Violent Video Games Made Me Do It School shootings years ago in Paducah, Kentucky; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and Littleton Colorado, have raised the question time and time again. Do violent video games have an influence on children and their aggressive behavior? In all three of these brutal shootings, all the shooters were students who habitually played violent video games. The Columbine High School students who murdered thirteen and wounded twenty-three in Littleton before committing suicide after the shooting, enjoyed playing Doom, a bloody and violent video game.
One of the shooters made a customized version of Doom: two shooters, unlimited ammunition, extra weapons, and victims who couldn’t fight back. This customized version of the game was surprisingly similar to the actual school shooting. To investigate this question to find out if it is true, I read two articles: “Does Playing Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior? ”, by Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein, and “Children and Violent Video Games: Are There ‘High Risk’ Players? ”, by Jeanne B. Funk. In Goldstein’s article, he explains that controlled experiments cannot determine if violent video games cause aggressive behavior in children.
He argues that children choose to play those violent video games because they want to be stimulated in that way. He argues that this cannot be truly measured because kids do not “play” when they are being tested in a laboratory. He says, “They enter an imaginary world with a playful frame of mind, something entirely missing from laboratory studies of violent video games. One of the pleasures of play is this very suspension of reality. Laboratory experiments cannot tell us what the effects of playing video games are, because there is no sense in which participants in these studies ‘play’” (Goldstein 43).
However Goldstein does believe that violent video games in some way, there is just no clear way to prove it. In Funk’s article, she argues that some children are more vulnerable to aggressive behavior than others because they are drawn to violent video games from pre-existing adjustment problems. She calls these children “high risk” players. Like Goldstein, she also believes that children play these violent games because they want to be stimulated in that way, it just depends on the child and their situation on how they react to it.
She says that children know that they understand the rules in these violent games do not apply to rules in real-life. They understand what is right and wrong when it comes to these violent video games, but they still enjoy playing them. She also says that the direct relationship between violent video games and violent behavior remains to be determined. Both Funk and Goldstein recognize that there could be a link between violent video games and violent behavior, but both believe that other factors need to be taken into play before making the assumption that only the nature of the video game is the reason for a child’s aggressive behavior.
But neither of them gives specific examples where children acted out aggressively from a violent video game that wasn’t in a controlled experiment. The study of this problem needs to shift from focusing on lab experiments altogether and focus on real-life, day-to-day interactions with violent video games to determine whether or not they cause aggressive behavior. Studies should be focused on examples like the school shootings, or any acts of violence in school or at home, to see if they are video game related. Neither of them also gives any positives that can come from playing these violent games.
Funk and Goldstein both realize that children may be affected by violent video games, but they disagree on the reasons why they are affected. Funk believes that a child’s age, social situation, or emotional problems are the only reasons why they could be affected negatively by these video games. For example, Funk says that a bully or a victim of a bully is more likely to be negatively affected by a violent video game because of cognitive and emotional deficits. She says that bullies already have many negative characteristics that are reinforced by playing violent video games.
And as for the victims of bullies, Funk says “that because of the fantasy roles that they can take on in a violent video game, victims are appealed to this because they want to change their identity and build self-esteem” (Funk 110). Funk also believes that the age of the child playing the video game can be a reason why they are affected. She says that children that are below the age of 12 are most likely to be affected because that is the age when children begin to find what their morals are and compare their morals to others. She says that violent video games “short circuit” this process.
Funk also states that children with impaired emotion regulation are more likely to become addicted to video games. She says that if these types of children are not able to play their games, they experience types of withdrawal, and she gives examples of experiments where children acted out aggressively at not being able to play their games. But none of these points prove that violent video games are directly linked to aggressive behavior. In contrast, Goldstein focuses on the experiments of mainly children to prove that there is not enough evidence to show that violent video games cause aggressive behavior.
Goldstein continues to argue that real aggression cannot be measured in a lab. He says that too many experiments are inconsistent with their results to come to a conclusion that these games cause aggression. Goldstein does believe that children are affected by violent games, but they just don’t always act out aggressively. He says “Recent research has begun to consider how and why people play (violent) video games. Although these approaches may offer new insights into video games, they are still not likely to tell us whether violent video games cause real-life aggression.
Not all questions can be answered using social psychological methods” (Goldstein 251). Goldstein believes that studies need to consider players’ social lives also. He says that children choose to play these violent games because of the effect it has on them, it doesn’t mean that they always act out aggressively. Although both Funk and Goldstein agree that video games have an effect on children, they disagree on the methods on how it is measured. But what they both lack to see is that we need to stop focusing on lab experiments altogether to measure this.
I think that Funk’s examples of experiments are completely unreliable. First, she does not describe the nature of the experiments, she just makes references to an experiment that we are to assume took place. I agree with her that a child’s age, social situation, and emotional problems can play on the affect that violent video games have on them. But I disagree with her methods about finding these results. Sharing Goldstein’s point of view, children truly aren’t “playing” if they are in a lab, the child is not comfortable and does not react the same way.
Therefore, it makes Funk’s points obsolete. Goldstein’s approach I agree with more. Studies need to look at the social aspects of children to find how they are affected by these violent video games. In a lab experiment, a child probably doesn’t want to be there, so they aren’t comfortable. They don’t get to choose the type of game they want to play, so they don’t show their true emotion towards it. But where I do not agree with Goldstein, is that he thinks we still need to conduct experiments, but using less controls, making the child feel more comfortable so they can show their true emotion.
Studies need to stop focusing on experiments altogether, and focus on observing children playing in their natural environment. Using both the methods that Goldstein and Funk have explained but in children’s natural environment, it will give accurate results. Children decide their morals on their own, and playing violent video games is one way for them to find out what their morals are. Some may think that the images they see in these games are acceptable in the real world, others find they these rules do not apply in real life. As a video game player myself, I have made that distinction.
I feel that I do not react aggressively in some situations because of violent video games. Although I do believe that we need to be more careful about which games we let our children play because they can react negatively or positively to them. A child will either accept that what is going on in the game is acceptable in real life, or the child will know that these images do not depict real life. Regardless, they will continue to play the game anyway. Arguments have been made that even if the child knows the game does not depict real life, they are numbed by the violence in that game.
I agree to this argument, we need to constantly remind our children that these things may be fun but they are not acceptable in the real world. My brothers and I grew up playing video games, violent and non-violent. We all realize that the things in these games do not depict real life. I feel we were not numbed by these violent images. I think that children only react violently because they are addicted to these games. I think that video game addiction needs to be taken more seriously than finding out if these games ause violent behavior, because the violence can come from addiction, not the images in the game itself. We must monitor our children’s playing times and continually remind them that although these games may be fun, the morals they depict are wrong.
Works Cited Goldstein, Jeffrey. “Does Playing Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior? ” Playing by the Rules. Chicago: Cultural Policy Center, 2001. Print Funk, Jeanne. “Children and Violent Video Games: Are There “High Risk” Players? ” www. afim. org/highrisk. pdf. Jan. 30 2009. Web. Oct 10, 2010