The purpose of this report is to give the reader an understanding of the growing arguments of whether or not violent video games damage the mentality of children and lead teens to juvenile tendencies. This presentation will go into detail of how violent video games not only benefit children, but the economy as well. Much of research concerning video games have been flawed and do not support activist claims. The worries of parents camouflage the benefits of violent video games and this report will give the facts concerning violent video games.
Violent Video Games are Not as Harmful as Parents Make Them Seem
The content and quality of video games have improved since the first original Game Cubes and PC games. As the graphics and story lines become more complex, parents have become worried over the violence that their children are bearing witness to when playing the newest games. However, their worries take form to try and ruin the image of video games, instead on focusing on the benefits that the gaming industry and their products provide.
According by the Entertainment Software Association (n.d.): Entertainment software is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy. The sector remains “one of the above-average growth segments of the global entertainment industries through 2011.” Computer and video game companies posted record overall sales in 2008 with revenues of $22 billion as entertainment software companies continue to provide jobs to state and local economies across the nation (para. 1). In 1996, the U.S. entertainment software industry accounted for a modest 74.1 million units sold and $2.6 billion in sales revenue. Twelve years later, computer and video game companies sold 298.2 million units, leading to an astonishing $11.7 billion in software revenue and $22 billion overall (para. 2). As Brandon Curial, president and CEO of game developer and publisher Venan Entertainment Inc., says, “You have older gamers that haven't stopped playing, and you have younger kids getting into it every day. With something like the Nintendo Wii, you even have parents playing these games now. Each year, the market just exapnds, and it’s going to keep expanding for, well, a long time (para. 3).” The video game industry also stimulates complementary product purchases of roughly $61 billion a year. For example, video games are spurring demand for HDTVs. Approximately $73 million in HDTV sales can be directly attributed to the Xbox 360 game console (para. 5). A recent study, “Video Games in the 21st Century: Economic Contributions of the U.S. Entertainment Software Industry,” detailed the impact that computer and video game companies have on America’s economy. The study found from 2003 to 2006 showed that the entertainment software industry’s annual growth rate exceeded seventeen percent. Over the same period, the entire U.S. economy grew at a less than four percent rate; in 2006, the Entertainment Software Industry’s value added to U.S. Gross Domestic Product was $3.8 billion, making a disproportionate contribution to the real growth of the nation as a whole. For example, in 2005-06, the contribution exceeded its share of Gross Domestic Product by more than four to one (para. 9). The industry also provides benefits to individual states (para. 11). California, Washington, Texas, New York, and Massachusetts currently have the highest concentration of video game jobs. Collectively, these areas directly employ 16,604 workers and posts seventy percent of the industry’s total indirect employment (para. 12). California leads the nation in computer and video game personnel, accounting for approximately forty percent of total industry employment nationwide. The state’s 34.600 computer and video game employees added $1.7 billion to California’s economy in 2006, which marked a 12.3 percent growth rate over the previous year. The industry grew nearly three times faster than the overall state economy. California game companies also provided over $1.8 billion in direct and indirect employee compensation (para. 13).
There are also all kinds of gamers. The video game industry does not solely concentrate on the children population, as many adult speculate. According to another report the Entertainment Software Association (2009): Sixty-eight percent of American households play a computer or video game (p.1). In the United States, forty-two percent of homes own a video game console, such as an xbox or a playstation (p. 2). The average age for a gamer of these devices is thirty-five years of age. Concerning gender, sixty percent of gamers are male, where as forty-percent of gamers are female. The average age of the purchaser is thirty-nine percent, consisting of fifty-two percent that are male, and forty-eight percent that are female.
