Games: Scapegoat or Cause?
years, the issue of video gaming violence has been a hot topic. Parents all
over the country are up in arms about the supposed negative effect these games
may have on their children. It’s worth an argument, I suppose.
all, children can be easily manipulated, and the availability of violent video
games might only exacerbate the issue. However, I’m willing to argue that the
problem herein lies not within the games themselves, but within the players. Never
has it ever been definitively proven that video games cause violent behavior in
aimed at the video gaming industry are usually made by people who’ve either
never played the games they’re complaining about or by people who are simply looking
for something to blame anytime a teenager commits a violent act. Just as musical
artists like Marilyn Manson and rapper Eminem were blamed for the Columbine
shootings in the late nineties, video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of
Duty have also been scapegoated.
they are right to be concerned about the mental welfare of their children, what
some parents don’t know is that video games have actually been proven to be
quite therapeutic and even an essential tool in helping children in ways that
most aren’t even aware of.
games can strengthen problem solving skills, encourage social interaction and
improve hand-eye coordination. Understandably, these aspects might not be
enough to convince a parent of much and this is likely due to the fact that
their biggest assumption is that video games cause aggression.
shooter (or FPS) video games like Call of
Duty and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
have been accused of being mass shooter simulators because gamers are allowed
to pretty much shoot whomever they want with high powered rifles and machine
guns. Other games such as Grand Theft
Auto has been accused of promoting violence against women and glamorizing crime.
These are some very hyperbolic assumptions based from little to no evidence.
simplest definition of the word glamorize
is to “look upon or depict as glamorous i.e. romanticize (Merriam Webster).”
Thus, this definition makes the previous argument a tad bit problematic.
Nowhere in either of the games Grand
Theft Auto, Call of Duty or Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six is the violence
being depicted as appropriate or okay.
fact, in the video game Grand Theft Auto,
gamers are immediately punished if they even attempt to commit crimes and the
police are quite aggressive in this game. There are times when gamers are relentlessly
chased, arrested and even shot at by cops who’d witnessed them committing an
offense. Crimes in Grand Theft Auto
are treated just as they are in the real world. The game itself never
encourages players to engage in illegal activity. Sure, this type of activity
is allowed, but it is also punishable. So, the argument of violence being
romanticized in video games is completely false.
from some cognitive aspects, video games are also the tool of social
interactions. Friendships can develop through playing video gaming by utilizing
the online multiplayer option. This option also allows for implementation of
globalization in which children can meet other people from around the world
from other cultures. This in turn can open the door to culturalism.
some people, although they know some of the positive aspects of video games,
still believe that their negative aspects outweigh the positive ones. The
article “Don’t Shoot: Why Video Games Really Are Linked to Violence” by Amanda
Schaffer from Slate.com stated “The
connection between violent games and real violence is also fairly intuitive. In
playing the games, kids are likely to become desensitized to gory images, which
could make them less disturbing and perhaps easier to deal with in real life.
video games aren’t about violence, their capacity to teach can be a good thing.
For patients suffering from arachnophobia, fear of flying, or post-traumatic
stress disorder, therapists are beginning to use virtual realities as a
desensitization tool. (Schaffer)” Though this presents evidence that violent
games somewhat increase violent thoughts, this data still cannot serve as an
evidence because the test was conducted in a controlled environment, without
considering other factors that might result in the change in behavior.
is also another thing to consider. Although violent video games might expose
children to violence, the amount of violence is not nearly as great as the content
in movies and television. Nightly news as well as the international news
channels such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, are always filled with stories about
death and murder. Nearly every movie contains some form of violence.
these two mediums is very important. Because CNN news stories involve real people,
unlike video games that are nothing but computer-generated characters. This is
an important thing to consider—violence committed against video game characters
does not compare to the heavy weight
of committing violent offenses against real people.
mentioned by Dr. Kipling D. Williams Ph.D. at one of the social psychological
science faculties in Purdue University, “children’s violent tendencies can be
diverted towards violent video games rather than actually doing it in the real
Williams also points out that, besides playing violent games that genetics, environmental
aspects and self-control must also be considered as some of the other factors
that contribute to the increase in aggressiveness. Genetics play the biggest
roles in the personality of a person. Someone might have a tendency to be more
rebellious and aggressive due to their familial background.
easier access to firearms in several countries also plays a role in a person’s
likelihood to commit a violent act. “Guns can act as a stimulus because it
reminds the person of aggressive behaviors seen on television or maybe in real
life. If the person does not have a solid self-control, it can lead him to a
violent behavior. (Williams)”
Williams also believes that there is no single cause that can lead to an
increase in aggressive behavior in children, consistent with Dr. Craig A.
