Video Games Are Bad For You? That's What They Said About Rock-n-Roll
Effects Of Violent Video games On Children and Teenagers

Almost everyone has played at least one videogame—their own, a friend's, or at an arcade—and they have decided that they either like or hate video games. A lot of parents have only played some of the first games that came out—Pac-man, Asteroids, or Space Invaders—and have allowed their view of the more graphic video games to be clouded by the media's reports on video games. The media frequently reports that video games are the catalyst for aggressive behavior or homicidal shootings. However, Jane McGonigal says otherwise, "A game is an opportunity to focus our energy, with relentless optimism, at something we're good at (or getting better at) and enjoy. In other words, game play is the direct emotional opposite of depression." As Jane McGonigal states, game play is usually a source of entertainment meant to allow someone to have fun, let go of stress, and to enjoy time in another universe for a few hours. When the first video games came out in 1947, the initial intent for the games was for them to be enjoyable; however, as the years went by and technology was improved, video games have gotten more graphic and violent, leading to the first complaints from parents. Despite the early convictions about the violence contained within video games (namely the Sony's Playstation: the first videogame console with graphically violent games), videogame producers have continued to create more and more violent videogame content with ratings that warn people of the violence or inappropriate substance within the game. Although violence in video games does affect children and teenagers in the short term, I do not believe that it affects them in the long term for these reasons: there is no clear definition for what is considered aggressive behavior and there is no conclusive evidence that video games are the influencing catalyst for aggressive behavior and homicidal shootings.

Based on the reporting's of the media, people assume that children who play violent video games will continually become more aggressive as they grow up. However, according to Armand M. Nicholi II, aggressiveness has not been studied enough to understand its affects on a gamer's life outside of the game itself. "It has not been validly measured with a focus on practical (not just statistical) significance." This means that people are only giving their opinion on aggression without truly understanding what aggression is. There actually have been studies performed that have deduced a different answer. "One meta-analysis (Sherry, 2001) found that longer play sessions with a violent game (75 minutes with Mortal Kombat instead of only 10) had a far smaller effect on aggression, raising the possibility that brief-play studies may be measuring an initial arousal effect" (Nicholi II). The assumption that aggressiveness will grow on a long term basis because of violent video games appears to be disproven by this study. In reality, it is actually the shorter playing time that will cause aggression, not the longer term. However, before aggression can be properly measured, there needs to be a clear definition in order to measure aggression in several people on the same values.

The media has always attempted to make big stories over anything they can obtain, including the speculations that violence in video games is the catalyst for homicidal shootings at schools and other public areas. According to a national study of media completed through the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), "52% of 2- to 7-year-olds and 82% of 8- to 18-year-olds live in homes with at least 1 video game console. Children and adolescents who play video games on any given day spend more than an hour playing them." However, despite the fact that there are so many homes with at least one video game console, studies have shown an opposite trend in aggressive behavior and crime compared to the amount of video games being sold. "If video games do increase violent tendencies outside the laboratory, the explosion of gaming over the past decade—from $3.2 billion in sales in 1995 to $7 billion in 2003, according to industry figures—would suggest a parallel trend in youth violence. Instead, youth violence has been decreasing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that adolescent weapon-carrying and fighting decreased substantially in the 1990s (MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2000;49(SS-5):1-94). Homicide rates among youths also dropped substantially in the 1990s, from 20.5 to 11.7 per 100,000 for middle and late teenagers, and from 2.5 to 1.5 per 100,000 for early teens" (Vastag). With this information, one can conclude that video games are in fact not responsible for being the influencing catalyst of aggressive behavior and homicides. They are in fact turning attention away from possible crimes to something more enjoyable and decreasing criminal activities among youths.

Parents have protested that video games are bad for many reasons: they are the cause of school shootings, deprive children of exercise, damage their eyes, can impact their social skills, and promote general inappropriate behavior. However, many of these reasons have been prompted by the media. The media has labeled video games as something they were never intended to be. "The media has labeled games as 'murder simulators', linked them to depression and addiction, held them accountable for childhood obesity and quoted Australian politicians who believe games do little more than deliver 'depraved sex and extreme violence' to minors" (Taylor). Video games are still a cause for childhood obesity and lack of social skills; however, despite the labels that have been placed on video games, there are many good uses for modern video games such as the Wii. "One particular arena where games are making this impact is in physical and psychological rehabilitation and therapy. 'Wii-hab' (the use of the Wii console in rehabilitation) has seen success in stroke therapy, increasing coordination, has improved the quality of life of residents in nursing homes, and also produced 'striking results' with people suffering from Parkinson's Disease. In an eight-week study conducted by the Medical College of Georgia in the US, significant improvements in movement, fine motor skills and energy levels were experienced by all participants, and there was a decrease in their levels of depression" (Taylor). The Wii was created to counter the lack of exercise for gamers. And this has worked in many ways, including becoming an increasingly beneficial tool in rehabilitation and therapy. This new way of rehabilitation can be fun for anyone of any age. A video game has gone from being a couch potato type of activity to an exercise all of its own. There are other games besides the Wii that require movement such as Dance, Dance Revolution on Sony's Playstation and arcades which has been very popular with many age groups and can act as a workout by itself.

Violence within video games is not the cause of aggressive behavior within children and teenagers. Aggressive behavior has not been specifically defined resulting in varying conclusions for the various different studies with no set measurement for aggressiveness to correct this. Also, the assumptions on the increase of violence being a catalyst for aggressive behavior has been disproved by studies performed to judge the change in behavior after game play. There has also been a decrease in violence and crime while the video game market has exploded with an increase of games. Video games are then to be judged innocent of the false accusations made against them and as McGonigal stated "game play is the direct emotional opposite of depression."

Works Cited

"A History of Video Game Consoles." Time. CNN, n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

"Are Video Games Bad For Children." . N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.

Haninger, Kevin, and Kimberly M. Thompson. "Content And Ratings Of Teen-Rated Video Games." JAMA: Journal Of The American Medical Association 291.7 (2004): 856-865. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

Nikken, Peter, Jeroen Jansz, and Sanneke Schouwstra. "Parents' Interest In Videogame Ratings And Content Descriptors In Relation To Game Mediation." European Journal Of Communication 22.3 (2007): 315-336. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

Pereira, Joseph. "Games Get More Explicit - And So Do Warning Labels." Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition 25 Sept. 2003: D1+. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

Taylor, Drew. "'Depraved' Video games Get Serious." Eureka Street 19.23 (2009): 38-39. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.

Vastag, Brian. "Does Video Game Violence Sow Aggression?: Studies Probe Effects Of Virtual Violence On Children." JAMA: Journal Of The American Medical Association 291.15 (2004): 1822-1824. Academic Search Complete. Web. 25 Feb. 2013.