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Link between Violence in Video Games and Real-life Violence: Argumentative Essay

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Sales of violent video games have significantly increased while violent juvenile crime rates have significantly decreased. Violent video games do not influence aggressive or violent actions in the real world.Sales of violent video games have significantly increased while violent juvenile crime rates have significantly decreased. Total US sales of video game hardware and software increased 204% from 1994 to 2014, reaching $13.1 billion in 2014, while violent crimes decreased 37% and murders by juveniles acting alone fell 76% in that same period. [133][134][135][136][82][83] The juvenile Violent Crime Index arrest rate in 2012 was 38% below 1980 levels and 63% below 1994, the peak year. [83] The number of high school students who had been in at least one physical fight decreased from 43% in 1991 to 25% in 2013, and student reports of criminal victimization at school dropped by more than half from 1995 to 2011. [107][106] An Aug. 2014 peer-reviewed study found that: 'Annual trends in video game sales for the past 33 years were unrelated to violent crime... Monthly sales of video games were related to concurrent decreases in aggravated assaults.' [84]

Studies claiming a causal link between video game violence and real-life violence are flawed. [34] Many studies failed to control for factors that contribute to children becoming violent, such as family history and mental health, plus most studies do not follow children over long periods of time. [95][10] Video game experiments often have people playing a game for as little as ten minutes, which is not representative of how games are played in real life. In many laboratory studies, especially those involving children, researchers must use artificial measures of violence and aggression that do not translate to real-world violence and aggression, such as whether someone would force another person to eat hot sauce or listen to unpleasant noises. [84][94] According to Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, a psychology professor at Stetson University, 'matching video game conditions more carefully in experimental studies with how they are played in real life makes VVG's [violent video games] effects on aggression essentially vanish.' [95][96]

The US Supreme Court ruled that violent video games do not cause youth to act aggressively. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (2011) the US Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that California could not ban the sale of violent video games to minors. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion that studies purporting to show a connection between violent video games and harmful effects on children 'have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively.' [81]

Playing violent video games does not cause kids to commit mass shootings. Over 150 million Americans (and 71% of teens) play video games. There have been 71 mass shootings between 1982 and Aug. 2015, seven of which (9.8%) involved shooters age 18 or younger. [87][91][92] Katherine Newman, PhD, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, wrote: 'Millions of young people play video games full of fistfights, blazing guns, and body slams... Yet only a minuscule fraction of the consumers become violent.' [86] A report by the US Secret Service and US Department of Education examined 37 incidents of targeted school violence between 1974 and 2000. Of the 41 attackers studied, 27% had an interest in violent movies, 24% in violent books, and 37% exhibited interest in their own violent writings, while only 12% showed interest in violent video games. The report did not find a relationship between playing violent video games and school shootings. [35] An Apr. 2015 peer-reviewed study published in Psychiatric Quarterly found that playing violent video games had no impact on hostility levels in teenagers. [123]

Violent video games allow players to release their stress and anger (catharsis) in the game, leading to less real world aggression. A peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that children, especially boys, play video games as a means of managing their emotions: '61.9% of boys played to 'help me relax,' 47.8% because 'it helps me forget my problems,' and 45.4% because 'it helps me get my anger out.' [37] Researchers point to the cathartic effect of video games as a possible reason for why higher game sales have been associated with lower crime rates. [84] A peer-reviewed study in the Journal of Adolescent Research concluded that 'Boys use games to experience fantasies of power and fame, to explore and master what they perceive as exciting and realistic environments (but distinct from real life), to work through angry feelings or relieve stress, and as social tools.'[36] The games serve as a substitute for rough-and-tumble play. [36]

Violent video game players know the difference between virtual violence in the context of a game and appropriate behavior in the real world. By age seven, children can distinguish fantasy from reality, and can tell the difference between video game violence and real-world violence. [99][100] Video game players understand they are playing a game. Kids see fantasy violence all the time, from Harry Potter and the Minions to Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry. Their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality prevents them from emulating video game violence in real life. [9] Exposure to fantasy is important for kids. Fisher-Price toy company stated: 'Pretending is more than play: it's a major part of a child's development. Fantasy not only develops creative thinking, it's also a way for children to deal with situations and problems that concern them.' [108]