Anderson, Ph. D statement during an interview with MSNBC when he states that, “video
game violence is only one risk factor for aggressive behavior in the real
world. There are also dozen or so known risk factors. It is not the smallest
risk factor, but it is an important one (Anderson).”
regardless of this protest to censor and regulate video games, I don’t believe
that these alternative measurements will prevent children from playing the
games they want to. They’ll still get their hands on those games, whether from
a parent, sibling, or older friend. Making violent video games illegal might risk
increasing children’s curiosity and make them want to play it more. Thus, I
think that the responsibility lies within the parent, not the government.
in some states, it is already illegal for adolescents under the age of eighteen
to purchase violent video games. In Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich wants to
outlaw the sale of excessively violent video games to people under the age of
18, and he also states that the state of Illinois has a compelling interest in
helping parents raise their children appropriately (Whitehead 1). To me, this is
unnecessary and a result of lazy parenting. The parent should reserve the sole responsibility
of vetting the things their children are exposed to.
adults are impressionable, and when provided with violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto or other games that involve
committing nefarious offenses like murder and theft (as the game’s namesake
suggests), they might be compelled to commit these acts for themselves and not
necessarily because of the game—most likely instead because they feel a sense
of invincibility as if they themselves are protagonists in their own video
game. To me, this suggests a disconnect with reality, which in turn might stem
from mental illness that was not developed because of the game.
of this, parents should be more careful when allowing their children access to
these games pay closer attention to the ratings on these games. Just as movies
and music have ratings to protect children, video games also carry this same
system. These ratings are decided by the Entertainment Software Rating Board
(ESRB), which is an organization that places different ratings on games in
order to serve as a guideline of who should play the game and who should not.
When adolescent brains become more developed, only then should they be allowed
to play more violent video games.
Peckham supports the theory that games do not cause bad behavior. In his article
on Time.com, he wields a sarcastic
tone but also provides the reader with a study performed by Stetson University.
In it, he states, “In my recent research we found that for some teens with a
pre-existing mental health issue, playing violent video games seemed to be
associated with less bullying” (Peckham 2).
can argue that the ability of a game to cause conflict with people’s
personality is more of a conflict with their mind and body. Robbins states that
“video games can only cause bad behavior when allowed to by the human brain, so
basically, the games are not for the weak-minded.” Robbins also asks the
question “Would you blame sports?” if someone decided to kill an entire
football team and then he states “I’m not contending that there is no
connection between violent games and violent people, but it’s correlative
instead of causative. Individuals with personalities that lead to homicide are
likely more drawn than others to media that feed their fantasies (Robbins 1).”
other words, people with a pre-existing desire for violence are more likely to
display violent behavior after playing these video games. By his logic, a
violent video game isn’t the cause of a violent offense, but rather than
something that exacerbates the violent tendencies of someone who was already
mentally ill long before they ever even played the game. “Examples may be
socioeconomic status and home life, which can only feed bad behavior due to
violent games, and this can sometimes cause children to do the ‘unthinkable'(Robbins
Zimmerman explains, “These factors involve neighborhoods, families, peers, and
individual traits and behaviors. Researchers, for example, have found that
living in a violent neighborhood and experiencing violence as a victim or
witness is associated with an increased risk for violent behavior among youth (Zimmerman
parents are going to allow their children play violent video games, they need
to be surrounded by a positive environment, which can counteract the violence
portrayed by the game. The neighborhood that children live in could also be a
factor in whether the game could cause bad behavior or not. If the child lives
in a bad environment, it may cause the behavior in the game to feel real, and whether children believe
it or not, friends have a great impression on their life. After all, the term “peer
pressure” is where and how this ideal was developed.
friends could only increase this bad behavior (Cooper and Zimmerman 1).” The
Governor of Illinois firmly believes that parents solely hold the
responsibility for teaching their children right from wrong, and they should
also be responsible for supplying them with violent video games (Whitehead 2).
who claim that video games cause bad behavior base their opinions only on statistics
and these are mostly true. The rate of violence has, in fact, increased while
the number of children playing violent video games has also increased. Naturally,
there might be some correlation, but
blaming these violent acts on just one thing is silly and counterproductive
because to takes the attention away from the actual issues.
number of parents who simply just don’t care anymore has also increased. What
parents forget is that they have all
the power here. They control their
children’s environment. They control
what their children are exposed. They also play a major role in the healthy
development of their child’s personality. If you want your children learn
certain things and to have certain values, it’s up to you to ensure that these
core values are instilled within your child. “Children in a positive, wealthy
society would be less likely to become violent later in life than poor children
with less positive influence from their parents (ProCon 1).”
all, anytime there is a high-profile shooting, the first thing others tend to
blame is the shooter’s home life or upbringing. Society assumes that the
shooter played violent video games in the past, but this isn’t always true. “In
the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the first thing to be
questioned was the shooter’s mental health, but this also led to questions
about whether he played video games or not. Even sports such as football and
hockey have been known to cause violence in teens, but there are hardly any
parents today that are trying to ban these sports for such reasons (Robbins 1).”
