doug Lowenstein, the key player of the Interactive Digital Software Association, expressed his views against any relationship between increases violence and video games in the year 2000. He said his opposing views clearly on CNN by asserting his personal views in the following words. “I think the issue has been vastly overblown and overstated, often by politicians and others who don’t fully understand, frankly, this industry. There’s absolutely no evidence, none, that playing a violent video game results in aggressive behavior “(Anderson et al . 2001). His direct and clear opposition to the views of researchers led to a more in-depth analysis of this debate. The researchers engaged themselves in analyzing the fact that violent video games encourage criminal behaviors and susceptibility of individuals to severe behavioral issues involving depression, social isolation, negative perceptions, low morale, and a nasty attitude towards other people Nowadays we cannot disregard the role of media in our lives. The media is somehow responsible for the changes in society. Children are more likely to adopt the behaviors and fashions shown in television programs. “It is clear that heavy media exposure contributes to increased risk of potential offensive and violent actions” (Chaves, 2008, p. 148). It is a scientific fact that media is not the only source of aggressive behavior and violence; however, it is shown that heavy media violence exposure raises the probability of potential aggressive and violent behaviour.
The results of several studies and experiments conducted to find out the role of media in increasing smoking habits in adolescents. The advertisement on television, magazines, video games, and the internet grabs the attention of children and acts as a strong motivational force for them to light a cigarette. They get fascinated by the glamorous way in which the advertisements are made. Television and movies are supposed to have a great impact on alcohol consumption in adolescents. Children who watch more TV are likely to have increased chances of alcohol consumption. Regardless of the grade of movies, media is continuously exposing alcoholic beverages as a source of fun and fashion. Advertisements during children’s programs are not carefully designed and contain aggressive behavior, exposure to alcohol and smoking, etc. Advertisements today have sensual messages and images which are contributing to the likelihood of early sexual initiation in adolescents. Advertisements are influencing the psychosocial environment by sexual exposure on television, music videos, the internet, and movies. Alcohol consumption encourages aggression and violence as the normal brain functions are disrupted due to alcoholism. Alcohol is responsible for weakening the brain mechanisms which keep rash, violent, and aggressive behaviors under control. This aggression is one of the direct effects of alcohol consumption. Hence, increased alcohol consumption may be related to increased assault and violence (Gustafson, 1994).
Children get a lot of television content, and believe what they are watching. They trust their favorite characters beating the monsters and so-called ‘bad guys’ after having an energy drink or milk or some other product. They perceive it all to be reliable and are more likely to consume that particular product and imitate those characters in every possible manner. Such portrayals are, of course, not true, and advertisements are exaggerating the energy and effects of products. They target children because such fantasies easily influence children.
Children who watch aggressive and violent movies are likely to behave aggressively and choose violent games to play than those who do not watch television or violent shows. The advertisements nowadays are targeting young generations and are using different characters as powerful objects and promoting their products by portraying them as a source of energy and supremacy (Chaves, 2008). The signs of children’s favorite movies, cartoons, and games are represented with a cigarette, wine bottle, or involvement of that character in some sexual activity that also affects the children’s perceptions and thoughts. Animated characters (like superman , batman, power-puff girls, etc.) also increase the likelihood of their future aggressive behaviours. Advertisements include certain characters to lure young customers and influence their habits indirectly.
Children live in their fantasy world and believe everything they watch or are told of. They perceive the effects of products as are exposed and try to use the brand that their favorite cartoon character or hero uses in the media content. The irony is that they mimic the actions of such characters, which more frequently contribute to violent acts and have long-lasting consequences on their attitudes (Strasburger, & Donnerstein, 1999).
However, the act of imitating and copying media characters isn’t the only way children are influenced by exposure to abuse. One more common psychological process that is associated with media exposure is desensitization. This process points to a person’s emotional response as a result of a given action. Individuals who are introduced to the hazards of wild animals are more likely to become mentally disturbed and physically aroused when they encounter them in real life. They are more likely to fight against it or protect themselves in some way. However, if they are exposed to wild animals in a more friendly and safe way, they are more likely to stay calm and relaxed. The reflexes of the body do not overreact as the psychological concomitants of fear are disabled.
In the same way, violence exposure in media brings on a severe emotional reaction in viewers by continuous exposure to injuries, sexual harassment, kidnappings, wars, and fights. However, constant exposure to such violent activities and aggression results in destructive tolerant behaviors. Cline, Croft, & Courrier, 1973 reveal that desensitization ends up with less emotional distress and intense reactions in the viewers when they observe violence. The media, hence, is making space for violent behaviors and is not only encouraging those behaviors but also making people resistant to violence and aggression.
This claim was upheld by different researches that were carried out about the impact of violent video games. Many researchers analyzed the fact that violent video games increase the criminal susceptibility of those individuals who are already having some behavioral issues and are in a state of depression or are upset. But for the other people, these games can prove to be very helpful by preventing the occurrence of behavior problems in children. Certain researches have also highlighted the health benefits of these video games by explaining the fact that these games can be beneficial in relieving pain symptoms and preventing conditions like diabetes (Reaney 2010).
The proponents of the fact that video games are linked to violence also have many strong points to present. A research conducted by Anderson and Bushman also highlighted many aspects to uphold their claim that video games were related to violence. The results of their study presented the fact that violent video games made the players vulnerable to the development of anti-social behavior accompanied by the induction of hostile behavior. The research explained that these games could push the person to perform criminal acts as presented in the games (Anderson et al. 2001). Another study on this subject was published in SAGE. It was carried out by Brad J. Bushman and Bryan Gibson from Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA and VU University, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, respectively. The result of their research explained the findings that if the player of violent video games thinks about the game, it can result in destructive behavior even one day after the game was played. This research tried to explain the long-lasting effects of playing violent video games (Bushman et al. 2011).
