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Is video games responsible for violent behavior?

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Avatar for Jisan203
Written by   9
1 year ago

Discussions against video games became quite heated in the wake of last year's shootings in the US states of Texas and Ohio. That's because the man involved in the Texas violence mentioned the Call of Duty game in his manifesto. Call of Duty is a hugely popular game, playing the role of a soldier in a variety of fictional and historical battles. Following the incident, President Donald Trump claimed in a press conference that video games were the source of such violence.

We need to stop the culture of making violence attractive in our society. These include traditional horror and heinous video games. It is now very easy for young people to immerse themselves in such a culture.

Trump's statement supports the attitude of many lawmakers towards video games. The big media also accepted Trump's view. For example: ESPN then took the time to start broadcasting a sports tournament. Walmart temporarily removed all video games from their stores. The decision is controversial, as guns were still being sold in those stores and have not stopped.

Many researchers have interpreted video games as a way to avoid the root causes of violence. According to them, a strong law should be enacted to control the purchase and use of guns by ordinary citizens. Video games are being discussed in almost every discussion of gun violence, with gun control being the main topic of discussion. One can easily guess from this how reluctant the legislators are to control the use of guns. That is why in political speeches, only finger is being pointed at video games.

Rally against gun violence;

However, this topic of video games is not completely new. Rather, it has become a political habit to blame the game for a long period of violence. It was first seen in 1970. One group claims, however, that video games are as much a factor in their behavior as violence. It would be a mistake to think that there are only game-loving people in this group, from researchers to even survivors of gun violence. One such person is David Hogg, who has been working as a gun control advocate since he survived a shooting in Florida in 2018. He wrote directly on Twitter,

We know video games are not to blame.

No matter how many times this issue has been raised before, no decision has ever been made. Because, no research so far has claimed that there is a link between video and real violence.

Numerous psychological studies prior to 2015 strongly claimed that video games have the potential to have a negative effect on normal behavior. Most of these studies, however, have been challenged by relatively new research. Let me give you an example. Nicki Phillips, a criminologist, has studied the violence portrayed in the popular media. He says most criminologists reject the idea of communicating crime with entertainment. They are rather more interested in how violence can be created in someone’s behavior socially.

For the first time since the release of a game called Death Race in 1976, there have been allegations of violence against video games. In this game, if a fleeing pedestrian could be hit by a car, he would be rewarded and the loud screams of the pedestrian could be heard. As a result of such gameplay, the controversy started. It was even discussed in a part of the Sixty Minutes TV show. Interestingly, a few more games were released at the time, which focused their gameplay on wartime violence. They did not create any kind of discussion.

'Death Race' Game:

In his 2017 book, Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Color, psychologist Patrick Markey explains that those who are more concerned about video game violence have previously pointed to arcade games because the games weren't. The main reason was that they became a place for teenagers to hang out. Many went to play games in these arcades without going to school, stealing money from their parents.

Arcades were being shut down across the nation by activist parents intent on protecting their children from the dangerous influences lurking within these neon-drenched dungeons.

After the advent of the famous Mortal Kombat franchise, the fear of adults towards Arcade turned its attention to the gameplay of this game. This is because of the 'Fatality' feature of this game. Following this feature the player can celebrate his victory in various ways. He was given the option of tearing the opener's heart or breaking the spinal cord.

Mortal Combat's 'Fatality' feature;

When the game first came to Arcade in 1992, it caused such hysteria among parents that the matter went to a 1993 congressional hearing. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was then established, which began rating video games as well as movies. Yet, with each new release of the Fighting Game franchise, this controversy is provoked.

A video game critic, referring to politicians' statements after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, said blaming video games was an attempt to cover up their own guilt. Politicians, however, easily blame the entertainment media for various issues. For example, in 2007, Senator Mitt Romney filed a lawsuit alleging pornography and violence against music, movies, TV shows and video games. He claims that the media has influenced Columbine and Virginia Tech gunmen.

  • According to a report, 90 percent of American teenagers play video games. For adults, that's 65 percent,

  • Where 77 percent of parents believe there is a link between video games and violence. One such person is Tim Winter. He is the president of an organization called the Parents Television Council. The agency's job is to make sure that the entertainment industry does not present violent content to children.

  • According to him, the relationship of making offender with violent content is similar to the relationship of lung cancer with cigarettes. Most people do not suffer much if they smoke moderately. But over time, that is likely to change. His argument, however, is not acceptable. Because scientific reports say that the risk of irregular smokers is no less than that of regular smokers.

  • What I believe to be true is that entertainment has a powerful influence on our belief structure, intellectual development, values and opinions.

Violence is glorified in many ways in America's entertainment media, no one can disagree with that. From TV, movies, games, books to all sorts of things, the level is so high that there is no interest in changing their ‘gun culture’. ‘Gun culture’ refers to buying a gun and its huge supply across the country. In addition, using guns as a solution to everything is also a part of this culture. For example, the state also uses guns excessively in matters ranging from personal violence to policing.

A professor at New York University's Game Center program says that the gun culture of America over a long period of time influenced the creation and popularization of war-based video games. Because the cultural relationship with guns is much older in America than the history of video games. This comment may seem plausible given the fact that Walmart stores continue to sell guns even after the shootings.

