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Videogames Don't Kill People, People Kill People

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Videogames Don't Kill People, People Kill People

Every generation has pointed a finger at the recreational pastimes of young persons, accusing that these activities lead our nations youth astray and induce violent or antisocial behavior. Novels, music, TV, movies, and now the finger is pointing straight at one of the newest and quickest growing youth pastimes; videogames. This particular pastime differs from others in their reality and scope for direct participation, therefore allowing the crusty old curmudgeons to conclude that playing them leads all young people to commit acts of violence.

Numerous studies have been conducted to determine whether or not there is a direct link between violent tendencies and videogames. Some tests claim there is a definite link, others refute it, but both often show very shaky statistics. Most tests simply prove inconclusive. According to an article by Anne D. Walling, a recent study by Drs Bensley and Van Eenwyk shows that:

Rates of adolescent violence, homicide, weapon carrying, and other markers of antisocial behavior fell consistently during the period when violent videogames became ubiquitous, more graphic, and more realistic. (1)

This would suggest that youths are using videogames as a form of escape. Instead of being out on the streets committing acts of delinquency, they are instead at home, safely playing videogames.

Walling also provides the combined results from twenty-nine other individual studies of this topic. The studies all varied greatly in design and quality, preventing any firm determination from being reached. Children of middle school age and younger showed no association between videogames and aggression in girls, and both increases and decreases in aggression among boys. Studies of high school students predominately dealt with boys, often using self-report. Both calming and arousing effects were again reported, and no consistent relationship was drawn between violent games and actual behavior. In college students and young adults, results were yet again mixed, but calming effects were more common, particularly if the prior mood was hostile or aggressive (2).

So-called experts like to point their fingers at Eric Harris as an example that violent videogames do indeed create violent children. Harris was one of the two teens who opened fire on his classmates at Columbine High school in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, killing thirteen people before shooting himself. According to an article from Current Events, Harris had a self-modified version of Doom, a "Mature" rated game. However, it has since been proven that Harris had a very traumatic home life and a not-so-nice social life ("The Games Kids Play", 2). Such factors, Walling states, "... are more predictive of youth violence and delinquency"(1). According to Gamespot's Shahed Ahmed, research conducted by several psychologists on the short-term effects of violent videogames on kids, recently told the "... American Psychological Association that inborn traits are more likely to induce aggressive behavior in children than the direct affect of violent games"(1).

Ahmed goes on to explain the experiment in detail. Twenty-five boys and ten girls were given questionnaires, so as to determine their gaming habits. The children were then allowed to play both violent and relatively non-violent games for a period of fifteen minutes. Afterwards, they were presented with hypothetical situations and were judged on their responses to said scenarios. The researchers were able to conclude that playing violent games does not induce aggressive behavior in the short term. However, they did note that children who were inherently aggressive chose to play the more violent games (1).

Many parents and teens argue that no normal kid would be transformed by a videogame's violence. Teens are smart enough to differentiate between reality and fantasy. In an interview, Evil Dead and Spider-Man star Bruce Campbell gave his opinion on violent videogames:

As long as humans can make the distinction between reality and fantasy, we're gonna be fine. If you don't want your kid exposed to it, don't get it for him. It's that simple. I think it's funny in this country that we get freaked out about sex, but violence is OK. You can cut a breast off, you just can't kiss it. ("Violence is A-Ok", 1)

On a related note, the Surgeon General has made his stance on the matter known. The verdict; there is no link (Varanini, 1).

And how has the videogame industry reacted to all the negativity directed towards them by parents? Justin Chin, president of Infinite Machine, a videogame developer, was recently quoted during a summit concerning violence in games, saying, "We believe in age-appropriate marketing, and we support the ratings system... However, we are not here to debate whether violent games result in violent behavior". The summit was organized and held by the International Game Developers Association. The IGDA hopes to build awareness among the game development community of the Entertainment



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