However, it is true that many kids love video games. There is a reason for this love as well. Violent video games provide healthy and safe opportunities for children to explore rules and consequences of violent actions. They also allow youth to experiment with issues such as war, violence and death without real world consequences (ProCon.org, 2014, para. 24). Jones Gerald is a author who specializes in the mental growth of children and concentrates on types of media like comic books and games that benefits each child individually. According to Gerald (2002): Gerald gathered hundreds of stories of young people who had benefited from superhero comics, action movies, cartoons, shooter video games, and angry rap and rock songs. He also found stories of children who would use them badly, or require adult assistance to utilize the source of entertainment. However, the majority of young people used fantasies of combat in order to feel stronger, to access their emotions, to take control their anxieties, to calm themselves down in the face of real violence, and to fight their way their way through emotional challenges and lift themselves to new development levels (para. 23).Children are taught to compartmentalize their communication into either narrative or static portraits, but storytelling that is both visual and verbal leads them to transcend the compartments, to experience their thoughts and feelings more completely (para. 32). The vast array of fantasies and stories that adults tend to dismiss with labels such as “media violence” are used well by children (para. 33). Exploring, in a safe and controlled context, what is impossible or too dangerous or forbidden to them is a crucial tool in accepting the limits of reality. Playing with rage is a valuable way to reduce its power. Being evil and destructive in imagination is a vital compensation for the wildness that all have to surrender on the way to being good people (para. 39). When Gerald went into classrooms during the September 11 crisis, he found that the children were not as shaken as their teachers and parents. Most of them talked about the horrific images they’d seen with a mixture of anger and excitement. A lot of them wanted to draw pictures, tell stories, or play games involving planes crashing into buildings or soldiers fighting terrorists. This isn’t a failure to react appropriately to tragedy; this is how children deal with it. When something troubles them, they have to play with it until it feels safer. Play, fantasy, and emotional imagination are essential tools of the work of childhood and adolescence(para. 42). A woman name named Leila living in Pennsylvania contacted Gerald about the struggles of her with grade grandson. Leila’s daughter was a drug addict, and her daughter’s son, Jimmy, was taken from his mother’s care by court order and was assigned to the care of his grandparents at the age of five. Jimmy had intense abandonment fears and separation anxiety (para. 58). He also had asthma, poor eye sight, and as they discovered three years later, dyslexia. He responded to it all with disruptive behavior, becoming a class clown. In junior high, Jimmy fell in love with first shooter games, those games like Doom and Quake, in which the player has to explore a fantasy environment and gun down bizarre opponents who attack him (para. 60). When he started talking about his hobby at school, the official reaction wasn’t supportive of it. Two teachers and the principal, on separate occasions, sat him down told him that the games that he loved would desensitize him to violence, make him believe he could kill without consequence, give him a false sense of power, and make him associate bloodshed with fun. With each encounter, he would come home frightened, agitated, and more inclined to act up more than before. “The poor kid has enough real fears of his own without having adults dumping their fears on them. Instead of helping him deal with the fears that he has, they send the message that they're afraid of him, making him even more afraid of himself,” Leila said (para. 61). Leila, using the advice given by Gerald, asked school officials to look past generalizations and do what she was doing: ask him why he loves the games he loves, show some empathy for his fantasies and feelings, trust that he’s doing his best to meet his complex emotional needs and offer help, not fear (para. 74). Each child’s fantasies and emotional needs are very much their very own, even if he or she shares them with millions of other kids. When parents burden those needs with their own anxieties, children become confused and frightened of their own feelings (para. 57). Children want to be strong, secure, and happy. Their fantasies will tell what they feel they need to do to attain that, if paid attention to. But adults need to look beyond their expectations and interpretations and see them through the child’s eyes (para. 74). Viewing children as passive recipients of the media’s power puts adults at odds with the fantasies they’ve chosen, and thus with the children themselves. Viewing them as active users enables adults to work with their entertainment to help them grow. Shooter games, gangster rap, and Pokemon all become told for parents and teachers to help youth feel stronger, calm their fears, and learn more about themselves (para. 64).
Not only do violent video games and fantasy benefit children with their fears and anxieties, they also increase interaction between themselves and other children. Fifty-seven percent of males who are gamers play online while forty-three percent of females play online (Entertainment Software Association, 2009, p. 9). ProCon.org (2014) also provides that: Playing violent games reduces violence in adolescent boy by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play. Playing the games allows those boys to express aggression and establish status in the peer group without causing physical harm (para. 18). In relevance, exposure to violent video games has not been shown to be predictive of violent behavior or crime. Any link found between video games and violence is best explained by other variables such as exposure to family violence and aggressive personalities (para. 29). Video game players understand that they are playing a game. Their ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality permits them from emulating video game violence in real life (para. 17).
