Should Violent Video Games be Banned?
Video Games are Evolving: The past 20 years shocked the world with technological advancements that were once inconceivable to The Silent Generation, The Greatest Generation, and even to baby-boomers. Everything from industrial equipment, to cars, TVs, computers, phones, and Ipods have all revolutionized. There’s no debating iPhones and flat screen LED TVs are sophisticated, but Generation Y (The Millennials) got acquainted with an intricate level of gaming that skyrocketed between the mid-1990s up until now, and the phenomenon is only getting bigger. Millennials were psyched over the invention of the Nintendo64 back in 1996, but in more recent years gaming systems like XboxOne and PlayStation4 are dominating the market, making the once impressive Nintendo64 look like a 1960s computer. These new systems have instant access to hundreds of entertainment forms like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, going far beyond their predecessors. With the evolvement of all games though, comes an upgrade to shooting games as well, which some believe inspire violence.
Legitimate Concerns: One of the most frequently argued points for those who oppose violent video games is that these games desensitize children to violence. Grand Theft Auto for example, sends you on missions where you shoot people, blow up cars, rob banks, etc. Assassin’s Creed puts you in scenarios where you kill your enemies with swords and axes. In Splinter Cell: Conviction, you vividly beat down your enemies in interrogations, slamming them into walls, sinks, mirrors, and lockers; all the great stuff we look for in a game that pumps us up. If people go insane because they “learned it through video games” and use it as an excuse, where do the excuses end? Violence has, and always will be around us in some form. If we see two people get in a fist fight do we join just because we see it? Because it looks fun? When we watch The Godfather are we inspired to become an associate of the mafia and work our way up? Of course not. We don’t do it because its morally wrong and we know better.
Tragic Results of the Mentally Unstable Taking it to the Extreme: Following a deranged teenager who shot up a Navy yard on September 16th 2013, in Washington D.C., Joe Biden held a three day meeting in the White House, where he blamed the video game industry after discussing the effects of gun control and the influence of violence in America. 34-year-old Aasron Alexis happened to be a devoted gamer, who had just recently bought the new Grand Theft Auto 5. Similar to the case that caused Biden to draw attention to the matter, in 2003, after the release of the revolutionizing Grand Theft Auto III, two teenage boys went on a killing spree, and when they were apprehended they claimed to be reenacting the game. The night they went out for their last escapade, one person was killed, another person injured. Given the two tragedies just mentioned, it seems that after the release of a popular new game like Grand Theft Auto, the game is used as an excuse for delusional criminals to commit a felony and say something along the lines of “I thought it was a game. I got so into it and couldn’t decipher reality from the game world.”
Over-consumption: A vast majority of us don’t realize it at the moment, but it becomes clear when you walk into your friend’s house on a Saturday night and see his 17-year-old brother playing the latest $400 PlayStationVR (virtual reality) all by himself that we may be becoming more withdrawn from our relationships in the real world, trading them in for a two-dimensional fantasy land where everything you want is just a few button clicks away. When Physicist William Higinbotham created the first video game back in 1958 based on a basic tennis game, (pong) maybe he didn’t expect it to be turned into a full-fledged virtual reality not even 60 years later…or maybe he did. If so then he did well, because his novelty invention that sparked a revolution won’t be burning out anytime soon.
Case Study: A study in 2008 called Grand Theft Childhood revealed that there was no pattern or link between playing violent video games and a rise in physically threatening behavior. The F.B.I. and U.S. Secret Service members who organized the study observed children as they played shooting games, and assumed beforehand that they would witness an example of a physical outburst when a child playing failed to complete a level within the game. Even though the F.B.I. and U.S. Secret Service saw first-hand that their expectations didn’t play out as expected, a strong animosity still exists between parents and their kids in regards to gaming. There have been hundreds of interviews with parents on the matter of shooting games, where they have sworn by it on numerous occasions that violent games had a permanent effect on the psychological development of their kids. The animosity likely stems from the fact that there will inevitably be children in America getting overly-consumed in an advanced technological toy, given it is 2017 and there are millions of forms of entertainment on screen. Young kids can just as easily get hooked on their Smartphone or whatever other gadget they have lying around.
