Throughout history violence has been acknowledged through many different interactive ways. During the time of the Roman Empire, violence was presented in the form of chariot racing and gladiator fights, two of the most popular games. In a two-wheeled cart pulled by fast horses four teams were engaged in dangerous racing that eventually killed people. Fans supported racing chariots. Gladiators were slaves who fought each other in open-air buildings in order to entertain people. At the end of the fight, which was considered a game, the emperor would give the thumbs up or thumbs down sign, which was the decision of death or life for the loser. More contemporarily, violence has widely expanded through other forms. The video game industry and film industry influence people’s behavior, especially children’s, through their violent content. The effect of playing video games leads to aggressive attitudes, but on the other hand, it can sometimes induce fear of the environment. It is also a form of escape from the daily routine of parental obedience and the desire of being in control of one’s actions. Moreover, children tend to believe that it is acceptable to use violence as a threat to someone’s life.
Known as a popular form of entertainment, video games engage people in a process of manipulation of electronic images in order to achieve a goal, whether it is to complete various missions in the game or to solve a conflict or a crisis. The mode of creation of video games involves graphics that shape real life environmental settings, feelings and activities, from Western towns with houses, bars and horses, to urban environments such as subways, cars, high-rise buildings. The characters use guns, knives and inappropriate words to set off a conflict. For instance, in the most popular game for the Xbox or Playstation 2 produced by Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, whose action takes place in Los Angeles, the player has to kill, steal cars, rob and beat up people for which he is rewarded. Deanna Dewberry, in her article “Experts Warn on Video Games Violence,” sustains that “in the video game Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, the gamer can shoot a police officer, bludgeon and plow down pedestrians. While gamers call it fun, psychologists call it dangerous.” (Nov 11, 2005. <http://www.wishtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=4107842&nav=0Ra7 >). All the actions are toward fulfilling the mission. What do children learn from the game? They most likely learn that there is no boundary that can prevent them from completing their goals, even threatening and tying to kill the people who are supposed to protect them such as police officers.
When children play video games they live in their own world, which they control with a joystick or a keyboard ignoring the reality. Eugene F. Provenzo Jr., professor of education at the University of Miami, considers that “the unreal, the simulation, the simulacra has been substituted for the real in the lives of our children” (James D. Torr, “Violence in Video Games is a Serious Problem”, Is Media Violence aProblem?, 44). Children get so consumed by the games; therefore they neglect other activities such as school homework, household chores that their parents might have assigned to them. “Studies show that video games playing is very much a part of American life. About 67 percent of households with children own a video games system” (LeeAnne Getlletly, , “Violence in Interactive Media, Pervasive Influences,” Violence in the Media, 49) . Kids are the decision makers in their own world, they control the next move and they may not accurately distinguish between reality and fantasy. Greg Easterbrook, author, lecturer, and a senior editor at the New Republic said “Children who don’t yet understand the difference between illusion and reality may be highly affected by video violence” (Torr, 73).
Consequently, the effects of playing violent video games shape children’s attitudes towards real-life. It will lead them to dysfunctional behavior such as trying martial art moves with their peer groups. Sometimes it is very dangerous because it might cause injuries. “Children who chop and slash through karate games, for instance, apparently tend to try out moves on friend” (Agence France Presse, “Video Games Make Children Violent”). Instead of learning how to use self-control by being calm and thoroughly thinking out the problem, children believe it is acceptable to use force in order to settle conflicts that might occur. LeeAnne Gelletly in Violence in the Media declares “Some scientists say that a world of violent media has helped create a real-life violent world. For more than fifty years, studies have claimed to show a link between the viewing of violent …games and emotional damage and behavioral changes, particularly in young people” (9-10). Therefore, it is believed that video games raise a question mark concerning the correlation between real life violence and virtual violence.
Through video games, children participate in a long-lasting process of learning violent acts. Most of the information that children receive sets up the base of knowledge for their future. In order to understand their actions within the game, children need to learn the rules that compose the game, play the game, get better by repeating it many times and working on accumulating higher scores until they get to the end and finish it. Pediatrician Michael Rich, head of the Center of the Media and Child Health at Harvard University considers that “ with video games you are not only passively receiving attitudes and behaviors, you’re rehearsing them” (Gelletly, 46). By comparison with the activities children are requested to accomplish in school, like repeating the sound A in order to learn how to pronounce the letter A, learning and repeating the same violent actions may determine children to actually commit crimes in real life such as murders, robbery, larceny. Eugene F. Provenzo Jr. argues “ video games not only teach children about violence, but also how to be violent.” (44). As a result, children are taught that violence is acceptable. It also leads them to use force as a weapon to terminate any conflict.
