Monday, February 28, 2011

Violent Video Games Lead To Violent Children

Any parent knows that kids have an aggressive side to them. Often times, it is a playful state that comes with growing up with brothers and sisters. However, some parents will tell you that the violence continues into the teen years and sometimes into early adulthood. For years, parents have been looking for something to blame. Now reasonably, traumatic life experiences like rape, near-death experiences, and abuse/abandonment by parents can invoke a violent personality. What has become more prevalent in the explanations by parents is that their child plays violent video games, and their theory does make sense. Violent video games can lead to violent behavior in children because what is considered “violent” in video games has been relaxed over the years, that violence can lead children to do bad things, and because it is very likely that children will be exposed and influenced by them.            

What is the difference between real violence and virtual violence? Obviously most people associate bullies, murderers, and wrestlers with real violence. Virtual violence is any violence that occurs in mediums such as video games, television, etc, and is not real. In regards to this virtual violence, what is too much, and what is “nothing to worry about?” We shrug off the reality of how violent video games are getting, and all the while, they are getting worse right under our noses. On the ESRB- the video game rating company-website, they give the range of ratings as EC (Early Childhood), E (Everyone), E 10+ (Everyone 10 and Older), T (Teen), M (Mature), and AO (Adults Only). Ratings E and E10+ “may contain fantasy or mild violence…”, T “may contain violence…minimal blood…”, and M and AO “may contain intense violence, blood and gore…” So all video games have some level of violence. The problem is exactly how much violence is in the game, and how much is considered “too much” or “nothing to worry about”. The ESRB reported in 2003 that of the 68% of games rated “E”, 32% contained a violence descriptor; a 4% increase from the previous year (Violence). It is assured that those numbers have only gone up since then. Things aren’t the way they were in our parents’ day, when Pac-man was the greatest thing known to man. Along with the advancement of video games comes the advancement, and thus the inevitable influence, of violence, from Pac-Man eating ghosts to shooting people.This raises an important question; can it be as something simple as the childish violence in video games at an early age that leads children down a violent path?
Children get so wrapped up in violent video games that often times they forget about real life, to the point that some act out irrationally. Rick Nauert cites a study done by Nicholas Carnagey and Craig Anderson, in which they found that, “the existing video game rating system, the content of much entertainment media, and the marketing of those media combine to produce ‘a powerful desensitization intervention on a global level.’” Violent video games, and even the advertisement of them, can heavily influence children, we simply do not understand how much.
Rewind a few weeks before the Columbine shootings to an incident that didn’t gain national attention, but is just as important. Rod White cites an article by Bill Bartleman of the Paducah Sun, which says, “Carneal shocked his family, friends and the entire community shortly after 7:30 a.m. on Dec. 1 when he walked into the Heath High School lobby carrying four rifles wrapped in a blanket and a handgun in his backpack.” He goes on to tell that Carneal, “killed three students, paralyzed another and injured four more.” Fourteen-year-old Carneal had never received any formal training in the use of firearms, instead he learned how to shoot by playing the video game Doom (Irvine & Kincaid).
A couple years later, the infamous Columbine shootings occurred. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold rolled into Columbine High School, murdered thirteen people and wounded twenty-three. Later investigation found that the two boys enjoyed playing a video game called Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train the soldiers (Shin). Shin goes on to say that there was a virtual project similar to Doom done by the two boys, around a year before the actual incident, which showed a lot of parallels to what they actually did at Columbine. How coincidental is it that both shootings, being several years apart, were by students who enjoyed playing the same video game. How did these children even get their hands on such a violent game? Unfortunately, the same violence that was exposed to these children and was a helping factor in them becoming killers is the same violence that is exposed to children all over the country.
In 2008, 97% of all teenagers (12-17) played violent video games (Background). Most of these children will be playing T rated games, which begin introducing more realistic violence (compared to E rated games), even as far as using blood. In an article on the International Business Times website, Gabriel Perna cites Cheryl Olsen, a clinical assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and author of the book, "Childhood:The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do,” that, “Playing video games is a normal kid behavior.” It is almost inevitable that children will play these games, if not at least watch someone else play them.
The NPD is a global video game market, and it reported the following sales; 2007 Top Sale: Halo 3; 2008 Top Sale: Mario Kart Wii; 2009 Top Sale; Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Halo 3 sold 4.82 million copies in the US, and Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare 2 sold 8.82 million copies in the US and 11.86 million copies worldwide. What does this say? It says that the most sold video games are those that contain violence. Halo 3 and Call of Duty are both war games; pretty self-explanatory as to where the violence comes from. Mario Kart Wii, which is a racing game that involves the main Nintendo characters, falls under the rating E, which as explained earlier, may “may contain fantasy or mild violence…” One of the attributes of Mario Kart is the ability for the characters to, while racing, throw various things at the other racers to impede them from continuing for a short time. Children have more fun in throwing the objects and hurting the other players than actually racing. It’s time to face the music; video games are getting more violent with every new release, but as long as it has the rating “E”, we don’t think about the influence it could have on our children. It starts with the “harmless” violence presented in the E rated games, and is progressive all the way up. We need to monitor our children’s exposure to these games, or our children will only become more violent.

Works Cited
2008 Video Game Software Sales Across Top Global Markets Experience Double-Digit Growth. NPD Group. 2   February 2009. Web. 2 November 2010.

Background: “Do Violent Video Games Contribute To Youth Violence?” n.d. Web. 17 November 2010.

Bartleman, Bill. More on KY School Shooting. Paducah Sun. 6 October 1998. Web. 4 November 2010

Game Ratings & Descriptor Guide. Entertainment Software Rating Board. Web. 1 November 2010.

Irvine, Reed & Cliff Kincaid. Video Games Can Kill. Accuracy in Media. 10 May 1999. Web. 1 November 2010.

Nauert, Rick. Video Games Desensitize to Real Violence. PsychCentral. Web. 1 November 2010.

Perna, Gabriel. Influence Of Violent Video games Still Up for Debate. International Business Times. 17 September 2010. Web. 1 November 2010

Shin, Grace. Video Games: A Cause of Violence and Aggression. Serendip. 4 January 2008. Web. 2 November 2010.

Violence and the ESRB Ratings.ESRB. 14 August 2003. Web. 2 November 2010.

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