Violence in Video Games: Social Corruptor or Innocent Fun?
I have been playing video games for well over 15 years now. I have owned multiple systems, so I have played just about any popular title that you can name. As long as I have been playing video games, I have heard the argument that violence in video games can cause children to display more violent and aggressive behaviors. One thing people should remember is that although video games do display violent content, it is completely fantasy and has no basis on reality. Violence in video games is not the issue, the ultimate responsibility lies in the hands of the parents. Video games have even been found to have beneficial effects on children: ‘Among mental health professionals, there are those who maintain that in playing video games, certain children can develop a sense of proficiency which they might not otherwise achieve’ (Cesarone). So children who play video games can gain a sense of worth and accomplishment that they can’t receive while on the playground with their peers.
Granted, it is known that ‘Of the games preferred by seventh- and eighth-graders, 50 percent were violent…’ (Parvaz) it should also be noted that ‘A study at Purdue University in June indicates that even the most violent video games have minimal effects on a child’s behavior’ (Parvaz). So even though children like violent video games, their effects on making a child act more aggressive or violent is hardly noticeable. It has also been found that ‘…overall, violent video games are less harmful to children than violent TV programs because most children realize that the games represent fantasy, but they expect television to mirror reality’ (Parvaz). So this is saying that there is a fine line between reality and fantasy, and video games don’t cross the line as often as television does. Most often, video games take a fantastic scenario, such as a hero armed with a sword against the deformed monsters of evil, clearly a fantasy; versus a movie that has a cop with a gun going against the local town crooks. Although the storyline for the movie is hardly realistic, the realism is in the cop shooting the villains and killing them. The hero slaying the deformed creatures of evil is fantastic and unrealistic, and could even be seen as a justice. The line is that the crooks are real and the creatures are things of fantasy and do not exist. Parvaz wrote of A.J., 12, who is an avid video game player and clearly sees the line between reality and video games. His opinion on video games influencing aggressive behavior in children: ‘”I don’t really believe that,” he says. “Some people just don’t have…they just can’t decide right from wrong, and (game violence) desensitizes those people.”’
I admit that violence in video games has risen at an alarming rate. According to the NCTV (National Coalition on Television Violence), ‘Games rated as extremely violent increased from 53% in 1985 to 82% in 1988’ (Cesarone). But it cannot be ignored that the responsibility of censoring children from video games falls squarely on the shoulder of parents. Parents need to be educated about the content of video games, and they also need to be educated about a tool created specifically to help them: the video game rating system. An institution known as the ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board) has created a system that rates video games by their content. The ESRB has come up with five different ratings for the plethora of video games on the market: EC: Early childhood-‘Games carrying the EC rating have been deemed suitable for children aged three and older. Products carrying this label have absolutely no material that would be considered inappropriate by parents’(Johnston, p27). E: Everyone-‘The E rating replaced the previous K-A (kids to Adults) last year. It is given to games suitable for kids six and up. An E-rated game may contain minimal violence or crude language’(Johnston, p27). T: Teen-‘If a game contains suggestive themes, mild or strong language and animated violence it is given a T rating. Some parents may want to supervise younger children’s use of games rated with a T’ (Johnston, p27). M: Mature-‘Mature games have been deemed suitable for those over 17, contain more adult themes such as blood and gore, stronger language and sexual themes. Not to be played by young children’ (Johnston, p27). AO: Adults Only-The extreme of the ratings is AO, suitable for adults only. Referring to mostly sexual themes and extreme violence, console manufacturers have not allowed AO-rated content on their systems to date. Adults Only titles make up a small percentage of software, mostly on the PC’ (Johnston, p27). This rating system is a tool for parents to use to help keep their children from playing overly violent or graphic video games. I admit that the ratings aren’t often used by parents and most people don’t even know about them, nevertheless ‘Ratings can be highly effective if parents, who are clearly the best decision makes about what’s appropriate for their kids and are the principal buyers of games for them, use the ratings’ (Johnston, p27). So if parents will try to better use the ratings system, it can be a valuable ‘yardstick’ to measure the content of video games. Seattle author Gloria DeGaetano suggests ‘If you child wants to start playing video games, rent a game system along with some games and do some sampling before you buy the whole package.’
Video games are fantasy; they have no basis on reality. Although some may depict reality, they stray in one way or another, either by alien invasions or genetic experiments gone wrong and then throwing the hero with an arsenal of weapons into the make-believe situation. This has no basis on reality. The argument has raged for almost 2 decades now, and as long as the NCTV and certain legislators like Jack Wagner are around, the subject will always be a hot one. So I think that the best solution is to let the individual parents monitor their children’s game playing. My parents did that, and I’ve turned out fine. As long as it is remembered that video games are fantasy and make-believe with no basis on reality, people shouldn’t have a problem distinguishing reality from fiction.