Violence in Modern Video Games


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In recent years there has been a growing concern over video games as they slowly consume the younger generations’ minds and many people have suggested that violent video games are contributing to violent crimes and that’s the reason more and more youths are getting into trouble and ending up in places like young offenders institutes.

This essay is going to discuss the question ‘Do violent video games contribute to violence in society or do they help alleviate crime?’ The way this is going to be done is firstly it will discuss general ideas behind what can cause violence, this will then be applied to violent video games. Next, there shall be evidence in favor of violent video games contributing to violence in society, this will be critically analyzed and counterarguments will be put forward. Then the flip side will be looked at and whether violent video games actually help alleviate the crimes with critical evaluation on the analysis conducted, finally there will be a conclusion on the essay and whether this concern in society has valuable reasoning behind it.

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Bandura (1961) believed that violence was caused by aggression and this aggression was learned through imitating a model, he conducted the bobo doll study. He got 72 children and split them into 3 different groups, one group observed a role model being aggressive towards the bobo doll, another group observed the role model being non-aggressive and generally ignoring the bobo doll, and finally a control group with no role model. Bandura found that those who observed the aggressive model were more likely to imitate the aggressive behavior compared to the other two groups. These findings supported his theory.

This study has many advantages as it was conducted in a lab, meaning we can establish cause and effect, as the variables are all controlled and therefore only the independent variable affects the dependent variable. Another positive is that everything is standardized it means that the study is easily replicated, therefore making the study produce more reliable results.

However, there are disadvantages to the study as it lacks ecological validity, meaning we don’t know if that is how children will act in real-life situations instead of a laboratory environment. There is also evidence to suggest that this isn’t the way children learn behaviors. Cumberbatch (1990) found that children who had never previously played with the bobo doll were five times more likely to model the aggressive behavior towards the doll than those who had familiarised themselves with the doll. So therefore he believed in the novelty value of the doll, making children more likely to act aggressively towards the doll.

Anderson et al (2002) came up with the theory of the general aggression model, the general aggression model tries to explain how aggression has developed and personal variables in which violent video games affect us, according to the general aggression model that both context and individuality interact and therefore affect a person’s internal state, this state is made up of thoughts, feelings, and arousal. Each of these three affects the interpretation of aggression. Once complete the decision-making process started. The general aggression model is useful as it has helps us show complicated issues more simply such as the link between violence and violent video games.

However, people would have an issue with the fact we are simplifying a complicated human process in a very simple computerized model. Oversimplifying things is a problem as explanations can become misrepresented and therefore lose their meaning, so if the general aggression model is oversimplified a true process in violent behavior may be misunderstood or even worse forgotten completely.

Violent video games are becoming more popular in adolescence which has heightened the level of concern of the possible outcomes of this.

Irwin & Gross (1995) conducted a lab study to see the effects of violent games, to see if there is an increase in aggressive behaviors towards objects and fellow peers. The way they did this is they took second-grade boys and let them play violent and non-violent video games, those who played violent video games were physically and verbally more aggressive to their peers in free play and a frustrating task.

This was done in a lab setting so, therefore, it has the usual advantages such as can establish cause and effect it was also standardized meaning that the study could be easily replicated and therefore are much more likely to produce reliable results (meaning every time the study is replicated the same results will be produced ). However, due to the lab setting the result could have been affected by numerous things such as demand characteristics in this situation can occur as, if the children are asked to play violent and non-violent video games and then when observed it might have just been acting.

In 2000 Anderson and Dill conducted a study to see aggressive behavior was linked to violent video games. 210 students were split into two groups and asked to play either violent or non-violent video games for about 30 minutes. After 15 minutes they were told the gameplay would now be competitive, this was a reaction test. The winner was then able to send a noise blast to the loser. The winner determined the length and level of sound of the blast. They found that the louder and longer noise blast came from the people playing violent video games thus concluding that playing the more violent games led to aggressive responses and they believed that long-term use of the games could lead to constant aggression through patterns. A strength of this study is the practical application, as it gives strong support towards restrictions and reasons not to let younger people play. However, the study lacks ecological validity as the games were played in a crucible and therefore not a realistic gaming setting meaning that the way the students reacted might not be how they react after playing violent video games. Another issue that is raised for all these types of studies is the fact they are done on adolescent children. Consequently meaning generalizing to the target population as the sample taken wouldn’t be just adolescent children.

Ballard et al looked at cardiovascular effects responding to video games played across different contexts either social or gaming. Males aged 13-22 took part where they were asked to play either a violent or non-violent video game. Each was asked to play competitively against a male partner, with the partner, and once on their own. Their heart rate and diastolic blood pressure were measured and there was no significant difference in the social context. However the diastolic blood pressure was higher in those who played the more violent video games, this is explained as the violent video games would have been far more exciting and enjoyable. These results can be explained by the general aggression model.

In 2011 psychologists compared the rate of homicides in 1978 and 2011, they noticed that the rate per 100,000 people dropped from 9.0 to 4.7. So what they did was they examined annual sales of video games provided by SuperData. The FBI also provided data from numerous different agencies about homicides. From the results, they were able to conclude that there was a correlation between the number of video game sales and the number of homicide reports each year. However, a big problem with this is the fact that it’s only a correlation and not a causation, therefore the two matters we are comparing may not have anything to do with each other.

Another analysis they considered was the factor of when the main “violent” games were released such as “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” and for the next twelve-month period they measured the effected rate of both homicides and aggravated assault, what they found is that both dropped however aggravated assaults failed to drop significantly whereas after 3 months the homicides had dropped significantly to say that there is definitely a correlation between the two, again though there is the issue of causation and whether the drop in homicides is just a coincidence and caused by something else but made to look like it could be the violent video games.

From what this essay discusses there is strong evidence for either side and very useful contradicting evidence against the studies that say that violent video games are causation of violence in society. One point that has to be made is the fact there is by far a lot more studies which have gone looking for this statement, there are far fewer studies being conducted in favor of violent video games wherefrom the latest studies using the FBI stats would show that they are a useful necessity. So in conclusion there is a case for this growing concern in society however this may be based upon bias studies of those who are very against violent video games and the headlines from media without truly researching the theory themselves, but it might also be in place a haven because if blame went on to the parents this could cause them unnecessary harm when it might not be even their fault, violence might be biological.

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