Violence in video games causes desensitization to violence in reality

Hannah Garry, Business Manager

We see a lot of violence. As high school students, as Americans, as humans in today’s society, we are all almost certainly exposed to violence on a daily basis.

On TV, crime shows and dramas feature serial killers and violent deaths that would have caused shock and horror in generations past. At the movie theater, movies like Kill Bill and Ninja Assassin showcase blood and gore every other scene. The taking of life is no longer presented as a terrible loss or an earth shattering event but merely as background noise to an exciting story. Violent acts have become too commonplace in our sources of entertainment.

Especially in video games, violence is rampant and everywhere. In the most popular video games today, games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto, violence is the main activity players perform. Whether players are shooting at the enemy or beating up a hooker or even shooting a deer in Big Buck Hunter Pro (comes with not one, but two plastic rifles) violent acts have become too commonplace in our sources of entertainment.

The most disturbing is the violence that appears in video games. In movies and tv shows you are, at least, somewhat detached from the act itself. In video games you are actually doing the shooting/beating/blowing up.

When playing a video game containing violence (and studies have found that over 85% of video games contain some violence and almost 50% contain serious violent actions) players are rewarded for performing violent acts by moving up a level or gaining new assets or tools. Science has shown that the very active nature of playing violent video games is having some frightening effects.

Gamers spend an average of 8 hours per week playing video games, according to the Entertainment Software Rating Board. But according to a study done by the University of Iowa, all it takes is 20 minutes of playing a violent video game to cause gamers to have lessened reaction and decreased heart rate to scenes of violence. This shows rampant desensitization in our generation that should cause shock and alarm.

Parents continue to buy their children these games, regardless of the rating. Not that anything besides the rating in the marketing of these video games would suggest that they’re inappropriate for children. They’re presented as fun, fast-paced adventures where you get to play the hero, taking out bad guys however you see fit.

In the actual playing of these games violence is presented as justified, consequence-free, and fun. Players gain positive emotion incongruent with normal negative reactions to violence.

These studies have also shown that playing a violent video game makes it easier to access aggressive thoughts and feelings. In one case involving primary school children it was found that those who played more violent video games were more likely to get into fights with other children.

The Video Game Industry defends themselves against these findings by saying that violent video games don’t make people aggressive, they merely attract already aggressive people. They also contend that video games containing violence are actually good for you because they allow you to release pent up aggression.

The Video Game Industry is like the Tobacco Industry in this way, making arguments against science to defend their findings. When studies first started showing that smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer, the tobacco industry scrambled to defend their product. But just like cigarettes didn’t stop killing people, violent video games won’t stop people from viewing killing people as something less than it is.

A more aggressive, desensitized future? Does that sound good to anyone?

Video games are only getting more violent. Every year, higher quality, more realistic graphics are available. Every year more players buy powerful desensitizing tools in the form of these video games. Every time they sit down to play they will be re-enforcing a growing belief that death and violence are commonplace and mundane.

The fact that parents even let their children play these games is worrying. If playing violent video games leads to kids viewing violence as no big deal then this means huge consequences for the future America. These video games, coupled with machine Nerf guns and Law and Order, all contribute to a major wave of desensitization. We’re human beings, and the killing of another human being should affect us. Who’s to say that it will in 50 years? If the amount of violent content we’re viewing keeps rising, who’s to say that it won’t?

I’m not saying that violent video games cause violence. What I am saying is that they change the way we view violence. When it comes down to it, I only ask parents to be more conscience of the future they are creating by purchasing their children games which contain violence, and game players to be conscience of the content and meaning behind a game. Who needs Grand Theft Auto when you could play Mario Kart?