A 2007 study reported that forty-five percent of boys played video games because “it helps me get my anger out” and sixty-two percent played it because “it helps me relax (ProCon.org, 2014, para. 19).” Children deal with their emotions differently than their literalistic parents. Video games, such as Okami or Battlefield allows children to learn and enjoy in the same period. Exposure to violent video games also does not cause low levels of empathy in children. ProCon.org (2014) states: The level of control granted to players, especially in terms of pace and directing the actions of their character, allows youth to regulate their emotional state during play. Research shows that perception of being in control reduces emotional and stressful responses to events to another report (para. 23). Games like Halo and God of War have complex story lines that engages the player directly and allows them toto react accordingly.
Adults, however, often react to violent images very differently then their child counterparts. In the gap between juvenile and adult reactions, some of the four greatest misunderstandings and most damaging disputes are born (Gerald, 2002, para. 40) Gerald (2002) states: Adults are generally more empathetic, more attuned to the greater world, and more literalistic than children. They are more likely to feel the pain and anxiety caused by real violence when seeing it in make-believe. It is troubling to see kids having fun with something that adults deplore. They fear that their kids are celebrating a horror that is desperately wanted to be banished from reality. Adults want their child counterparts to mirror their adult restraint, seriousness, compassion, and pacifism. But they can’t, and shouldn’t, mimic adult reactions (para. 42). In their anxiety to understand and control real-life violence, they’ve tried to reduce children relationships with their fantasies of combat and destruction to vast generalizations that adults would never dream of applying to their fantasies about love and family and discovery. Adults don’t usually ask whether game shows predispose children to greed, or whether love songs increase the likelihood of getting stuck in bad relationships. But when aggression is the topic, we try to puree a million games and dreams and life stories into statistical studies. Many forces have been shown to contribute to aggression: religious fervor, patriotic fervor, sports rivalry, romantic rivalry, and hot summer days. Entertainment has inspired some people to violence, but so has the Holy Bible, the United States Constitution, books about Hitler, etc. Those influences aren’t condemned as harmful because adults understand them better.
Ninety-two percent of parents are present at the time games are purchased or rented. Eighty-three percent of the time, children receive permission before purchasing or renting a game (Entertainment Software Association, 2009, p. 5) On all new consoles and devices, there are even parental controls in which parents can use to regulate what their children can and can’t play. Seventy-seven percent of parents believe that the parental controls available in all new video game consoles are useful. Further, parents impose time usage limits on video games more than on any other form of entertainment (p. 6). From not buying their child a console, to monitoring and setting parental controls on gaming devices, parents can limit and control all games that their children can and can’t play.
Many parents claim that when they buy a game for their child, there is no way of know what that game contains, and thereby have no control on what their children play. This claim is false: the video game industry has created a powerful tool to assist parents in this task in the form of the rating system developed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)(Joint State Government Commission, 2008, p. 2).
According to the Joint State Government Association (2008): The primary responsibility for assuring that VVGs (violent video games) do not impair the development of the Commonwealth’s children lies with its parents by using the rating system. The key to the rating system is the age ratings and content descriptors that appear on the packaging of nearly all video games sold by national distributors and most smaller retailers. Most retailers participate in a voluntary compliance system to prevent the sale of games to underage customers. The ESRB ratings have been highly effective in providing information to parents and other consumers about the age suitability and content of video games and supporting retailers in their enforcement of their store sales policies at brick and mortar locations, and to an increasings extent, on their Internet websites. However, there are instances where the games that are accessible on the internet are not submitted to ESRB for rating, such as betas like Slender Man and OctoDad.
Parents who are for banning violent video games will be sorely disappointed. The Joint State Government Commission (2008): Video games are protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, and laws imposing restrictions on their sales must withstand “strict scrutiny,” an exacting legal test that virtually guarantees invalidation. The courts have found that the social science research on the dangers age-appropriate games pose for children is insufficient to support statutory restrictions on free expression and that the existence of an effective voluptuary rating system makes penalties unnecessary (p. 2).
