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Violence in Video Games

Nowadays, the authorities in many countries openly acknowledge the negative impact of violent video games on children, as minors turn out to be the main consumers of computer games in the contemporary society. According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, games containing violence, sex and foul language are especially popular among children and adolescents aged 8-15 (Thompson & Haninger, 2001). According to Basta (2000), by the age of 18, an average adolescent has already seen 40 thousand murders and 200 thousand acts of violence. Sharing the opinion of a number of researches, the author of this paper claims that violent computer games can raise the level of aggressiveness in teenagers, lead to the selection of aggressive behavior strategies, which further leads to the increase of juvenile delinquency rates.

According to various reports, 80% of the videogames contain brutal plot, while the vast majority of players (78-82%) approve this violence, trying to ignore it or not noticing it at all (Olson et al., 2008). It is not surprising, taking into consideration that typically the commission of violence in violent games takes about 91-95% of play time, and in 27% of games violence leads to the virtual death. At the same time, according to Thompson and Haninger (2001), computer game characters who commit crimes of violence are unpunished in 73% of cases, besides violence is often rewarded in the form of extra points and bonuses. Moreover, in many gaming communities, the number of homicides is the criterion for the selection of the best players. In this way, killing in the game, an adolescent, can not only seek for virtual rewards (points, bonuses), but also for very real accomplishments (the primacy in the table of players, the status inside the clan).

Radical supporters of the negative influence on violence game on juvenile psycho argue that it is through getting used to the “virtual I”, that games become murder stimulants for adolescents. The American psychologist David Grossman (2009) points out that learning military strategies of games may result in the fact that the strategy of aiming and shooting will turn into an instinctive behavior in a stressful situation of real life. In this perspective, violent video games contribute to overcoming a psychological barrier for a real murder by orienting consciousness on the admissibility of such behavior. The game itself can become a form of behavior which is temporary replacing real aggression.

Deformation of consciousness under the influence of games includes a range of symptoms: overcompensation of inferiority complex, desensitization of aggression, increase in anxiety and fear, reduction in cognitive brain activity, reduction in the possibility of an adequate assessment of the effects of real violence. Players of violent games show the slowdown of prefrontal and frontal lobes activity, responsible for emotions, memory, learning and behavior. Thus, with a decrease in mental activity, a player not only loses the emotional susceptibility, but also social flexibility and the ability to choose different behaviors. Apparently, this can be regarded as an established fact that computer games are one of the causes of criminal behavior among adolescents. Studies show that more than 22% of young offenders who have committed grave offence played violent video games (Basta, 2000).

Generally, the criminal aggression among juveniles may depend on violent computer games directly and indirectly. The direct dependence is shown in situations when a crime is to meet the needs of the child in the game. The indirect connection, i.e. mediated and provocative, is shown when the games only partially affect the crime. This may be an impact on behavior, if in their actions the offenders reproduce stereotypes of game behavior, or an impact on emotions and motivations, indicating that the crime is committed in a state of the altered consciousness. As we have assumed above, violent games can affect particularly negatively the person with the excitable (explosive) type, blocking the already insufficient activity of control mechanisms of emotions and motivations. The presence of indirect connection is also demonstrated by the crimes committed on the background of the aggravating influence of computer games (the belief in legitimacy of violence, instilling the cult of force, etc.). Indirect connection of violent computer games and crime rates can be seen in the fact that self-esteem, attitudes toward violence and its victims is considerably changed under the influence of violent games.

References:

Basta, S.S. (2000). Culture Conflict and Children: Transmission of Violence to Children. Lanham: University Press of America.
Grossman, D. (2009). On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Back Bay Books.
Olson, C. K., Kutner, L. A., & Warner, D. E. (2008). The Role of Violent Video Game Content in Adolescent Development. Journal of Adolescent Research, 23 (1), pp. 55-75.
Thompson, K., & Haninger, K. (2001). Violence in E-Rated Video Games. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 286 (5), pp. 591-598.