The study still came to its own conclusion that playing violent video games could have a direct correlation to “game influence showing itself within behaviors of everyday life.” There was no direct link between playing rated “M” games and robbing people at gunpoint, but the F.B.I. and Secret Service had reason to believe while the gamer may not necessarily physically hurt others, the aggression they saw in the game could be used as a coping mechanism in real life; a tendency like cursing, consistent in many rated “M” games. When children in the study were interviewed, they referred to violent video games as a stress coping mechanism; something to “take their anger out on.” Over the course of a 13 year period beginning in the early 2000’s, the juvenile crime rate went down significantly in the United States. If the juvenile crime rate went down in the same time period when gaming systems faced unfathomable improvements, is it really so insane to say these games could be used as a positive tool for the youth? Of course we already know parents don’t think so (most parents). Perhaps the most obvious reason for this is because its too easy for parents to resort back to video games as a way of blaming their children for being lazy and avoiding chores. Parents have said it causes their children to procrastinate and fall behind in school work. Why are parents so quick to buy their kids cell phones at an early age, while at the same time have a hatred for shooting games? Certain children are prone to addictive tendencies, so whether they are Snapchatting for two hours straight or playing Xbox for the same duration, how does it make sense for there to be a negative stigma associated with shooting games?
Misinterpretations and Psychological Factors: In the rare situation where a crazed-shooter claims to be delusional and living in an alternate reality as a result of spending too many hours in front of their Xbox, we should know immediately there are underlying causes that stem from serious psychological complications. It seems obvious, but for a generation like the baby-boomers who didn’t have virtual reality, in addition to the fact that Pacman was one of the hottest game of their time, they still don’t get it. They don’t understand the hard work our generation puts in! Being a student is difficult, no matter what age you are in America, or where you’re from. As the years move forward, the pressure to fulfill the expectations of those around us while attempting (hopefully) to chase our dreams in school, as well as in the working world creates overwhelming tension and anxiety, and those who have trouble handling it may unexpectedly spiral into a depression phase without even realizing. What do people do when they get anxious and depressed? There’s a number of ways you can tackle it. You can eat, watch TV, hit the gym, meditate, swim, ski, etc. All those activities sound exciting, but you know what else is exciting and stress relieving? You already know, its video games.
Public Opinion: Linda Stender, an assemblywoman for New Jersey who attempted to ban violent video games in all public places, critiqued and labeled rated “M” games as a danger that can result in aggressive tendencies that influence youth in a destructive way. By “destructive”, from the anti-video gamer’s perspective, it’s a drastic step in theory. Pro advocates for video game banning in public places believe the simulated shooting results in gamers having an increased chance of hateful tendencies, especially if they are young. The main basis for this argument is that those who are predisposed to aggression might take it to the next level, bullying and/or hurting people outside of games like League of Legends and World of Warcraft.
Understanding: Perhaps for a decorated politician like Linder Stender, there is more difficulty in understanding the nature of video game influence. Stender said games like Grand Theft Auto “Desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens.” Linda Stender grew up in an altogether different time period, making it harder for her to understand our struggle in breaking away from the TV; sometimes the game is just so DAMN good. Long running game franchises like Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, and Fallout get a bit more realistic with each new release, and were nowhere near as good when Stender was growing up (nor did they really exist). For those who are predisposed to psychological disorders, shooting and stabbing people within a game could be a problem. And while that’s a problem, there is also the problem of addiction, where boys might not go out as much anymore since they are so indulged in the games, like the boy I mentioned before with the PlayStationVR. But with all problems, there is never just one simple solution, right?
An Easy Solution: As with everything, moderation is always key. Video games are mentally addicting, but so are millions of other forms of entertainment. When all is said and done, it really comes down to self-control. If there is some balance found and the person playing can manage their priorities accordingly, there is no reason for the games to be perceived as a threat to the youth. If you really want to limit the amount of time you spend in front of your PlayStation or Xbox, do whatever it takes. Set a timer, get a good book as an alternative, or who knows, you might even enjoy picking up an instrument. Don’t let video games control your life because after all, it isn’t real. You don’t want to be in your final moments wishing you did something more productive than throw your life away to a virtual world. Hate on gaming as much as you want, but the truth is its fun and its relaxing. If you want to go home and blow up some people with an RPG in Grand Theft Auto, go for it. Go for it, but take it easy and don’t go over the top with the hours you put in.
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