Studies have shown that violent video games can have a positive effect on kindness, civic engagement, and “prosocial” behaviors. Research shows that playing violent video games can induce a feeling of guilt that leads to increased prosocial behavior (positive actions that benefit others) in the real world. [104] Another study published in Computers in Human Behavior discovered that youths exposed to violence in action games displayed more prosocial behavior and civic engagement, 'possibly due to the team-oriented multiplayer options in many of these games.' [103] In a 2013 peer-reviewed study published in PLOS ONE, 'Three experiments failed to find a detrimental effect of violent video games on prosocial behavior [positive actions taken to benefit others], despite using contemporary and classic games, delayed and immediate test-phases, and short and long exposures.' [102] Researchers have shown that playing video games also results in increased moral sensitivity. [104]

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Nearly all young men play video games, so the fact that some people who commit violent acts also played games should not be surprising, nor does it imply a causal relationship. An estimated four out of five US households with a male child own a video game system. Although boys play an average of nine hours per week, [84] only a small percentage of them display violent behavior. Patrick M. Markey, PhD, Director of the Interpersonal Research Laboratory at Villanova University, stated, '90% of young males play video games. Finding that a young man who committed a violent crime also played a popular video game, such as Call of Duty, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto, is as pointless as pointing out that the criminal also wore socks.' [84]

Many risk factors are associated with youth violence, but video games are not among them. The US Surgeon General's list of risk factors for youth violence included abusive parents, poverty, neglect, neighborhood crime, being male, substance use, and mental health problems, but not video games. [118] A peer-reviewed study even found a 'real and significant' effect of hot weather on homicides and aggravated assaults, showing that heat is a risk factor for violence. [124]Smoking is a known risk factor for lung cancer, but there is no good evidence that video game playing is a risk factor for violence. An Aug. 2014 peer-reviewed study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture pointed out that 'As more people have been exposed to violent video games, serious and deadly assaults have not increased.' [84] A 2014 peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of Communication also found that as video game playing increased, there was less youth violence. [93]

Violent video games provide opportunities for children to explore virtually the consequences of violent actions and to develop their moral compasses. Violent games allow youth to experiment with moral issues such as war, violence, and death without real world consequences. [38] A researcher at the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media wrote about her research: 'One unexpected theme that came up multiple times in our focus groups was a feeling among boys that violent games can teach moral lessons... Many war-themed video games allow or require players to take the roles of soldiers from different sides of a conflict, perhaps making players more aware of the costs of war.' [2]

Violent video games may decrease crime because people are busy playing the games instead of committing violent acts. Some researchers say that violent people often seek out violent video games, and that the time they spend playing the games is taking them off the streets, leading to decreased crime. This is known as the 'incapacitation effect.' [84] Steven Levitt, PhD, economics professor at the University of Chicago and co-author of Freakonomics, stated, 'It just stands to reason that if you find an activity that keeps potential criminals busy for six waking hours a day, then it probably makes sense that they're going to be doing less crime.' [89] One study estimated that this effect leads to about ten fewer crimes per day nationwide. [90]

Gun violence is less prevalent in countries with high video game use. Per capita video game sales were $5.20 in the United States compared to $47 in Japan. In 2005, the United States had 2,279 murders committed by teenagers (27.9 per million residents) compared to 73 in Japan (3.1 per million).[11][12][13] A study of the countries representing the 10 largest video game markets internationally found no correlation between playing video games and gun-related killings. [97] Even though US gun violence is high, the nine other countries with the highest video game usage have some of the lowest violent crime rates (and eight of those countries spend more per capita on video games than the United States). [97]

The competitive nature of a video game is what arouses aggression, not the level of violent content. A peer-reviewed study in Psychology of Violence determined that the competitive nature of a video game was related to aggressive behavior, regardless of whether the game contained violent content or not. The researchers concluded: 'Because past studies have failed to equate the violent and nonviolent video games on competitiveness, difficulty, and pace of action simultaneously, researchers may have attributed too much of the variability in aggression to the violent content.' [125] A follow-up study tracked high school students for four years and came to the same conclusion: the competitive nature of the games led to the increased hostile behavior. [126]

Older generations often unfairly disparage new things that youth like, such as video games. The 'moral panic' that many adults feel about video games is an exaggerated sense of public concern, fear, and anxiety over a perceived threat of social corruption. [113] Other examples of moral panic from history include rock and roll, comic books, radio, television, cell phone use, and social media. [114] An Oct. 2013 study in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found that people who had no experience playing video games were six times more likely to believe the games contributed to mass shootings. Older Americans were five times more likely than young people to think that the games caused mass shootings. [116] The 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooter, for example, was originally and incorrectly reported to be an avid player of violent video games. Investigators later showed that the shooter's favorite games were Super Mario Brothers, Dance, Dance Revolution, and other non-violent video games. [115]

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Link between Violence in Video Games and Real-life Violence: Argumentative Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
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