Being a high school male, I have a 90% likelihood to play video games, many of which have violent content (Jenkins). While many claim that violent video games negatively effect teens by increasing their chance to be violent, I have played mostly violent video games for most of my life, and have yet to have any uncontrollable violent outbursts. So why is there such an uproar about violent video games and their effects on teens?
Even though there are studies that show how violent video games negatively effect teens, many of them are biased and poorly conducted, and do not adequately show the possible benefits and actual causes of teen violence. Video games have slowly been creeping into the lives of families for years, starting with benevolent games such as pong, moving to classics like Mario, and slowly moving to what we currently know most video games as today; realistic first-person shooters, bloody real-time strategies, and cooperative immersing massive multiplayer online role playing games.
With many video games increasing in visual aesthetics, violence is not only present, but now more than ever, it is more available for viewing. So, does this increase in violence have any effect on teens? I believe that it doesn’t. Many people, particularly those who fund and research violence in teens, believe that violent video games are the cause behind teen crimes and violence. However, these studies fail to take into account that 90% of males and nearly 40% of females in high school play significant amounts of video games (Jenkins).
This automatically means that the odds of a video game player committing a crime is high, not for the fact that the video game is the cause of the violence, but since there are so many people who play video games, it is extremely difficult to have a crime committed by someone who doesn’t play video games. There is also research that shows that violent video games are often less harmful to teen judgment than the moral panic that is caused by the debate of the topic (Jenkins).
While it is true that a large majority of video games today are based on violence, I believe that teen violence does not stem from violence in video games. A 2001 Surgeon General’s report claimed that mental health and home life are by far the greatest factors of violence in teens (Jenkins). Some studies go even farther than just stating that violence in video games has no correlation to actual violence, and blame violence on anger, shame, and a lack of character combined with lacking ethical development (Chapman 81).
The same research that shows violent video games having little effect on causing violence also show that violent video games often have the ability to reduce violent outbursts (Chapman 81), and even show that violence in teens is at a 30 year low in the United States alone (Jenkins). Not only does violent video game research show at the very least a lack of conclusive evidence that violent video games cause violence (Jenkins; Kalning) but there is evidence that violent video games can provide many benefits to gamers, such as adding a layer of common sense to general decision making (Blanchard 54).
Violent video game studies also show that vision and other brain functions can also be improved, as well as improving the likelihood of a person who plays cooperative violent video games to help people in real life situations (Matthews) In fact, Daphne Bavelier, assistant professor in brain and cognitive science at the University of Rochester, NY, says “People that play these fast-paced games have better vision, better attention, and better cognition” (Matthews).
Not only are these fast paced games beneficial for sight, attention, and cognition, many kill or be killed games improve the ability to see in the dark, and to adapt to changing situations on the fly (Matthews). While there is a large amount of studies to show there are no ill effects of violent video games on teens, there are also studies that show the opposite, showing that when a young child is exposed to violent video games, they can show more violence in later years (Anderson 21).
However, there are many things that influence young children, and it isn’t limited to media at all. Research also shows that media in general, including all forms of video games tends to have minor influence on people (Blanchard 54), but again, this is true of anything that occurs in a person’s life. While it is true that violent video games increases activity in the pleasure sensors in the brain (Kalning), the evidence is inconclusive for lack of large scale testing (Kalning).
It may be true that violent video games affect people lightly, but as Dony Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association said “We’ve seen other studies in this field that have made dramatic claims but turn out to be less persuasive when objectively analyzed” (Kalning). Not only this, but since there is limited research on the effects of violence, there is an extremely small amount of proof that violent video games cause off-screen violence, and that most research is not to show how dangerous violent video games are, but to help parents make informed decisions when purchasing video games (Kalning).
In addition to most research aimed only to help purchasing decisions, much the research was poorly conducted (Jenkins). Not only were a large amount of the research poorly conducted, but many of the potential negative influences were usually determined from a small window in a criminal’s life when determining the cause of their violence (Chapman 79).
While violent video games are increasing, the debate on if such violence increases violence in teens rages on, with those claiming there to be no negative influence, and even a benefit, while there are those who believe that these games greatly increase violence with their biased and poorly conducted research. From what some research shows, violent video games might provide an extra edge to our generation that might help push the world forward and into the future.