The depiction of fighting and killing scenes in video games has destructive effects on children’s sensibility. “Research indicates exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive thoughts, aggressive behavior and angry feelings among youth…It also said this exposure reduces helpful behavior and increases psychological arousal in children and adolescents.” (Associated Press Worldstream). Constantly playing video games with a violent content, children tend to lack sympathy for a person in pain or in need. “Some researchers believe that when young people view media violence over and over again, they become emotionally numb – or desensitized – to its impact.” (Gelletly,
53). Furthermore, many times when using force in order to punish or to restrict children’s misbehavior, parents or peer groups face situations when children seem to easily overcome the pain by saying “ it doesn’t hurt me, it doesn’t hurt me”, which would logically determine the repetition of the punishment. When children identify themselves with the main character of a video game, which has to fight in order to win, without counting the punches that come from the opponent’s side, they know that the only way to succeed is through their numbness. Therefore, children’s real –life reaction to punishments or to other people’s pain doesn’t make them be human beings, it rather makes them be the imaginary creatures they play on a daily-basis.
Additionally, the similarity between the environments where most of the violent actions depicted in video games take place and real-life environments induce feelings of fear for children towards their socialization process. People’s values are “acquired from our interpretation of experience” (Kane, Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education &Development, 56-63). If children acquire their values from the interpretation of their experience playing violent video games that means that their system of values would enlist aggressiveness, stealing, and lying. However, they sometimes develop the ‘“mean world syndrome”, by which people come to see the world as a much more dangerous place than it really is, and come to believe that other people can’t be trusted.’(Gelletly, 55). In a study searching the correlation between playing video games and real-life aggressive behavior, the answer to the questions “How safe would you feel walking alone at night in an average suburban setting?” and “ How safe would you feel walking alone at night on campus?” students ‘responded on 7-point scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 7 (extremely).” (Anderson, 7).
Controversy about the outcome of playing video games has always existed. Some people believe that video games don’t promote violence. On the contrary, video games are considered to be good for children because they teach them how to defend themselves or because it is a matter of being a human being. Brandon Nadeau in his article “Video Games Make Society Less Violent” for The Daily Campus Newspaper in Connecticut, claims “I have played games my entire life, everything from ‘Super Mario Brothers’ to ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Halo’. Yet I have never committed a violent act. I have the equipment to do something (pellet guns, pocketknives, etc), yet I have never used to hurt someone or something.” Other people may argue that parents are to be blamed for not monitoring their children and allowing them to play violent video games. Nadeau in the same article continues his argument sustaining that “ The same parents who hate these games are the ones who are buying them for their children. I guess they should be thanked for being hypocritical.” Nadeau considers that parents are those who make the games. Parents are also those who buy the games for their children and at the same time are against the violent content. These two perspectives contradict each other. As a matter of fact, Nadeau calls them hypocritical because someone who fights against something shouldn’t, on the other side, encourage the promotion and purchase of what is being fought against. However, it is still not acceptable to promote violence through video games. Parents are worried for their children’s choice of entertainment. Even if some parents prohibited playing violent video games, children are still exposed to violence. It might happen that one of their friends is in possession of a video game and the child has the possibility to play it. Equally important is that the harm is already caused. If violent video games didn’t exist, parents shouldn’t have to wear the worry on their shoulders that someone, by putting up a game that promotes violence, will ruin their children’s education.
In the end, it is video games producers’ responsibility to consider making less violent video games by not glorifying murders. They should focus more on developing games that emphasize positive aspects in life having the character intelligently and ethically solve problems without the use of force, rather by being taught a life-lasting core of morals and values. Then children will feel more affectionate to other’s feelings and not desensitized, they will also understand that crimes are not helpful and they shouldn’t be part of the society. Children will also have a better insight about what is real and what is fantasy, rather than just assuming that what video games show is the same to what happens in real life. In the final analysis, I want to address this to Rockstar Games producers, to make our children and your children feel safe and give them lessons that will help them in the future, leaving out the negative side for which they have plenty of time to learn about. Let them enjoy their childhood.