Violence and Video Games

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY

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Video games have been a prominent part of pop culture for many years, but some may be surprised at just how prevalent gaming has become. According to an ESA study conducted in 2015, there are as many as 1.8 billion gamers in the world. Whether it’s at home on a console, at work on a computer, or anywhere on a smart phone, people are constantly playing video games.

Part of the reason video games are so popular is because there is such a large variety of them. From simple yet addictive games like Candy Crush to massive-multiplayer-online games like World of Warcraft, there truly is a game out there for everyone. However, according to some, that presents a problem.

It’s no secret that many video games contain violent aspects. Even Mario is guilty; think of how many turtles he’s stomped on. Parents have long been concerned with the effects such games could have on their children, and scientific studies have shown a correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior in kids and teenagers.

Activision, the publisher of the Call of Duty franchise, stated that nearly 100 million people have played a Call of Duty game.

On paper, the notion makes sense. If kids are playing games where the objective is to kill the enemy, it may desensitize them to real-life violence. The major culprit is the first-person-shooter (FPS) genre. Games like Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are played worldwide, meaning that countless people are engaging in fictional gun violence, which some believe is potentially dangerous for young gamers’ psyches. Moreover, it is known that some mass shooters, like the Columbine killers, played violent FPS games.

It is far from an outlandish assumption that FPS games influenced the shooters at Columbine and other mass murderers. However, some think that the games were not the cause of their problems, but merely served as an outlet for preexisting issues. Whitney DeCamp, an associate professor of sociology at Western Michigan University, put this to the test. In his study, DeCamp used data from over 6,000 adolescents to show the relative effects of gaming as well as other social risk factors. He found that there was no causal relationship between video games and violent behavior.

Another study conducted in 2016 examined whether or not there was an increase in crime rates after the release of popular video games. The findings showed that violent crimes decreased in the weeks following the launch of anticipated games. Instead of inspiring hostility, gaming can provide a kind of catharsis, which, in turn, makes players less aggressive.

That being said, this does not mean anyone of any age should be able to play any game they want. The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is the organization that assigns age and content ratings to video games. While many do not follow the ESRB exactly, their ratings serve as helpful guidelines for parents who may not know if a game is appropriate.

The ESRB ratings.

So, rest assured, playing another round of Mortal Kombat (probably) won’t turn you into a homicidal maniac. Feel free to game on.

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