The Virtual Virus

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The ability to immerse yourself in a virtual world is often very appealing. In fact, 68% of households in the United States play video games. Contrary to the common stereotype, video games do not just appeal to younger people – the average age of a person who plays video games is 35 years old. The video game industry has had a significant impact on the nation. However, the effects of video games are not completely positive.

When one thinks of video games, they may think of war and shooting and blood. Teen (T) and mature (M) rated games make up a whopping 43% of the video game market, almost half of all video games sold. It has been proven that playing M rated games increases unfavorable behavior compared to playing E rated games.

A recent study produced MRIs of twenty-two teenagers who played a non-violent video game for thirty minutes and twenty-two teenagers who played a violet video game for thirty minutes. The teens who played the violent video game, entitled Medal of Honor: Frontline, showed activity only in the amygdala, an area in the brain involved in emotional arousal, and decreased activity in areas of the brain that control self-control, inhibition, and attention. Teenagers who played the non-violent game called Need for Speed: Underground showed activity in all parts of their brains.

These unsubtle differences suggests that playing violent video games may lead to violence in real life, because people want to replicate that satisfying feeling of shooting that annoying enemy soldier. In addition, after playing the game for an extended period of time, they are essentially trained to kill.

Teenagers are more affected by encountering blood and gore in violent video games than adults. The prefrontal cortex is the impulse control center of the brain, enabling humans to think for the future, consider the consequences for certain actions, and manage their urges. This part of the brain is still developing during the teenage years, and does not fully develop until well into the 20s. Consequently teenagers are more affected by the violence in video games, causing them to imitate the behaviors that they see and like.

On June 7, 2003, 18-year old Devin Moore was brought in by late police officer Arnold Strickland to a police station in Fayette, Alabama. At first he compliant, but then he snapped. Moore grabbed Strickland’s gun and shot two police officers and one 911 dispatcher, killing all three and driving away in a stolen police cruiser. More had been playing Grand Theft Auto almost constantly at home; it had trained him to become a professional killer.

It is obvious that violent video games have an effect on people’s minds and have encouraged and even been the cause of numerous crimes. For the health and stability of people and the nation, violence in video games should be discouraged. Companies should reexamine their products and decide if they really need excessive amounts of blood, or that gruesome extra level. There is a rising pandemic not just in the United States, but in the world. It should be realized as such and stopped, before more lives are lost.





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