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The Behavioral Effects on the Players

The phenomenal growth of video games could never have been predicted based on the first generation equipment and technology used a few decades ago. In the present day, its success is very much the result of leaps and bound in gaming concepts and technological advancements. It could also be argued that part of its success draws from the winning formula of adding violence into the story and actual mechanics of the virtual game. The latter statement about violence is a major concern among parents, schools, and politicians.

What exactly is the effect of video games -having violent content – in the behavior of young people between the ages of 12 and 18? The age bracket is interesting and yet very apt in the discussion due to the still vivid recollection of school shootings that had shaken American education to its core. This study will look attempt to show that violent behavior should not be solely blamed on playing video games with violent content. If this nation is serious in reducing juvenile related violent crimes, and then it is time to stop using video games as the scapegoat.

It is time to take a deeper look into the issue and separate fact from myth. Scientific Guess The phrase “make a scientific guess” is confusing because it has a semblance of the scientific method in its attempt to answer a query and yet there is also guessing involved. The said phrase is often used when people are forced to make a decision even if there is very little data available. Therefore, when a person makes a scientific guess – a procedure that looks into the most probable solution – it is easy to make a mistake.

In the case of violent behavior among American teens, behaviorists are being forced to provide answers to the disturbing development such as the Columbine shooting and the brutality and calm manner of executing the dastardly plan. It is difficult to understand how kids can easily commit a crime so horrible that unless the perpetrator is totally deranged then it is almost impossible to explain the reason for such actions. Looking at violent games found in video arcade and other game consoles found at home – the similarity between the images seen in the game and to the actual crime is disturbing.

This has led many to jump into conclusions. A simple cause and effect analysis and a little common sense thrown in would easily generate a deduction that indeed the violent games had driven these kids to a killing frenzy. This is a sweeping statement and the validity of the conclusion is easy to counter because there are millions of children playing allegedly violent games and yet only a very insignificant number of these children turn out to be like the Columbine shooters. Granting that the school shooters played shooting type of games before committing the crime will not automatically link the game to the act.

In the court of law the correlation can easily be dismissed as a coincidence. There can be at least two major reasons for getting into the bottom of this issue. The first one is the concern that video games in general will be categorized as something detrimental to the development of children. What if it can be proven that video games can be a good tool in the learning process? Then obviously the children will be deprived just because of an inaccurate assessment of the real threat of video games.

Secondly, the need for objectivity is due to the need to find the root cause of the increasing incidence of violence in school campuses and other places where children frequent. If all money and effort is spent on chasing after video games and then it turns out that it is merely a scapegoat then the problem will never be resolved. Scapegoat In the following pages it will be shown that many had exaggerated their claims on the harmful effects of video games. Media, society, and government officials have singled out video games as a cause for the acts of violence and other crimes among youths.

Many people believe that video games are the cause of crime, but it is questionable if these same personalities really did their homework because there is still no conclusive study that could ever support their claim. One wonders where they get their data and the basis for their conclusions. This simplistic approach to solving a complex problem was shot down by a modern day philosopher, Andrew McKenna who said, “The attempt to trace the origin of violence to a single culprit is destined to cover up its complex origin; it is a sacrificial gesture par excellence.

It is a matter of finding a scapegoat for a more generalized culpability…” (as qtd. in de Lara, 2006, p. 333). David Trend in his work, The Myth of Media Violence provided a way of understanding how politicians and those that are pressured to solve the problem of violence easily use controversial issues as props in building their own images and he wrote: Media violence is such an easy target for critics. Its everywhere and something everyone understands, or think they understand. For politicians, public health groups, and advocates of family values, media violence is a convenient target.

It simply must be a factor (emphasis added) in the spread of crime, delinquency, and moral decay (2007, p. 25). In the same manner video games have suffered a similar fate. It is also a convenient target and it is highly visible. Sometimes people think that logic is a simple tool to apply and that every time they apply it that they would not miss. And that one plus one should always add up to two. But what if the assumptions are all wrong? It is tempting to jump into conclusions when the person doing the guess work believes it is safe to do so.

In the case of video game violence it is plain to see that children are interacting with a form of entertainment that depicts violence (see Berger, 2002). It is a game where kids are allowed to shoot at people or ram their cars at people. It is tempting to imagine the gap between fantasizing and actual killing to be very short and that kids can easily traverse between the two points. The problem here is that no one really knows how wide the gap is. Or if it is easy to cross from make believe to the real world and to bring what was experienced in the game to real life. Benefits of Video Games

If policy makers will focus on the eradication of violent video games then it is possible that they will be throwing the baby along with the bathwater so to speak. There can be an unhealthy and inordinate amount of attention given to clamp down its development that many will miss out on its benefits. Video games just like computers have more than enough room for growth. This medium can be further developed into something more useful that entertainment and perhaps into a tool for a more exciting learning experience. Violence Emanates Here Imagine for a moment that video games were not yet invented in the 21st century.

