Can violent computer games help us with emotional issues? What does it mean to have an opportunity of becoming a villain in disguise? Peacefull life?
Since computer games including violence exist, there has been ongoing discussion about negative influences of new technology on young people, who take pleasure of shooting monsters, creatures, soldiers or whatever else, what moves. Some name it ventilation of emotions, other hidden danger. What is really true? Or better – is there actually any right answer?
“According to The Entertainment Software Association, 20% of video game players are boys under the age of 17 and 26% are men and women over the age of 50. The average age of a video game player is 37. According to a survey of 1,102 12-17 year olds, 97% have played video games and half played in the last day.
Three-quarters of parents who were surveyed in a study said that they check the ratings on their children's games before allowing them to purchase it. However, about 50% of the boys and 14% of the girls favored games with an "M" (mature) or "AO" (adult-only) rating.
The adult demographic is the fastest-growing segment of the American video games market; 32% of adults now play video games.” (1)
There have been numerous studies about what effect can violent computer game have on world of children. Psychological aspects of video games allow children/people to detatch from violent act in game-world. This often reappears also in real life, when person is unable to realize the weight of the act. Young person, in some special occasions, can act against his moral, cultural or social rules, when overwhelmed by the emotions, anger or fear.
Child living more vividly in computer game life is often unable to capture real life events and to act rationaly. Perception of life is often at the first sight same as a child, which does not spend so much time playing violent games, however in some extreme situations, the unconscious damage is to be seen better and better on children playing violent computer games frequently.
“Beginning in 1983 when U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop implicated violent video games as a leading cause of family violence, news stories about video games such as Death Race (allowing players to run over “gremlins”) and Custer’s Revenge (with a naked Custer avoiding arrows to have sex with a Native American woman) have helped reinforce the idea that graphic violence in video games was potentially harmful.” (2)
However this game has been pulled from store shelves, there are number of other, which are still easy to find and buy, or download for free. Killing monsters to save a princess is on one level just another layer of the same act as riding a car over children. Violence is what connect them. You can tell that you kill the monster because you want to survive... However, you never know if Alien is not in body of a child, which you have just saved. So the effect is actually that there is not really any border in what a good or a bad violence is, probably.
Difference is just explicitness of some games and propagation of anger and crime itself. These computer games are disguised in a cool product, which you can buy and then, thanks to them you can become master of killing, rapping, stealing, whatever you imagine.
David Grossman ( former West Point psychology professor), has written several books related to the subject of violence in the media including On Killing (1996) and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill (1999). He calls computer games which promote violence “murder simulator”, where children can basically train themselves to be professional murderers. They can learn the mechanics of murder, while noticing the aspects of criminology in games.
However, it looks pretty obvious, what happens when a child sits in the front of the computer and takes the role of soldier, there are also other studies, which say that computer game reality is not really so linked with the real life violence at all.
“Other studies reach the conclusion that violence in video games is not causally linked with aggressive tendencies. This was the conclusion of a 1999 study by the U.S. government, prompting Surgeon General David Satcher to say, "We clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that's where the science is." A 2007 meta-analysis by psychologist Jonathan Freedman reviewed over 200 published studies and also reached this conclusion, finding that the "vast and overwhelming majority" did not establish a causal link. A 2002 US Secret Service study of 41 individuals involved in school shootings found that only 12% were attracted to violent video games, while 24% read violent books and 27% were attracted to violent films. A 2007 Swinburne University of Technology study found that only children already predisposed to violence were affected by violent games. A long-term outcome study of youth published in 2010 by Christopher J. Ferguson, found no long-term relationship between playing violent video games and youth violence or bullying.” (3)
So violence does not really grow inside the child's mind just from nowhere, but from psychological predisposition of the human being and also from the memories from early childhood, which shaped his perception of world heavily. Computer game has then just secondary work – it works as a mechanism to release the power, captured in mind, destructive power. Thanks to computer game world, one can experience violence away from "real" world. Reality in computer game, which release the pressure can transform into deadly monster, when facing real life problems and when humans brain does not work racionaly.