Because of the sensitivity in the United States to gun control, it is easy for politicians to turn the discussion to video games. Because, talking about issues like white hegemony, politicians are likely to lose votes. On the other hand, there is no powerful lobby behind the video game industry so it has become a safe target for them. A video game designer named Jack Garris says,

The narrative that violence in video games contributes to the gun violence in America is, I think, a good example of a bad idea that seems right to people who don’t look too closely at the facts.

Video games are a global industry. It has long surpassed other entertainment mediums in terms of revenue. In 1976, the game industry had an annual revenue of 25 billion. In 2018, it has exceeded 136 billion dollars. Video games are now very popular in countries like UK, Germany, France, South Korea, Japan. But the severity of gun-related violence is comparatively high in the United States. Interestingly, video game rating systems in European countries are much more liberal than in the United States. Contrary to many people's claims that violence is associated with video games, many see it as evidence. But the number of crimes may decrease as well as the amount of behavioral aggression may increase. Aggression does not have to be violent and may not have to do with crime.

As Jack Garris points out, this controversy pushes away the need for discussion on the importance of video games. Games like Stardew Valley, Minecraft, Journey help to lighten people's minds. On the other hand, Papers, Please, That Dragon Cancer or Life is Strange games explore the heavy events of human life like love, grief, loneliness and death.

'Journey' game;

Although there are many games that are not violent, games like Call of Duty, Counter Strike, Fortnight are more popular and successful. Fortnite publisher Epic Games made 3 billion in 2018 alone. Such games are usually released by big companies. Game creation is a complex and difficult process that can cost up to several hundred million dollars. Again companies have shareholders, so they have to be accountable.

However, there is no scientific basis for claiming that video games are completely innocent. Many game critics and developers feel that violent games need to be tested in a standard way before they can be released. Because, it cannot be stressed that a violent media will not have any effect on a culture that is already violent. For example, games like Borderlands and Destiny are the main selling points of sales, how many guns have been added to the game by the developers. For this reason, the advertising language of such companies is also used in the same way. For example, Borderlands ads read:

Deliver devastating critical hits to enemies ’soft-and-sensitives, then joy-puke as your bullets ricochet towards other targets.

Brad Bushman and Christopher Ferguson are two of the most famous researchers on the subject. Both are psychologists and have long researched video games and violence. Although the two experimented in the same way, they came to two completely opposite conclusions.

Borderlands Games;

According to many researchers, violent games have a negative effect. First, they can make people aggressive in terms of behavior. Many again become insensitive to their own or someone else's mental anguish. A recent study by Bushman says video games have an impact on how a child reacts when he gets a real gun. Her research shows that children who play violent games are relatively more interested in touching and pressing the trigger when they see a gun.

Another research team, however, showed a completely different result. In 2015, the American Psychological Association (APA) formed a 10-member task force. Those who were selected as members of the task force were all experts in various fields. Moreover, it was thought that they would be able to make a neutral decision as they had not been involved in any research on video games before. Mark Appelbaum, an emeritus professor at the University of California, San Diego, was appointed head of the task force. He had previously worked with some of the APA's task forces. As reported by this taskforce, violent video games can have an impact on human behavior, increasing behavioral aggression. But it has nothing to do with behavioral, real violence or gun violence alone. Violence in video games affects a player's thoughts, feelings, and reactions to the behavior of others. However, it can also be said in the case of violent movies, TV shows and music.

Christopher Ferguson and many others, however, disagreed with the APA report. The task force has decided after surveying the reports of many researchers. According to Ferguson, the research methods they surveyed were misguided. Moreover, there is also a bias regarding publication. Scientific journals are biased in deciding which studies to publish. Many studies established in this way later lost the ability to replicate. This is called 'replication crisis'.

At this point, you really can look at a number of other research groups and I'd say there's maybe about, maybe ten to a dozen of these preregistered studies and almost, maybe, only one of them I can think of found evidence for any kind of, you know, effects, and that one was a correlational effect.

In his book 'Moral Combat' with Patrick Markey, Ferguson says,

David and Goliath are at war in the world of video game research. Here is Goliath, the politically and economically strong and well-organized elders who have been connecting video games with all the horrible things that have happened in the real world for over thirty years. These powerful anti-video games are being challenged by relatively young people and researchers who grew up in contact with Atari, Nintendo and the PlayStation system. Their struggle against such powerful video game anti-empire is horrendous.

The allegation of bias in research is true and does not only apply to video games. Again, it is also true that there is a presence of replication crisis in the study of psychology. In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled that research sent to it had nothing to do with aggression or video games. So, despite so much discussion and criticism of violent video games, it has not been able to bring any kind of ban or control over this medium. However, even if the relationship between video games and behavioral aggression is acknowledged for the sake of argument, there is no reason to panic. Because, many aspects of society can also make people's behavior violent. Such as: competitive games, debates, socio-economic positions or any other means of entertainment.

So far no research has claimed that video games play a role in children becoming criminals or violent. Yet most people have chosen the easy way to blame video games. Real research and discussion can be very complicated. Adequate opportunities need to be provided for constructive discussions. For example: whether games like Pubji or Call of Duty are making the military attractive and how it will affect people's thinking. On the other hand, a few studies have found some positive results in playing games, including intellectual improvement.

However, the controversy surrounding video games and violence is not ending very quickly. The talks will resume soon after any new killings and gun violence.

Thanks to everyone for reading this article


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