As mentioned before, “social science research on the dangers age-appropriate games pose for children has been found insufficient (Joint State Government Commission, 2008, p. 2).”
Video games, against common generalizations, does not directly contribute to youth violence. The Joint State Government Association (2008) states: Western culture has frequently dwelt on violence from its origins in Homer’s epic poetry and Greek drama down to such later media as the novel and the opera. Movies, popular music, and television all deal routinely with depictions of violent acts. If measures are taken to address the effects of violent media, it is important that no particular form of media is unfairly discriminated against (p. 1). Social science researchers have performed a number of studies on the relationship between violent media and aggression, but as VVGs are a comparatively recent invention, only a handful of studies have explored the link between the games and aggressive behavior in children. Despite the worrisome conclusions that appear in the popular press, there are very few studies involving current violent video games and real children (p. 8). Much of social science research involves the analysis of statistical correlations, not causations. An important point to bear in mind about the research is that there has not been very much of it with respect to video games, although a large body of research exists on the effects of violent media in general. One difficulty in studying the link between video games and aggression is the lack of a generally accepted definition of “aggression.” An accepted definition of “aggression” is “behavior intended to harm another who is motivated to avoid that harm.” “Aggression” must be carefully distinguished from “violence,” which is defined as “extreme forms of aggression, such as physical assault and murder.” “Violent media” is defined as “those that depict intentional attempts by individuals to inflict harm on others.” While these are representative definitions, the research has been criticized for using unclear and inconsistent definitions of those terms, especially between different researchers. In the video game context, it may be difficult to isolate violent content as a factor from other factors that may influence thinking and behavior. It would seem impossible to produce two video games of professional quality that differ only in substituting nonviolent for violent content. Another serious issue in research is the method of measuring aggression since established ethical constraints strictly limit actual aggression and prohibit violence. Aggression has been measured by asking the subject what they are thinking about after a session with violent video game, but this ignores the difference between thinking about aggression and thinking aggressive thoughts.
ProCon.org also provides: A casual link between violent video games and behavior has not been proven. Many studies suffer from design flaws and usual unreliable measures of violence and aggression such as noise blast tests. Thoughts about aggression have been confused with aggressive behavior, and there is a lack of studies that follow children over long periods of time (para. 9).
According to Gerald (2002): When we consider children in relation to mass media and pop culture, we tend to define them as consumers, watchers, recipients, victims. But they are also users of that media and culture: they are chooser, interpreters, shapers, fellow players, participants, and storytellers (para. 68).
Many cases and events also disproves that violent video games disproves the possibility that the games cause violence in youth. According to ProCon.org (2014): Within hours of the Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007, attorney and anti-game activist Jack Thompson appeared on Fox News to blame the tragedy on the violent video game Counter-Strike. Other high profile figures such as television host Dr. Phil McGraw and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney argued that video games were to blame for the shooting. However, it was later revealed by the Virginia Tech Review Panel that the shooter did not play video games (para. 43).
The Free Expression Project (n.d.) provided: On September 24, 2002, thirty-three media scholars, historians, psychologists, and game researchers filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, opposing a law that bars minors from from video games containing “graphic violence.” A trail judge upheld the ordinance based on the assumption that media violence has been proven to cause aggressive behavior. The scholars’ brief explains that most laboratory experiments and other efforts to prove adverse effects from media violence has yielded null results. Those researchers reporting “aggressive” effects, moreover, have often manipulated the numbers, ignored negative findings, and used measures of “aggression” that are artificial and often ridiculous (para. 1). On June 2, 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit struck down the St. Louis ordinance, noting: “The County’s conclusion that there is strong likelihood that minors who play violent video games will suffer a deleterious effect on their psychological health is simply unsupported in the record (para. 7).”
