Argumentative Essay: Do Video Games Cause Violence?

With the media crying aggression, studies contradicting each other, and the rapid growth of the gaming industry, it is understandably difficult for parents to differentiate facts from fallacies. While many parents wish there was an all or nothing answer to the question of if games help or hinder their child’s development, this topic is far too complex. Infact, many studies either hold inconclusive or contradictory results. However, as we move further into 21st century changing, there has been a shift in findings.

Many studies now refute the idea that videogames cause violence or, if the results support it, they are still weary to confirm them as 100% accurate. There are many other studies that have been conducted concerning the possible benefits of gaming. These studies have found that due to the immersive and versatile nature of the gaming medium, videogames can help adolescents from the more obvious effects of relaxation, to being able to help with asthma education, social interactions and much more.

As with all strong forms of media though, videogames do ultimately hold the power to harm or help the development of a child and it is the parent who must make an effort to be more informed about each individual game if they wish to maximize the potential benefits of gaming for their child. The Effect of Videogames on Adolescents: Harmful or Helpful? The new generation has never been more addicted to gaming than in this day and age. Recent studies show that over 50% of children spend an hour or more on a gaming console or computer each day (Olson et al. 2009, p. 188).

This begs the question as to what kind of effect gaming can have on the mental state of adolescents. While it would be easier to state that games either promote violence or increase academic scores, the issue has many complex variables that play into the true answer, as well as many challenges that guard the truth. Evil, Violent Videogames Many parents have been tailored to the mindset that either all videogames are evil, mind numbing wastes of time or that all games are appropriate and created for their children.

Neither of these assumptions are anywhere close to correct. Many games can be great for creativity, such as Minecraft where the player can go from being stranded in a forest to king of the jungle. However, there are also many games that are extremely inappropriate for children like Grand Theft Auto in which the entire goal of the game is to rob banks, hussle drugs, and shoot cops. Just these two games set side by side show how different games can be from each other and thus, how each can have a different effect on children.

This concept is understandably hard to grasp due to how far games have come in these few short years as well as the media’s rigorous efforts to vilanize gaming. For years now, the media has made an effort to connect violent crimes, primarily school shootings, to violent games. However many of these events have shown no link to the crimes, such as the Virginia Tech mass murderer who actually refrained from playing video games with his fellow classmates (Olson et al. , 2009, p. 190). Everyone has heard the age old ‘video games will make children violent’ spiel.

Some researchers, such as Gentile and Anderson, worry that, due to video games being a form of immersive, interactive content, when in a violent setting such as Gears of War, children will begin to act out in an aggressive manner even more so than they would by the content they see on T. V. (Olson et al. , 2009, p. 188). Recent studies conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital go more indepth with the effect that videogames could potentially have on children, specifically 8th graders and mature rated games. Mature rated games are video games deemed by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as inappropriate for ages 16 and under.

While it may seem silly to test the effects of non-children’s games on children, surveys reveal that 65% of 8th graders listed Grand Theft Auto (rated M for mature) on their most played list (Olson et al. , 2009, p. 188). The main focus of the study was to see the effects that frequently playing mature rated games would have on children, the hypothesized result being that the children would present more violent traits such as an increase in bullying behavior, in being bullied, and in committing crimes (Olson et al. , 2009, p. 191).

In order to get the most accurate results, researchers decided it best to interview 8th grade children from two schools of different levels of ethnic diversity and household salary. They then observed the children on a regular basis through a survey which included their levels of life satisfaction and anger. In order to obtain their final results they paired this information with the amount of time each child spent playing violent video games. Through this they found a correlation between increased game time and increased bullying behavior and aggression in the children (Olson et al. 2009, p. 194).

While these results may seem to tell the whole tale there are actually many complexities that cause the results to be questionable. The researchers involved in the previously mentioned project still see many flaws in their own study. This, in large part, is due to the same problem that many other studies have: accounting for all the variables. It is nearly impossible to get accurate results due to factors like each individual child’s home life, what programs he or she may watch on t. v. , and his or her mental state or vulnerability to aggressive behavior.

As psychiatric nurse and mother of five Jessica Stewart states, “children are a product of their environment … when we are treating children with anger issues and violent behavior… we look very closely at how their developing brain and social skills are being ‘nurtured’ by their environment”(J. Stewart, personal communication, May 3, 2016). Therefore, without this information it can be very difficult to differentiate violence produced by the child’s home life and by the games. Not only this, but research in the before mentioned study found that children who were already violent had a tendency to gravitate towards more violent games.

