January 8, 2020
Mainstream media has long debated the idea that violent video games cause violence in the people that play them, hinting that kids playing Grand Theft Auto, Call Of Duty, and other first-person shooter games grow up to be the next Ted Bundy or Ed Gein.
Gamers of all ages believe that there is not a direct line between video games and violence, but they do not deny that there could be a correlation. “I’d say that video games can cause violence if there is a distinct disconnect between reality and video games,” said senior Andrew Cummel. Lukas Rewa, adviser of Guild Gaming Club, agrees with him, saying, “They can perhaps desensitise people, become more accepting of aggression.” Overall, however, research does not show that video games cause violence. On February 16, 2018, Christopher Ferguson, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at Stetson University, and Patrick M. Markey, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Villanova University, published an article titled “Blaming Video Games for School Shootings Is Misguided, Dangerous,” where they state that: “[T]here is no clear evidence to support claims that video games cause societal aggression or violence. Not only is interest in violent video games rare among school shooters, these perpetrators express much less interest in this violent medium than most other individuals. If you were to enter any school in America you would find that about 70 percent of the male students habitually play violent video games… those who perpetrate acts of violence in schools are more than three times less likely to play violent video games than an average high school student.” Their opinion has even been supported by school shooting survivors. Samuel Zeif, who survived the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School, told CNN in fall of 2018 that, “My friends and I have been playing video games our whole life and never have we ever felt driven or provoked by those actions in those games to do something as horrible as this. It’s a video game. Something happens [in the game], you restart. We know that’s not how life is.”
There are also many safeguards in place to keep video games out of the hands of unintended audiences. Video games have ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings related to age and maturity, ranging from “E” which stands for everyone, “E+” meaning ages 10 and up, “T” for teen, meaning 13 and up, and “M” for mature, which is 18 and up. These games are rated this way due to numerous factors, including violence, language, references of drugs and alcohol, crude humor, blood, and comic mischief. In 2018, the ESRB reported that 42% of games were rated E, 19% were rated E+, 30% were rated T, and 9% were rated M. This rating system is voluntary, but many manufacturers require ratings to be able to sell to the public. Even online sellers have ratings, not all though. Many manufacturers also require identification as proof of age before selling games for certain audiences. Unfortunately, sometimes these ratings and regulations are not adhered to, causing children to see things they possibly cannot handle at such a young age. Parents paying close attention to the video games their children are consuming could help ensure that children have healthy relationships with their games and don’t cross the line between video game action and real life violence.
Video Games are not the cause of violence. Despite this myth that society and the media have gone along with, the belief is inaccurate. In fact, video games have many positive effects. In one study conducted by the University of Iowa, 681 healthy people aged 50 and over played 10 hours of a certain game for five to eight weeks, and the results were astounding. “We’ve shown that 10 hours is enough to slow the decline by several years. We saw a range across all our tests from a minimum of a year-and-a-half all the way up to about six-and-a-half years of recovery or improvement. From just 10 to 14 hours of training, that’s quite a lot of improvement,” researchers reported. A University of Rochester study showed that playing video games helps people be better decision makers. “Action video games are fast-paced, and there are peripheral images and events popping up, and disappearing. These video games are teaching people to become better at taking sensory data in, and translating it into correct decisions,” said lead researcher Shawn Green. Other studies have shown that video games can help players’ eyesight, improve social interactions, enhance the ability to learn, improve hand-eye coordination, improve focus and attention, and help treat depression. “Videogame music is actually very good for focusing, you can get your anger out in a game instead of real life, and it just gets people happy sometimes,” says senior Kelcey Everett.
The bottom line is that today’s world is a lot different than our past generations. Crimes and chaos occur all the time, and everyone’s interested in putting the blame somewhere. In this case, the blame for violence does not lay with video games.