Video games are becoming increasingly more realistic as video and computer technology advances. This has served to make the video game companies part of a multi-billion dollar, world-wide industry; but it has also raised a number of questions regarding children and exposure to video game violence. The real-life nature of many of these games has parents asking questions about their effect on the mental and emotional development of their kids.
The potential effect of violent video games on the people that play them is not a new debate, especially as it pertains to children. Arguments over media and its effects on the general public are as old as mass media itself. For centuries, books have been banned because of their perceived potential impact on the reader. Movies and television programs have been scrutinized for the way they portray different aspects of our society, whether good or bad. Video games are just the latest act of a play that has been ongoing for generations.
Many of the aspects of video game play that make it especially susceptible to accusations of causing violent tendencies also make them ideally suited to educational endeavors. Active, hands-on participation is known to generate better retention than simply viewing a film or reading a book. With children in particular, this hands-on approach tends to better engage the child in the learning process and helps them maintain their focus.
However, arguments against video game violence are often more though-provoking due to this type of active participation. Unlike books, movies, and television, video games are viewed as especially harmful because the violence isn’t just something viewed on a screen or page, but is rather initiated and carried out by the person playing the game. The active role in video game violence by the gamers has presented a new spin on this old debate, generating renewed arguments on both sides.
There have been many studies conducted over the last couple of decades with the aim of measuring the real life effects of perceived violence. While the results of these studies have been somewhat inconsistent, they do seem to point towards a general consensus. The fact is, consistent exposure to video game violence over a long period of time can be linked to a number of detrimental behaviors including fighting, delinquency, and violent criminal tendencies. Increased aggression has even been found in adolescents after playing games featuring unrealistic “cartoon violence”, something previously disassociated from these debates.
While there is certainly a great deal more investigative work to be done in this area, researchers are now beginning to understand how even unrealistic images of violence can effect the human psyche. Add to this the active participation and repetition that are inherent in a video game and it becomes obvious why, at the very least, parents should be concerned about the potential long term psychological effects of video game violence on their child. The debate over this issue will undoubtedly continue as video games become more and more realistic; however, judging by current industry profits, the demand for violence-oriented games does not appear to be fading.