Guy Cumberbatch (Free Expression Project, n.d., para. 2) states: “While tests of statistical significance are a vital tool of the social sciences, they seem to have been more often used in this field as instruments of torture on the data until it confesses something which could justify publication in a scientific journal.” The has yet to be research that offers sufficient positive results of violent video games contributing to youth violence. According to ProCon.org (2014): Defenders of violent video games argue that the research has failed to show a casual link between video games and real world violence. They argue that correlations between video games and violent behavior can be explained by youth predisposed violence being attracted to violent entertainment. Additionally, if video games do cause youth to be violent, then one would expect juvenile crime to increase as more youth play violent video games. Instead, the arrest rate for juvenile violent crimes has fallen 49.3% between 1995 and 2008, while video game sales quadrupled in the same time period (para. 45).
The Free Expression Policy Project (n.d.) provides: One of the scholars, Celia Pearce, sums up the humanist understanding of violent fantasy games:”Most of the alarmism about violence is based on a profound misunderstanding about the social and emotional functions of games. Games allow people who are midway between childhood and adulthood to engage in fantasies of power to compensate for their own feelings of personal powerlessness. This role-playing function is important for children of all ages (para. 4).”
Adults tend to worry about many things that their children engage in, especially in video games. However, adult anxieties about the effects of entertainment are sometimes the real causes of the very effects they fear most (Gerald, 2002, para. 57).
Entertainment Software Association. (2009). Essential facts about the complete and video
game industry. Retrieved from videogames.procon.org/sourcefiles/-facts-about-the-
Entertainment Software Association. (n.d.). Video games and the economy. Retrieved from videogames.procon.org/sourcefiles/video-games-and-the-economy.pdf
Free Expression Policy Project (n.d.). Media scholars' brief in st. louis video games censorship case. Retrieved from http://fepproject.org/courtbriefs/stlouissummary.html
Joint State Government Commission. (2008, December). The report of the task force on violent interactive video games. Retrieved from videogames.procon.org/sourcefiles/ report-of-the-task-force-on-violent-interactive-video-games.pdf
Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Violent Video Games are Not as Harmful as Parents Make Them Seem" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 24 Apr. 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2018. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/sample-essays/violent-video-games-are-not-as-harmful/>.
Do we have any Australian TLF readers out there? If so, I’d be interested in their input about how well video game censorship works down under.
I follow Australian content regulation via the wonderful “Somebody Think of the Children!” blog, operated by Michael Meloni of Brisbane, Australia. (Mike, if you’re listening, you have at least one big fan here in the U.S. and thank you for keeping the rest of us up-to-speed about censorship developments on the other side of the globe!) This week, Mike reports that another video game (“F.E.A.R. 2”) was refused classification by the Australian government’s Classification Board. Apparently, the “refused classification” designation is the equivalent of a ban in Australia. And F.E.A.R. 2 is the fifth game to receive that designation in 2008. (Other games that have been censored, or subject to some sort of political investigation or pressure, are inventoried at the “Refused Classification.com” website.)
First, let me just say that this again reminds me how lucky we are to have strong free speech protections here in the United States thanks to the First Amendment of our Constitution. I do so much bitching about efforts to regulate speech and media content (especially video games) that I sometimes fail to step back and appreciate how fortunate we are here in the U.S. to not have to worry about an official government ratings body overseeing all game releases. This really hit home for me when I read that “Fallout 3” was one of the 5 games banned this year. It’s a brilliant game and I just can believe it would be censored such that the Australian public could not play the same version of it that I can.
Second, I’m wondering how well these bans work in Australia. A big part of my research on speech regulation is focused on the practicality of censorship in the modern Information Age. [See my “End of Censorship” essay.] Thus — taking off my advocate hat and putting on my academic hat — I would be very interested in hearing from Australians about how effective these regulatory schemes are in practice. Can you still get games from overseas and play them on consoles and PCs in Australia? Do you download uncensored versions (either legally or illegally)? Does the government take steps to stem the flow of unregulated content? Or, are most citizens willing to just played the censored version of games that the Australian government eventually authorizes? Have there been academic studies done on the practical side of content censorship in Australia?
You get the idea. Any input would be greatly appreciated.
[Note: I have also been following the Australian government’s big recent push for centralized Internet filtering. Would be interested in input as that as well from Australians citizens.]