Two weeks ago, I talked about how I got my driver’s license and how my years of experience of being behind a virtual steering wheel could not prepare me for the challenges of real life driving. That got me thinking about the stigma gamers have been facing even since the first video game was put in the hands of the general public. And that topic is if video game violence can affect the minds of the people that play them and make them become violent in real life.
I actually bring up this topic now for good reason. A recent study released by the American Psychological Association, or the APA (no relation to the Acolyte Protection Agency), recently published a study stating that video games have been linked to more aggressive behavior. The study specifically states that there is a link, not a probable link but an actual link, between playing violent video games and aggression in young people. While the resulting paper does tiptop around the niggling issue if violent video games cause criminal behavior, it does specifically cause aggressive behavior.
I’m not sure how reputable the APA is but I guess they were credible enough for their study to be posted on news sites like Time, Newsweek and CNN. So I’m guessing what they’re saying has to bear some weight. Other psychologists have weighed in on the study with a lot of them questioning the methodology of the study and even the credibility of the people who performed the study. Now, I’m not here to debate regarding the report if it is fact or not. I’m a journalism student, not a psych major! However, what I can give is my stance on the topic being a gamer and my experience with violence as a whole.
While I haven’t been playing video games for as long as a lot of gamers out there, I have been watching my brother play a lot of games ever since I could remember. He would play a variety of games on the PlayStation 1 and 2 and I would go watch the pretty pictures display on the screen while he played. It was sort of our way to bond with each other. For adventure and RPGs, I would be the one directing him where to go. One game that stuck out in my toddler/adolescent mind was Resident Evil 2.
One of the most vivid memories I have of the game was my brother taking out a shotgun, aiming it upwards and totally blasting a zombie’s head into smithereens! You know what my reaction was? I laughed! I laughed really, really hard! I just thought it was so funny with the zombie still stumbling a few steps before keeling down on the floor. I told my parents regarding what I saw in Resident Evil 2, detailing what I found so funny. You would think my parents would be horrified that my brother allowed his super-young sister watch such graphic and violent imagery, right?
Nope! They were perfectly fine with it! They knew it was just a video game. They allowed me to continue watching other violent video games, such as the Mortal Kombat games, the Grand Theft Auto series (the third game onwards) and the first God of War and Manhunt games. They knew that, even though I would be watching video game characters maim and dismember each other, I probably wouldn’t get any “bright” ideas and try to copy those acts in real life.
Eventually, I “graduated” from just watching my brother play these games to actually playing with him. I did the same thing and performed the same actions that I saw. I performed Fatalities whenever I beat him in Mortal Kombat. I jacked a car and ran over pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. I never got to blow a zombie’s head off in and of the Resident Evil games, though. I may play games but I never said I was really good at them!
And, even after watching Johnny Cage uppercut a guy’s head clear off, or robbing convenience stores in Grand Theft Auto V’s online mode, I haven’t ever once in my life saw myself ever doing those things. I myself have never gotten into a fistfight or even aggressively pushed someone out of the way when going through a mall (even though I would really want to). And I think that’s the norm for most people. Most gamers know it’s a fantasy world and it’s not socially acceptable behavior.
Of course, there are going to be those outliers who will try to imitate what they did in a video game or even saw on TV. But I’m not sure if these people have the capability to understand what is acceptable in real life. Does that mean we should not have violent video games? I think not. If they don’t copy video games, they’ll copy other media sources like movies and television. Heck, some of them might get their hands on Lord of the Flies and copy some of the acts there!
So, no. I don’t believe exposure to video game violence will create a violent person. The basis for my conclusion is not because of I studied it; it’s because I lived it!
But violent acts isn’t the only controversy that has followed video games. There’s also the problem of video games depicting sex. Since I’m on the topic, I may as well talk about that next week!
Do you think violent video games can create a violent person? Let me know in the comments section below!