“After the Columbine high school massacre in 1999, family members of the shooting victims sued 25 video game companies which they blamed for the deaths. In particular, the game Doom came under intense scrutiny over reports that the Columbine shooters may have been influenced by the spectacle of shooting various targets to accumulate points.” (4)
However it looks that game companies are “the bad ones”, reality is that if they are guilty of the massacres results, they are guilty not for the violence itself, but just for handling the tool how to release the anger, frustration and fear itself.
Families of victims should more blame the parents and friends of the murderers, cause they have often more radical role in shapping youth's world and perception of good and evil.
“Young adults—male and female—who play violent video games long-term handle stress better than non-playing adults and become less depressed and less hostile following a stressful task, according to a study by Texas A&M International University associate professor, Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson.” (5)
In his studies he explains that there are no links between violent games and aggressive behavior. They actually reduce stress and then afterwards help to handle a real life.
Sometimes the same thing can save your life and take it also, when used in a wrong way. Computer games with violence might be the thing in that category as well.
“Playing as Kratos, may help you stop turning into Kratos, says a study from Texas AM International University.” (6)
Doctor Christopher J. Ferguson in his studies about game violence actually says that more violent game, better and more peacefull life can be. He suggest that violent games can release the anger and then it is just up to you to reconsider if your anger is just an anger of TeddyBear or anger/appetite of Hannibal Lecter. Eating human flesh via computer can prevent you killing and slaughing your friend, enemy or just random tasty looking person, maybe sitting just next to you in this very moment.
Doctor Christopher J. Ferguson explains how the study worked:
“The study took a group of 103 young adults and gave them a frustrating task to perform. Each participant then played either a non-violent game, a violent game with a good versus evil theme, a violent game where you play as a villain, or no game at all. The results of the tests showed that those who played violent games were much better at managing stress that those who had not.” (7)
The results are not so shocking at all. People playing villains were less stressed during all the time, when taking place in experiment.
In my opinion study really makes sense. Frustration in everyday life is sometimes unbearable… there is so much stuff to make for a living, that one can really wonder how is it possible, we do not have ten murderers in each town.
Maybe nine of them are playing computer game, where they are using knives, guns and swords maybe too frequently for a normal fairytale game. Maybe we can be actually gratefull that we have this possibilities for alternative worlds, where we can disguise in Hannibal Lecter and nobody will really care.
It is just a little bit strange… it looks that there are really some games, which can help surviving in real life and not ending in jail. Question is, if there are also some games, where murderers play “good ones”… worth for thinking for game designers, in my opinion.
With a knowledge, which this experiment brings, it should be really possible to use computer games to help with emotional issues. Then playing systematically special types of game can be maybe prescribed by doctors as a normal medicine. Manipulating with the elements of game, can be in future same as experimenting in chemical labs. Tablets and pills for better physical life, games for mental and emotional issues...
Preventing from real life violence can in very near future wear mask of computer games, where princesses kill monsters, wolves hunt Little Red Riding Hoods or Hannibal Lecter, peacefully sits at the opera, on the left side with Clarice Starling, wearing elegant sexy evening dress, which shall never be stained by blood. Neither hers, neither his, neither any edible random person from the opera house.
Let's hope for the best.
^ a b Entertainment Software Association. (2009). Industry Facts. Washington, DC: Entertainment Software Association.
^ Irvine, Martha (2008-09-16). "Survey: 97% of Children play Video Games". Huffington Post.
^ Gentile, D.; Saleem, M.; Anderson, C. (2007). "Public Policy and the Effects of Media Violence on Children". Social Issues and Policy Review 1 (1): 15–61. doi:10.1111/j.1751-2409.2007.00003.x.
^ Wright, Brad (2004-02-18). "Sounding the alarm on video game ratings". CNN.com. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
^ Williams, Ian (2007-03-06). "US teen violence study exonerates video games". IT Week. Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
^ Vossekuil, Bryan; et al. (May 2002). "Safe School Initiative Final Report" (PDF). U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education. p. 26.
^ "Study: Kids Unaffected by Violent Games". Wired. April 2, 2007.