Then look around and see that America is surprisingly a culture that glorify or at least indulge itself with a healthy does of violence. Steven Kirsh in his study on the source and effect of violence provided key areas where as a kid he got his steady diet of violent entertainment and listed them down as follows: • Professional wresting as seen on TV • Classic horror movies (Dracula, Frankenstein etc. ) • Stephen King novels • Cartoons • TV shows • Football games Not everyone may actually tasted the whole menu listed above but it is easy to get the idea that violent entertainment is readily available and a common occurrence.

If one adds video games into the mix then it would be very hard to determine which one has influenced those kids who went on a shooting rampage (see Cocking and Greenfield). James Paul Glee points out the obvious, “…video games are neither good nor bad all by themselves, they neither lead to violence or peace. They can be and do one thing in one family, social, or cultural context […] If you want to lower violence, then worry about those contexts, which all extend well beyond just playing video games” (2005, p. 5).

One of these contexts was discussed by Ellen de Lara in her study on bullying and violence in American schools where she discovered that this kind of behavior is prevalent in U. S. educational institutions from the lower up to the higher levels. The author made another surprising discovery that although parents are enormously concerned about “serious” violence, they tend to take for granted that children get bullied and blame the victim. This is a disturbing fact and to fully understand how bad it is, de Lara pointed out that a long time ago this kind of behavior was outlawed in the adult world, in the workplace in particular.

Now, why is it that what adults believe is detrimental for their development is allowed to happen in schools. The prevalence of this problem was made clear when tragedy struck in what has become a symbol of an American brand of violence and de Lara illustrated it through the following quote, “While adults were shocked after the tragedy at Columbine High School, when two students shot and killed classmates, a teacher, and themselves, other students across the country, though very upset, were not surprised” (p. 333).

Dealing with the problem of bullying is messy and difficult. It is then much more convenient to just blame it all on the games that children play. Conclusion The simple conclusion that one can make regarding after examining the facts is that no one can point to a single reliable study that can prove once and for all that by merely playing a game can turn one into a monster. Others may argue that human nature is more complicated than those of other creatures and that the intricacies of the mind could not really be accurately probed under laboratory conditions.

And that the best way to find out the truth is to observe what is happening. Obviously they are pointing to a decade of school shootings done by kids who also happened to play violent video games at home. Now, if critics would go this route and use a basic application of cause and effect say, since this person did Action A before committing the deed Action B then it follows that there is a correlation between the two. A good counter argument to that is simple.

Human nature as the critics say is much more complicated than that of an automaton. A human being is a moral person and the same time a very intelligent person that could make decisions and easily perceive right and wrong. Furthermore, using the kind of analogy used by the critics – an analogy that uses basic cause and effect – the outcome may even turn against their favor as seen in the following. James Paul Gee using the same tactic made a convincing argument in favor of video games and he asserts:

The 19th century was infinitely more violent that the 20th in terms of crimes […] and no one played video games. The politicians who have heretofore sent people to war have not played video games – they’re too old. The Japanese play video games more than Americans do, as, indeed, they watch more television, but their society is much less violent that America’s (2005, p. 5). Glee’s argument effectively counters those who easily make an intuitive – yet not very scientific guess – remark regarding the possible causes for violence in society.

Their conclusion holds no water, add to that the fact that there may studies supposedly made to prove the critics point are inconclusive at best and at worst biased, the proponents of such studies are too eager to put the blame on something familiar and popular. Now that there has been a more balanced presentation regarding the correlation between video games and violence the critics and those using this issue as propaganda must now be told to go focus their energies where it will matter most.

The case with bullying in school is a serious matter that surprisingly gets very little attention. These politicians and other interest groups are prone to use children as a tool to gather supporters to their side. If they indeed care for children then they now must act where kids are really vulnerable. The school system was often thought to be a safe place. Not anymore and it is not because those who go there play games with shooting and fighting in them but because of more serious and deep rooted causes.

It boggles the mind that parents and policy makers would view school as something as cute and easy to navigate as a day care center when they should be viewing it as a war zone where ethnicity, dysfunctional children, abused children, unwanted children, undisciplined children meet and interact. These kids are often allowed to mingle with each other without clear and effective rules on how to resolve problems that oftentimes arise when a multitude of children with different personalities and emotional problems meet and tensions arises.

In this regard it is foolish to just blame this complex problem on a single factor that could turn out to be non-significant. It is now time to focus on the things that really matter, on the issues that study upon study has proven to be a trigger for destructive behavior such as children abused at home or witness to abuse and children that are emotionally incapable to relate with others because of the problems he or she is going through. In the fight against violence, it is far more beneficial to help them rather than raising placards and boycotting vide game stores.

Works Cited

Berger, Arthur. Video Games: A Popular Culture Phenomenon. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2002. Cocking, Rodney and Greenfield, Patricia. Interacting with Video. New Jersey: Ablex Publishing, 1996. De Lara, Ellen. Bullying and Violence in American Schools. In N. E. Dowd and D. G. Singer (Eds. ) Handbook of Children, Culture, and Violence. CA: Sage Publications, 2006. Glee, Jame P. Why Video Games are Good for Your Soul: Pleasure and Learning. Sydney: Common Ground Publishing, 2005. Trend, David. The Myth of Media Violence: A Critical Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.

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