Video Games Violence
By Fatima Salim Khawaja

July 16, 2009

So letís get this straight: I think video games are cool. I lose every time I attempt to play one, but I still think theyíre awesome. Pressing on those ďXĒ and ďOĒs and squares like mad in order to kill an opponent or jump over an obstacle or smash into something gives you an adrenaline rush. One even forgets to blink - thatís the level of oblivion.

There has been a lot of talk about how violent video games lead to increased violent potential in the players, so I decided to do some research and once and for all tell my mom that, ďitís OK to play violent games, mum! Jeez!Ē I donít think Iíll be saying that to her any time soon.

Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal, though most pro-video games researchers fail to take that as much of a solid threat. In fact, several major studies by groups such as The Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health, The Journal of Adolescent Health, and The British Medical Journal have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity Ė the most observable influence being an increased amount of bullying in the players.

However, a researcher named Anderson has said that just like smoking does not necessarily mean the smoker is going to end up with lung cancer, similarly, playing video games does not necessarily mean the gamer is going to go and shoot his classmates. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, it is observed that violent video games are significantly associated with:

1. Increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affects

2. Increased physiological arousal

3. Decreased pro-social (helping) behavior.

High levels of violent video game exposure have also been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery). Other negative effects includes social isolation of the player, confusion between reality and fantasy, and definitely, poor academics. In fact, Vivek (a researcher) clearly stated in 2007 that:

ďVideo game usage may be linked to a lower GPA and SAT score.Ē

Furthermore, The American Psychological Association summarizes the issue as:

"Psychological research confirms that violent video games can increase children's aggression.Ē

Unfortunately for video game lovers, there have been also incidents over the world where violent acts by criminals have been justified by being obsessed with aggressive video games, somewhat reassuring the claims by numerous researchers on the nature and influence of video games on compulsive gamers. A few of them are as follows:

∑ On June 7, 2003, 18-year-old American Devin Moore shot and killed two policemen and a dispatcher after grabbing one of the officers' weapons following an arrest for the possession of a stolen vehicle. At trial, the defense claimed that Moore had been inspired by the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

∑ In August 2005, 28-year-old South Korean Lee Seung Seop died after playing Starcraft for 50 hours straight.

∑ In December 2007, a Russian man was beaten to death over an argument in the MMORPG Lineage II. The man was killed when his guild and a rival guild challenged each other to a brawl in the real world.

∑ On October 13 2008, 15-year-old Brandon Crisp from Barrie, Ontario, Canada ran away from home on his mountain bike after his parents confiscated his Xbox 360 following an argument regarding the time he spent playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. His body, which had fallen from a tree, was found on November 5, 2008 by some local fox hunters.

And this is just a few of the reported incidents. Itís a pity how small things that most of us regard as completely harmless can lead to such tragic events, especially involving losses of precious lives. Just recently a video was uploaded on youtube in which a boy is seen going practically insane when his parents closed his World of Warcraft account. Now thatís enough to show anyone with half a brain what kind of behavior video games addiction can lead to. If you havenít seen the video yet, check the references at the end of this article for the link.

Speaking of video games addiction, I was also surprised to find out that most researchers treat this addiction like they would treat any other serious addiction like alcoholism, drug abuse, etc. So much so that certain countries like China, USA, Canada, and Netherlands have actually opened up rehabilitation centers and clinics for compulsive gamers and for overuse of computer games which negatively affects not only the gamers but also the people around them. Woah! Now thatís really something!

So is it all bad, bad, and more bad when it comes to video games? Apparently not. Surprisingly there are some positives to gaming, a few of them being:

1. Some games provide practice in problem solving and logic.

2. Games can provide occasions for parent and child to play together.

3. Some games have therapeutic applications with patients.

4. Games can give practice in following directions.

5. Games can provide practice in use of fine motor and spatial skills.

I guess thatís good news for all you addicted gamers out there. But just to be sure, the negatives of gaming clearly outweigh the positives. Youíre on your own now. Act wisely. Just remember that what you do not only affects you, but everyone around you that you probably care about. Ciao!


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