Video Game Violence Outline Psychology Essay


“Greater realism leads to greater immersion; greater immersion leads to greater effects. One of those effects can be increased aggression” (qtd. in Wake forest University).

Violent video games have detrimental effects on children, and give them a distorted view on how the world works and how they should behave.

Therefore, there should be restrictions placed on selling video games to minors, as well as limits placed by parents on the amount of types of games and time children spend playing video games.

II. Definition

In the context of video games, there is a broad definition of what exactly a violent video game is.

Kenneth Lachlan et al. defined video game violence for his research as anything that involves harming people or objects, and includes eating people as violence. More specifically, he defined it as a “threat […] or actual use of such force intended to physically harm an animate being or group of beings.” It also included the effects of violence on people when the action was not committed on screen (313).

Another definition for violent video games is games “in which intentional harm is done to a character motivated to avoid that harm” (“Violent Behavior”).

III. Scope

A. Video games today are becoming increasingly accessible, as well as an increasingly popular form of entertainment, to young children through a variety of consoles, the internet, and even phones.

Lachlan et al. stated that “nearly three fourths of all families surveyed have at least one video game console, and one third of all children in this age group have a game system in their own room” (313).

In “Mental Health; Most middle-school boys and many girls play violent video games,” one study noted that only 6% of young teens had not played a video game within the last six months.

Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman stated in “A Review of the Effects of Violent Video Games on Children and Adolescents” that the average time children spend on all forms entertainment-video games, listening to music, watching TV, etc-is forty hours per week (1033).

As technology expands, the different platforms that video games can be played on will increase and more children will be able to play them.

With no restrictions on the sale of mature rated games on minors, and parents who do not understand the rating system the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) uses, young children are able to buy mature rated games and play them without anyone questioning them.

After conducting a study, it was found that the majority of twelve to fourteen- year-olds frequently played violent video games, including games rated for mature players (“Mental Health”).

In a news conference concerning a Senate bill that former Senator Hillary Clinton introduced, Clinton revealed that “A recent study by the National Institute on Media and the Family found that children between the ages of 9 and 14 were able to purchase M-rated games nearly 50 percent of the time” (Washington Transcript Service).

“In a nationally representative sample of U.S. teens, 99% of boys and 94% of girls played video games and 70% of nine- to eighteen-year-olds report playing violent M- rated […] games” (Whitaker and Bushman 1033).

Children will continue to be exposed to violent video games without restricting the sale of violent video games to minors; and the effects of playing video games cannot be controlled without limiting the time children play them.

IV. History

As technology has evolved, so have video games. Making them more realistic, and immersive than before.

Paulson Ken writes, “the multicolored objects on the screen of my Atari 2600 video game system were supposed to represent alien invaders or menacing spaceships, but they were pretty much indistinguishable blobs with an occasional appendage or two. In the heat of battle, pixels would scatter but nobody got hurt.” Now, some violent video games depict “beheadings, amputations, and young girls pleading for mercy” (09a).

In a hearing on violent video game regulation, Senator Sam Brownback recalled a shooting on June 7, 2003 where two police officers and a 911 operator were murdered. The shooter, Devin Moore, played hundreds of hours of the violent video game “Grand Theft Auto,” which is primarily a cop killing game. After Moore was caught, he stated, “Life is like a video game. Everybody’s got to die sometime” (Washigton Transcript Service).

VI. Effects

A study done by Iowa State University psychologists found that even the video games that are less realistic and are more cartoon in nature affected aggression in the same way as the teen rated games (“Violent Behavior”).

“What seems to matter is whether the players are practicing intentional harm to another character in the game. That’s what increases immediate aggression- more than how graphic or gory the game is” (qtd. in “Violent Behavior”).

The psychologists at Iowa State University also found that those who played violent video games more often, “held more pro-violent attitudes, had more hostile personalities, were less forgiving, believed violence to be more typical, and behaved more aggressively in their everyday lives” (“Violent Behavior”).

In the study, the children who began playing violent video games earlier in the year “changed to see the world in a more aggressive way, and became more verbally and physically aggressive later in the school year […]” (“Violent Behavior”).

“[…] Exposure to violent video games has even been cited as a possible contributory factor in the schoolyard massacres at Columbine and Westside Middle School” (Lachlan et al. 313).

“A negative relationship exists between playing violent video games and exhibiting prosocial behaviors afterward; that is, exposure to violent video games decreases the likelihood that the player will engage in an activity that helps another person” (Whitaker and Bushman 1033).

Jodi L. Whitaker and Brad J. Bushman found in a study that people who played violent video games were less likely to help another in distress than those who did not play violent video games (1033).

These effects are likely due to people becoming emotionally desensitized to violence when exposed to violent video games. After seeing violence repetitively in video games, people are affected less by it and become desensitized. Desensitization also occurs from committing acts of violence repeatedly. At first, harming another person is disconcerting; but when more acts of violence are committed people begin to think of it as a normal process and are no longer bothered by it (Whitaker and Bushman 1033).

VII. Solutions

Video game sales to minors should be restricted by having retailers ask for proof of age, such as with a driver’s license.

Currently, there is a Supreme Court case-Schwarzenegger, Gov. of California v. Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), et al.-about creating a law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors. If it were to be enacted, retailers would be up to $1,000 for selling a violent video game to a minor (JONNY MOON D8).

Some retailers, such as GameStop and Best Buy already have measures in place that require everyone to show their driver’s license and prove they are eighteen or older when buying mature rated games, which keeps children from buying violent games.

This would not cost anything to retailers, who would only need to implement a rule. However, children can get an older family member or friend to buy the game for them and get around the age restriction.

Parents need to learn what the ESRB ratings mean and follow them, as well as know what their child is playing.

Parents do not often understand what the ESRB ratings mean, and allow their children to buy the game despite its teen or mature rating. To find out more about the ratings, parents can go to the ESRB website and research the ratings and descriptions the ESRB uses before they buy a game (Blackwell 99).

Reading reviews and talking to other parents can help increase a parent’s understanding of what exactly his or her child is playing (Blackwell 99).

This is a feasible solution because it will not cost anything, and all it takes is some time doing research.

Parents should limit their child’s gaming to a public, family space where it can be monitored.

If parents can see what their child is playing, the parent can decide when he feels the game has become too inappropriate for his child to play or not.

This would be fairly easy to implement; however, most video games need a TV screen to use, and this may cause conflicts over who gets to do what with the TV.

Parents should consider allowing their children to play only strategy, puzzle, and educational games.

Krcmar, a researcher on video game violence, suggests two games: “Professor Layton and the Curious Village” of the puzzle genre, and “Harvest Moon” of the strategy genre. She states these games “[help] children practice planning, problem-solving and strategizing” (Wake forest University).

Although there are a plethora of negative effects from playing video games, there are also beneficial ones, such as improving hand-eye coordination and problem solving, and teaching children to “scan the environment for important visual information” (Wake forest University).

This solution is plausible because the parent will be spending money on video games anyway, so it should be on games that will have beneficial, rather than detrimental, effects.

VIII. Conclusion

  • Because video gaming has become such a widespread phenomenon, its effects will affect everyone. Through video game limits and restrictions, the effects can be slowed and decreased significantly.
  • If restrictions are not put in place to keep children from playing violent video games, society in the future will have a large group of aggressive individuals desensitized to violence.
  • With restrictions, people will be less aggressive and terrible events like the Columbine Shooting can be reduced.



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