Many cases of crimes, which include robberies and murders, have proved to provide a strong connection between these criminal acts and the heavy exposure to violent video games. This is true despite the strong claims made by the video game industry that video games have no association with these criminal offenses. A perfect example is that of a robbery that took place in the year 2008 and was carried out by a group of teenagers in New York. The group comprised approximately 15 teenagers, out of which six got caught. These teenagers carried bars and sticks, and they surrounded cars and carried out their criminal acts of snatching money and valuables. They were caught red-handed while they were trying to carry out a robbery in a van. This was only possible after the complaint of a woman who got the fell victim to their act of snatching. The police reached the crime scene, and they caught the group while they were trying to stop a van. The six teenagers who were caught were in the age group of 14 to 18 and were all studying in schools. After this gang of teenagers was caught, the group claimed that they carried out these robberies by getting influenced by a video game known as Grand Theft Auto, That also revolved around similar themes to perform similar snatchings. This claim was strongly denied by the makers of the game Grand Theft Auto. They presented a statement about this incident claiming the fact that the game was used just as an excuse by the teenagers, and such criminal actions should be dealt with according to the law (Cochran 2008). But there was no denying the parallels between the snatchings and the portrayal of the game and upholding the argument that violent games may have an impact on children. Another critical case is that of Daniel Petric, who killed his mother and shot his father as well in an attempt to kill him. This incident took place in the year 2009 when Daniel was only 17 years old. The reason for the killing was very shocking as Daniel Petric chose to kill his parents rather than staying away from his video game Xbox on which he played the game with the name of Halo 3. His father, Mark Petric, took the game from Daniel due his long hours of playing and hid it. Petric found out where his game was kept, and with it also got his hands on his father’s gun. He went to his parents’ room and asked them to close their eyes and said that he had a surprise for them. This surprise turned into a shock as he shot his parents there and then. His father survived, but his mother died as a result of the gunshot. His case is indicative of the severe psychological impact that violent video games can lay on the minds of the teenagers and drive them to perform such brutal acts. It was identified that Halo 3 is a game series that involves the killing of aliens. It is also seen that after these aliens are killed, they become alive again. The judge who was handling this case presented that Daniel might not have been in his senses, and he lived in a world of the game and considered that probably even after shooting his parents, they would come back to life like the aliens in the game Halo 3. It was also found that Daniel used to play his game sometimes for as long as 18 hours in one day. This laid a long-lasting impact on his mental thinking. The case of Daniel Petric presents a clear association between violent games and the criminal acts carried out by young teenagers. His addiction to the game drove him to shoot his parents (Harvey 2009).
Another incident was reported from France in which a man named Julien Barreaux, whose age was 20 years old, chose to kill an opponent who killed his player in the game called Counter-Strike that is played virtually. Barreaux’s player was killed in the game using a knife by the opponent. This put him in rage, and he started looking for the person who killed his player in Counter-Strike. After seven months, he located the person and found out that his name was Mikhael. His house was not very far from Barreaux, and he went to his house with a knife. As soon as Mikhael opened the door, Barreaux attacked him with the knife, and he only survived because the edge missed his heart by a tiny margin. Barreaux was jailed for his actions. This incident served as another happening to uphold the aggressive behaviors that can result due to playing violent games (The Telegraph 2010).
Mortal Kombat, which was released in the year 1992, was also a subject of debates, and it was considered to be a game that promoted violence and acts of hostility. This was supported by a very shocking incident in which her sister and her boyfriend killed a six-year-old girl named Zoe. Her sister Heather Trujillo was 16 years old, whereas her boyfriend Lamar Roberts was 17 years old. They were both taking care of Zoe and Heather’s other little siblings while their mother was gone for her job. They made Zoe a target and started practicing the moves and techniques used in the game Mortal Kombat by the fighters in the game. This was a regular practice, but on that particular day, Zoe was beaten very severely, which led to the breaking of her bones, and she eventually died. This presents a very shocking event and explains the extent to which the games can lay an impact on the personality of the teenagers (McPhee 2007).
The death of Damori Miles, who was a nine-year-old boy, was also considered to be connected with his obsession for the game WWE SmackDown vs. Raw, which is a game based upon wrestling. He jumped off his roof with a parachute in an attempt to copy the style of his favorite wrestler in the game with the name of Jeff Hardy. He died in his act, and it was his friends who explained this act of Damore. It was a sad occurrence and portrayed the effect that video games can have on the minds of children (Gendar et al., 2009).
The incident at the Columbine High School in which two students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot 13 other students and then eventually committed suicide is also a perfect case of game induced violence. These two teenagers were found to be obsessed with the violent video game with the name of Doom. These killings were considered to be significantly connected with their obsessions of playing this hostile video game (Anderson et al. 2001).
The different cases of violence all across the world that have been promoted by the violent video games uphold the arguments of the proponents who argue that violent video games have been linked to severe criminal activities. The history of video games dates back to the 1970s. Still, with the advent of games that promote violence like Mortal Kombat and Doom, heinous acts of killings have been reported where young teenagers tend to kill their family members due to their obsessions with video games. Such criminal acts make it very important that strong measures should be taken by the state and other regulating agencies to stop the circulation of these games. At the same time, more researches should be carried out to confirm this stand. Parents should also be educated and trained regarding the impacts of these violent games, and they should be asked to keep a check on their children to prevent them from buying adult games that are not meant for them.
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