clinical psychologist Kutner and health researcher Olson for the Media Center
at Harvard Medical Center performed a study on 1,254 twelve to fourteen-year-old
children and 500 parents. All of the children play games, and at least half of
them said that they played “M” rated games, which is only meant to be played by
individuals seventeen years of age and older.
two researchers stress the word “relax”, and this is mainly because the fear of
their children becoming violent is no different than the public’s uproar about
inappropriate movies, vulgar books and magazines, and comic books. Lieberman
does offer some sensible device by stating that guns in the house should be
locked away and unloaded, which is an obvious observation to any gun owner
is very opinionated, and most people have no problem expressing their opinions.
Some believe that games may cause harm, but at the same time, most believe it
is the parents’ responsibility to regulate the playing of such games. Bryant
Oliver approaches a different view by stating “I’m going to keep it plain and
simple: Why ban kids from buying violent video games when all that’s going to
do is make kids want to find other ways of getting them? Just monitor them when
they play the games (Oliver 1).”
would also help in the children’s behavior. Treating video games like they are
various other items intended for adults would restrict the ability of children
to obtain such a game, but then people claim that the children will only get
somebody else to buy the game for them. This also leads back to good parenting
because if most parents were close to their children and cared enough for them,
they would always know what their children are doing, and the children would
not be hiding such things behind their parents’ back. They would have respect
for each other, thus creating a more peaceful correlation between games and
who play games, often called gamers, offer a first-hand view to this highly
debated topic. After all, they play the violent games every day, and they
experience what these games may cause. The advice they offer can help provide a
different view to the topic. Jarmon is a gamer, and he has a good opinion on
the subject. “As a gamer, I think violent video games should not be sold to
children who are under a game’s age limit… We would not be having the discussion
right now if more parents stepped up earlier, rather than after Billy or Suzy
ripped the head off the pixel ninja” (Jarmon 2).
games have always been a widely debated topic. Some individuals claim that the
games cause brain damage, and others claim that the games cause bad behavior.
Games can only cause bad behavior when the people allow the game to affect
them, which is different with every other person. Some people are strong
mentally and stay true to their personality, while others are weak and can
easily let a game change their personality.
conclusion, bad behavior due to video games is solely reliant upon the parent
and their socioeconomic status. If parents don’t want their children to be
affected by these games, then they shouldn’t provide their children access to
them. In the end, no matter what law is enacted to prevent the sale of these
games to minors, children will still find ways to acquire them, which is just
like minors finding ways to acquire alcohol and tobacco.
the children grew up in a violent environment, they’re more likely to display
bad behavior with or without video games. If parents would take all these
opinions into consideration, there would be less people that believe video
games cause bad behavior, and it might even decrease the amount of violence.
Schaffer, Amanda. “Don’t Shoot Why Video Games Really
are Linked to Violence.” Slate. 27 April 2007. 18 Apr. 2008.
“Violent Video Game.” MSNBC TV. 19 Sept. 2006. 18 Feb.
Williams, Kipling D. Personal interview. 24 Mar. 2008.
Cooper, Roanna, and Marc Zimmerman. “Do video games
cause bad behavior?” University of Michigan. Michigan Youth Violence Prevention
Center, 24 Aug 2011. Web. 3 Feb 2014.
“Do video games cause bad behavior?.” 29 Mar 2011.
N.p., Online Posting to ProCon.org. Web. 3 Feb. 2014. .
Lieberman, E. James. “Grand Theft Childhood: The
Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games And What Parents Can Do.” Library
Journal 133.6 (2008): 100. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Lutze, Solomon Oliver, Bryant Mark, Dave Kearney,
Michael Forgione, Christian Robe, Dustin Schiffman, Austin Jarmon, Vann Amos,
Ryan. “Violent Video Games And Kids.” U.S. News Digital Weekly 2.22 (2010): 16.
MAS Ultra – School Edition. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Robbins, M. Brandon. “Games And Violence.” Library
Journal 138.5 (2013): 88. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Peckham, Matt. “Researcher Says Linking Video Games To
Gun Violence Is A ‘Classic Illusory Correlation’.” Time.Com (2013): 1. MAS
Ultra – School Edition. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Whitehead, Barbara Dafoe. “Parents Need Help.”
Commonweal 132.2 (2005): 9-10. Literary Reference Center. Web. 26 Feb. 2014
Slota , Stephen . “Well-Designed Video
Games Can Enhance Problem-Solving Skills and Make Learning More Effective.”
Neag School of Education, education.uconn.edu/2013/05/29/well-designed-video-games-can-enhance-problem-solving-skills-and-make-learning-more-effective/.