Violent video games, are they worth the risk?
by Gordon Ramsay on April 25, 2017 - 5:24pm
Popular game franchises such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto have been the source of controversies for over ten years now. Parents have long wondered what they can do to stop their kids from playing these games that feature an ever increasing quantity of violence which has been getting more realistic every year. Their fear is that prolonged exposure to guns, shooting, killing, stealing and other acts of violence in a video game can lead to similar acts of violence outside the virtual world. A dilemma arises, however, since video games are a form of art and game developers should have creative freedom. I propose that video games should be allowed to remain uncensored for adults, but precautions should be taken for exposure to children.
Firstly, violence in video games can be a risk factor for aggressive behavior in children. This has been the issue of debate as it is impossible to pinpoint a single act of violence and know without a doubt that violent video games were to blame. This is a complex debate because there are many different factors that ultimately affect how a kid behaves such as parents, teachers, friends, television, etc. However, we can see violence in video games as a risk factor rather than a direct cause for aggressive behavior. In fact “Bingenheimer, Brennan, and Earls (2005) conducted a 2-year longitudinal study and indicated that exposure to firearm violence in video games approximately doubled the likelihood of adolescents resorting to violence when faced with aggravating situations in real life” (Jia-Kun and Qian 1749). So while video game violence might not make a kid act violent, he might resort to violence if he is faced with a stressful situation as violence is something he is familiar with. Children are also more easily influenced and can have a harder time distinguishing between reality and fiction at a young age. This is all the more reason to treat violence in video games as a risk factor as it could be teaching kids that killing is okay. For instance you must kill your opponents as many times as possible while playing Call of Duty in order to win. In sum, children who are exposed to violent video games will not necessarily be affected, however there is cause for concern that they can be at risk of becoming more aggressive.
Secondly, we cannot say for sure that violence in video games causes violence in children. So while it can be a risk factor, many studies disagree as to whether or not violent video games should be blamed. Namely, “video games are just one of many risk factors, such as mental illness and access to guns, that can contribute to aggressive behaviour” (Luba). Since games are often violent, it can be hard to tell if violence is the actual reason for aggressiveness in players or if there are other reasons. For example: “the impact of particular games … may have more to do with the degree to which players enjoy them and match well with the game than anything specific to the game itself” (Ferguson 53). A study “has indicated that players can become hostile when frustrated with a game, but that violent content has little impact” (Ferguson 53). Therefore a kid could have a violent outburst after losing in a game of Tetris meaning that the level of violence was not a cause. In addition, it is important that game developers have the creative freedom to create the game that they want because of free speech. They should not have to face restrictions when we don’t even know if violence actually has an effect on players. In sum, it is impossible to know for certain if violence in video games is the cause of violence in the individuals playing the games.
Thirdly, while video games shouldn’t be censored, precautions should be put into place to make sure children are not at risk of becoming violent. Outright banning violent games or censoring them won’t work as there is a demand for violent games and adults should be free to play the games that they want. However, there are some solutions to this dilemma which can limit unnecessary exposure to violence in children. There is a rating system for games that indicates the age group they are designed for, however “there is research showing that fewer than half of parents understand those ratings” (Luba). A proposed solution to this is that video games “include a warning label: "WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behaviour" - legislation that was proposed earlier this year in the U.S. by Congressmen Joe Baca and Frank Wolf” (Lehal). Another solution proposed by “the Palo Alto Medical Foundation suggests that parents supervise video game usage time, discuss the implications of video games with their children, and not allow children to have video game consoles in their rooms” (Lehal). In sum, rather than censoring video games, there should be more effort put into properly informing children and parents of the risks involved with violence in video games.
To conclude, the moral dilemma of violent video games is an important issue as many people feel threatened that their favorite games will suffer from a reduction in quality if they are censored or even banned. It is also important as there have been legitimate concerns raised on the risks involved with the exposure of violent games to children. Ultimately better measures should be put into place make the risks known to parents and to also discuss the ethical implications of virtual violence with children. This is not something that will be easily solved, but hopefully a middle ground will be found to allow for the freedom to play the games that you want while also reducing the potential increase of aggressiveness in young kids.
Ferguson, Christopher, et al. "Violent Video Games Don't Increase Hostility in Teens, but They Do Stress Girls out." Psychiatric Quarterly, vol. 87, no. 1, Mar. 2016, pp. 49-56. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s11126-015-9361-7.
JIA-KUN, ZHENG and ZHANG QIAN. "Priming Effect of Computer Game Violence on Children’s Aggression Levels." Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, vol. 44, no. 10, Dec. 2016, pp. 1747-1759. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2224/sbp.2016.44.10.1747.
Lehal, Japreet. "COLUMN: Violent Video Games Need Warning Labels." The Leader, Dec 20, 2012, pp. 1, Canadian Major Dailies, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1242090518?accountid=41233.
Luba, Frank. "Video-Game Violence Impacts Kids: Panel." The Province, May 07, 2014, Canadian Major Dailies, https://search.proquest.com/docview/1522553433?accountid=41233.