This leaves many of these studies ridden with errors that can later can be contradicted by other researcher’s findings. Not only are the results from professional studies contradictory but after interviewing four teenage gamers of different genders and ages, the results proved opposite of what many studies believe. After all who better to turn to for answers than the affected people themselves. After a few general questions, the interviews conducted revealed that though 3 out of the 4 of them played primarily mature rated games, they adimately insisted the games had had no effect on their levels of aggression.

Infact, when asked if gaming had any effect on his personality, 17 year old Benjamin Visconti stated that “I let my personality dictate the games I play, not the games dictate my personality”(B. Visconti, personal communication, April 28, 2016). The worst issue the interviewed teens reportedly suffered from was empty wallets and yet another hobby to take up precious study time. This, however, is a common side effect of most hobbies, not just of the gaming variety. The Benefits of Gaming While the media and some studies try to vilanize gaming, others see the immersive and impactful properties of videogames as an opportunity for greatness.

Infact, the more people who became open to this idea, the more factual evidence began to back it. Some of these studies even went as far as to disprove previous negative results. One such stereotype, which has in many cases proved to be a myth, is that videogames cause adolescents to become more reclusive and antisocial. However, when asked the benefits they had reaped from gaming, 3 out of the 4 interviewed teens claimed that gaming had lead to them becoming more social as they had more commonalities with others.

These teens were not the only ones to notice this benefit of gaming; Yvette Brazier, an author belonging to the website Medical News Today revealed that “Those who played video games also appeared to have fewer relationship problems with their peers” (Brazier, 2016, par. 15). Building stronger relationships with this shared interest is not the only benefit gamers are reaping. According to an article from the site Live Science Today “ educational games boost learning, and action games can improve vision and spatial skills”(Oskin, 2012, par. 12). Another study conducted by Dr.

Przybylski’s study using a SDQ (strength and difficulty questionnaire) revealed that “Compared with non-players, children who typically invest less than one-third of their daily free time showed higher levels of prosocial behavior and life satisfaction and lower levels of conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, and emotional symptoms” (as cited in Shapiro, 2014, par. 6). Not only have studies proven these benefits but they have also found potential in the versatile media that is gaming to “ teach children self-care skills for asthma and diabetes ” (Oskin, 2012, par. 2).

This creates an entirely new playing field for better educating children and even adults. When asking the previously mentioned teens what benefits they may have received from gaming, their answers varied from increased creativity to more confidence in their ability to problem solve (C. Griffith & Z. Moser, personal communication, April 29, 2016). These are both findings supported by Shapiro’s previous research. While many of these benefits are substantial, the most notable effect of gaming is the relaxing effect it has on the player.

Many gamers report feeling a sense of relaxation when gaming like Visconti who stated in an interview that depending on the game, it can perk the player up after a rough day or help to calm him or her after a stressful week (B. Visconti, personal communication, April 28, 2016). Researcher Gentile believes that “one of the reasons … we find television and video games so relaxing is they provide the attention for you… You don’t have to work to pay attention like you do in [a] classroom lecture” (as cited in Oskin, 2012, par. 12).

In the busy, multitasking world of today, it is anything but unhealthy to let the brain take a break from it all to tend virtual crops or be the savior of the galaxy. A Solution to the Madness With all these conflicting studies, results, and arguments, it can be difficult to maneuver the world of gaming so that the player can both reap the benefits and avoid the negatives. While this may seem an impossible task to some, it is anything but. In the current day and age, parents are supplied with unlimited resources in order to research the games their children want to play or already are playing.

Parents should always be sure to check the ESRB rating of a game; just like a parent should not gift an 8 year old a rated ‘R’ movie, they should not allow their child to play mature rated games without doing prior research. Researching each individual game is incredibly important due to the fact that some ‘M’ rated games contain far worse content that others. Infact, this is one criticism Stewart has about the ESRB ratings; she believes that games with sexual content, like Grand Theft Auto or The Witcher, should be rated ‘A’ for adult (J.

Stewart, personal communication, May 2, 2016). Instead, they hold the same mature rating as games with only mild cursing and violence. In order to appropriately assess which games would be beneficial or detrimental for one’s children, the parent should either ask the store employee for input or look up the game on IGN, a website dedicated to game ratings and reviews. By just utilizing these resources, parents can maximize their child’s potential while simultaneously shielding them from inappropriate content. Conclusion

The fact of the matter is that videogames have great potential to both harm and help children. However, it is truly the responsibility of the parents to monitor their child’s playing habits and assess the changes that may need to be made. With this slight bit of effort on the parent’s behalf, videogames have the ability to unlock all sorts of hidden potential in their child while teaching life skills that will benefit them for years to come. Videogames have evolved to become such an impactful media for expression and as they say, with great power comes great responsibility.