The Virtual Fear

March 10, 2011
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He enters the shadowed room, gun raised, whispers haunting his footsteps. Blood stains smeared across the wall scream pain. From the shadows a horrendous monster lunges, catapulting the ten year old boy out of his seat. Fortunately for the young gamer, his terrifying universe is synthetic and his actions are bits of code.
But his fear is real.
His parents fear the effect these video games have on his development. The politicians that shape the laws and regulations of these games fear the aggressive behavior stimulated by this cyber world. The fear has spread to the general public in recent years with such horrifying events as the Columbine shooting or Virginia Tech shooting, blaming video games as the inspiration for their homicidal actions. The debate over the legitimacy of these accusations and possibility of other unfortunate gamers traveling down the same path has lead to the creation of a massive and divisive discussion. Research, studies, and analysis have shown that violent video games do not affect gamers and while young or unstable individuals might be influenced, the majority of society handle and enjoy the games in a nondestructive healthy manner.

The fears of parents and the general populace focus on the aggression video games supposedly cause. The science article, Effects of Violent Video Games, even references the shootings at, “Paducah, Kentucky. Jonesboro, Arkansas. Littleton, Colorado” and goes on to say, “The shooters were students who habitually played violent video games” (Anderson, and Bushman 353). Though media and politicians might find security in blaming the shootings on the big money hungry video game industry, the real cause of these shootings is not so clear. The shootings have found their way into the unforgettable moments of history, but the blame placed on video games should not linger so eternally.

First off, statistics have shown that video games are not linked to violent crimes.


Figure 1 shows that violent crimes have decreased while the sales of video games have increased. Though violent crime offences might have decreased despite video game sales, it shows that video games have not turned America into a violent place. With video games so prominent and widespread through the states, the ever increasing sales seem to have a reverse correlation with violent crime. In Grand Theft Childhood, the authors note that, “school shootings are extremely rare events” (Kutner, and Olson 9). The terrible and thoughtless actions of these youths present a horrendous picture, but thankfully the massacres occur infrequently, the majority of society functioning in a healthy manner, all the while having video games participating in their lives.

The majority of individuals maintain a balanced psyche and can handle playing these games; it is only a few that are troubled enough to reenact the grotesque actions of the virtual world. In a study by researchers that surveyed teenagers, it was discovered that, “while many of them enjoyed the ability to shoot people […] massacre aliens and stab zombies, they recognized these actions were fantasies” (Kutner, and Olson 24). The unrealistic nature creates a differentiation between reality and the videogame. Though the actions might seem barbaric, it is relatable to other childhood activities. Shooting big alien bugs in a video game provides the same motive and innocence as stomping ants in the backyard. Both actions have a certain level of violence in them but video games are actually less destructive, yet children who engage in tromping on ant piles are not feared as being possibly psychologically unstable. An article by Rashawn Blanchard identifies that the majority of society has the common sense to recognize that, “the level of absurdity that is seen in these games is something that gamers know they can’t do in real life” (Blanchard). These games provide a gateway to an exciting and adventurous world in which the gamer has the opportunity to experience a new and exciting environment, a place they have never known before. These alternate universes are far from reality though, both physically and in the psyche of the gamer. Just as the controller disconnects the gamer from truly performing the actions on the screen, so does the fantasy world; the player realizes the illusion of the game.
The problem lies in the fact that parents and other adults are unfamiliar with the technology and the gameplay. One of the studies mentioned in Grand Theft Childhood stated that, “The majority of teenage boys interviewed said that their parents were ignorant about video games in general and about their own game play in particular” (Kutner, and Olson 9). As soon as this gap is bridged, the understanding and respect of video games will increase, and the criticism will lessen. If parents stay involved in their children’s lives, then parents can be comforted in knowing what their children participate in, and regulate the games according to what their children can handle maturely. Dr. Elizabeth Carll, the chair of the Interactive Media Committee of the Media Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association, identifies how the ESRB, the rating system for video games needs improvement (Carll). This legislation and rating system will only improve over time as society and government increase their exposure and understanding of video games. At this time, parents need to take into consideration the ESRB rating as well as know the various types of elements are in this game. This way, parents can understand the games their children are playing and analyze the material their children are mature enough to handle.

Not only are video games non-detrimental, but they are beneficial instruments that act as stress relief and social catalysts. In Grand Theft Childhood, the author says, “for many children and adolescents, playing video games is an intensely social activity, not an isolating one” (Kutner, and Olson 9). Video games let gamers play over the internet, connecting them to their friends, communicating through text, voice, or video. Children at school can be heard chattering away about their favorite games, a commonality that binds them and helps them socialize. This idea is synonymous with discussing football games or talking about the latest gossip. Video games have permeated society and are regarded as commonalities, becoming a form of entertainment that many people share together in a growing community.

But why do children feel the urge to play video games?

According to Figure 2, the majority of children are playing video games not because they thirst for an unbalanced psychological need for bloodshed, but because they find the games as a fun and exciting outlet. These young gamers enjoy the mental stimulation, which involves solving puzzles and challenging themselves to think quicker and react faster. Interestingly, some percentages indicate that less than 50% of these young gamers are playing the games to release anger or to divert their negative feelings. Anger is a common human reaction that can be stimulated in naïve and immature children that have yet to experience and learn to control their emotions. Video games are a beneficial outlet for these emotions. Instead of resorting to destructive behaviors, like fighting or bullying, the anger is expressed in a cyber world that leaves no damage or hurt in the real world.

The young boy’s fear slowly ebbs away as he turns off the TV, switches on the lights and heads downstairs to eat dinner with his family. His family can rest assured that he has left the violence in his game station and will do no harm to society. He is just any other child that enjoys the thrills, fun, and social interactions video games provide. He does not need statistics, logic, or scientific research to know that it is only a game.
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Works Cited
Anderson, Craig, and Brad Bushman. "EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AGGRESSIVE COGNITION, AGGRESSIVE AFFECT, PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL, AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature." PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE (2001): 353-359. Web. 23 Jan 2011. <http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2000-2004/01ab.pdf>.
Kutner, Lawrence, and Cheryl K. Grand theft childhood: the surprising truth about violent video games and what parents can do. Simon and Schuster, 2008. Print.
"Video Games Do Not Cause Violence."At Issue: Video Games. David M. Haugen. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 20 Jan. 2011
<http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010289220&source=gale&userGroupName=tlc049072572&version=1.0>.
“Violent Crime Offenses and Video Game Sales, 1996-2004.” www.economist.com Web. 23 Jan 2011. < http://videogames.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003627>.
"Violent Video Games and Aggressive Behavior in Children Are Linked."Opposing Viewpoints: Violence. Louise Gerdes. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. AUSTIN HIGH SCHOOL- Sugarland FBISD. 20 Jan. 2011
<http://find.galegroup.com/ovrc/infomark.do?&contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T010&prodId=OVRC&docId=EJ3010171244&source=gale&userGroupName=tlc049072572&version=1.0>.





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