Tv Violence And Games Essay, Research Paper
Violent Video Games
Over the past several years, video games have evolved from the simple pong and pac man to highly detailed, fully interactive fantasy adventures. Unfortunately, along with this development came the ability to depict violence with gory detail and high-speed action. Studies substantiate that this brutal violence found in modern video games has a direct correlation with violence among today?s youth. This relationship can be seen through several areas. Several experiments confirm that children are adversely affected by playing violent games. Furthermore, evidence shows that violent first-person shooter games can teach children effective shooting and killing techniques. Finally, evidence verifies that children need to be protected from the gaming industry and retailers.
To begin with, research suggests that playing violent games changes one?s behavior and thought (?Video Games? 2). In one experiment, children of ages five to seven played either a violent or non-violent game. It was then observed that the children who played the violent game were more aggressive that the other group (Derek n.g.). Another study involved students playing a violent first-person shooter game or a nonviolent video game against a computer. The students, however, were told that they were competing against another player. Upon winning, the student was instructed to punish the opponent with a sound blast. The students involved in the violent game sustained the sound for a longer duration that the students who played the non-violent game (?Video Games? 2). This shows a raise in aggression level from violent entertainment. Lee discusses a study in which college students who had played a video game
were lightly provoked. Students who played a violent game were much more aggressive in reaction to the provocation than those who played a non-violent game (1).
Some defenders of video games argue that children come in contact with violence from several sources such as television or music. However, the problem may be more serious when the violence comes from video games. Berner notes that researchers feel that video games have a worse effect on children than violent television programs. This is due to the fact that the player often takes on and interactive role as a killer in the game. For example, in the gory first-person shooter games, the player?s view is that of the killer?s. The only part of the character seen on screen is the barrel of the gun. This gives the illusion that the player is shooting the enemies on the screen (58).
According to Grossman, killing is not a natural instinct that is found in children (24). Children have to learn how to kill and they learn from playing violent video games. There is a natural strong resistance to killing people in the human brain. Van Horn asserts that the army uses various techniques to break this resistance to killing in soldiers and the exact same techniques are found in modern video games (173). Grossman discusses the operant conditioning used by the army to train soldiers to kill (25). Targets shaped like people appear and disappear very quickly leaving the soldier very little time to react and shoot. Eventually, the soldier can shoot without even thinking about it. This same stimulus-response training is engraved into the minds of children who play point and shoot video games at the arcades. They are being taught to kill quickly and efficiently without any thought or guilt (25). Van Horn mentions the popular first-person shooter games teach the player how to kill everyone in a room
by moving from one person to the next and using one shot for each target (173). They teach the player not to take the time to shoot multiple rounds into one enemy.
One cannot ignore the several examples of schoolyard murderers who were found to be fanatics of violent, gory games. Some people may not know that the two boys involved in the
massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado enjoyed playing the gruesome first-person shooter, Doom (?Video Playground? 100). Grossman speaks about the two boys in Jonesboro, Arkansas who landed fifteen out of twenty-seven shots from over one hundred yards away (25). One of them had never fired a real gun before but had learned how to shoot accurately from spending plenty of time playing violent games. Smith mentions the boy in Paducah, Kentucky who shot six of his schoolmates with a handgun (14). It was found that the boy had never shot a real gun but had learned from playing a video game that rewards the player for shooting people in the head.
The biggest problem comes down to keeping violent video games out of the hands of impressionable children. Most government officials seem to agree. Fritze and Morrell discuss a bill proposed in January of 2000 that would prohibit minors from playing arcade games that use a light gun to simulate the player shooting people on the screen (2). However, legislation similar to this is usually unsuccessful because it violates First Amendment rights.
While the video game industry disagrees with any correlation between violent games and violent children, it has nonetheless made a rating system for video games similar to movie ratings (?Video Playground? 100). The system is designed to inform parents and players of the violent content of the games. Ratings range from ?E? meaning the game is meant for all ages to ?M? meaning the violence in the game is not suitable for ages under seventeen. Lee notes that despite the ratings, kids can still play M-rated games on the Internet or even get them in stores (1). Berner declares that retailers do not enforce the rating system strictly enough (58). Several stores lack systems to sop kids from buying M-rated games (Vekshin n.g.). Holtman states that the National Institution for Media and the Family (NIMF) sent secret shoppers of ages seven to
fourteen to several stores. Thirteen out of sixteen times, they were able to buy M-rated games (A8).
Most are not fooled by this supposed effort made by the gaming industry to keep violent games out of the hands of children. Holtman states that the gaming industry was given a grade of ?C? on the NIMF report card (A8). For an industry that has such a large influence on youth, a ?C? is unacceptable. Parents also feel that the rating system is not a legitimate effort to keep violence away from their children. Nearly one fourth of parents interviewed said that they felt the rating system was too lenient on several games (A8). Van Horn discusses a study in which several games were examined and found to contain scenes of cartoon or fantasy violence but failed to have a rating informing consumers about it (174). In one study, eighty-five percent of the games examined contained some sort of violence in them (Derek n.g.). However, Fritze and Morrell state that only approximately seven percent of all video games are rated ?M? (4). This shows that many games with violent content are getting by with an easier rating than deserved. Perhaps it is done to increase sales or perhaps the companies just do not care.
The gaming industry is not the only weak link in the fight to keep violence away from children. Several retailers have made attempts to keep children from buying violent games but they prove to be ineffective. Lafuente tells of an arcade called GameWorks in Arizona (A1). The games there operate on debit cards that are purchased by the players. The arcade requires the players to furnish ID before buying a card. Customers under sixteen get a ?V-card? that will not work at M-rated games. This method may seem effective until an underage customer has an older friend go to buy a card for him or her. Another video arcade called Fiddlestiks Family Fun
Park has an even less effective method. Warning stickers are placed on the violent games to warn customers of their violent content. However, there is no ID policy at Fiddlestiks (A1). The warning stickers may serve as nothing else but beacons to the kids telling them which games are
the fun, bloody ones. Stern mentions that Wal-Mart and K-Mart established an ID policy in September of 2000 (E10). The bar code scanners at the stores have an automatic prompt telling the cashier to check for identification whenever M-rated games are scanned. This, however, still does not stop older people from buying the games for underage customers. Some stores that have similar systems do not even uphold their policy. A cashier at a Toys ?R? Us store sold M-rated games to two boys both under seventeen and completely ignored the prompts to check ID when the games were scanned (Vekshin n.g.). It is irresponsibility like this that makes retailers a target of criticism from parents and opponents of violent games.
The answer to the problem is elusive yet remarkably simple. The games must be eliminated. Dizon states that Sears Roebuck and Co. along with Montgomery Ward stopped offering mature rated games in May of 2000 (2). This is the best and only solution to guarantee that the games will not get to children. However, the solution is useless as long as the industry continues to manufacture the violent games and retailers continue to sell them. Other stores must follow the examples of Sears and Montgomery Ward and pull the games from the shelves or else their efforts are wasted.
In short, violent video games are a serious problem in their contribution to violence in children. Studies have provided evidence that it can change thought and behavioral patterns. Experts know that the games can teach dangerous killing techniques to avid players. So many child murderers played violent video games that it is impossible to deny the connection. Above all, studies show that it is all too easy for impressionable children to get their hands on violent games despite ratings and restrictions.