March 16, 2014
The Power of Video Games on Children
As the video game industry grows in our culture, we see more and more children getting involved in the widespread games of this age. Studies for video games have always been split due to the difficulty of pinpointing the effects on long-term involvement. While some games pose potential to stimulate children’s minds, the main popular games consist of shooters depict war. Violent video games played by children pose the threat of normalizing violence and increasing aggressions due to a child’s impressionability, the repetition in video games, the amount of immersion due to realism of games and the effects of online gameplay.
Children during their adolescent years are very impressionable and are more likely to imitate the actions of whom they identify. This is behavior for a child that is normal, as they learn daily behaviors and socials norms from their parents. They are also impressionable of their surroundings and any other extra stimuli they are exposed to, such as video games. In violent video games the player is often required to take the point of view of the shooter (1st person). The child imitates this action and ultimately recreates acts of violence within the game, thus the adolescent absorbs stimuli from the game, inciting violent behavior. Some argue that since they were young they have played violent video games and they do not show aggressive traits. What they need to consider is the independent variables that they were exposed to while they were young. A strong family relationship can counteract these traits, but weaker family ties may leave the child unprepared for these motivations.
Repetition is how many children learn basic language and simple mathematics. Video games involve a great deal of repetition. If the games are violent, then the effect is a rehearsal for violent activity. There is positive reinforcement in gaming when the player reproduces the same action to produce an outcome. Today, games like Call of Duty ™ or Halo ™ have trends in their multiplayer to reward the player for certain “kill streaks” or achievements. They can only be obtained or unlocked by achieving a prerequisite of say kill 5 enemy players or 1000 lifetime kills. Positive reinforcement for an action in life that is considered an atrocity may desensitize the player. Rewards are usually incentives to learning, and these video games are based on a reward system. It is hypothesized that “People who have a steady diet of playing these violent games may come to see the world as a hostile and violent place” (qtd. in Nauren 1). Children believing in this negative outlook could grow to become anti-social or depressed later in life.
The improvements in technology provide players with better graphics that give a more realistic and in depth virtual playing experience. Video games, regardless of content, can increase physiological arousal, probably as a function of the games being fun, challenging, and exciting. The interactive quality of video games differs from passively viewing television or movies because it allows players to become active participants in the game's script. This creates an in depth feeling in the game’s lore and universe. This is shown by how “Non-violent video games can increase physiological arousal (if the game is exciting) and aggressive feelings (if the game is too difficult) and, so, could indirectly prime aggressive cognitions and thereby influence long-term changes in the accessibility of aggression-related structures” (Barlett, Anderson, Swing 382). Competitively becoming aggressive toward a family member could lead to aggressive behavior and/or profanity.
The improvement in technology also allows players to interact with each other via voice chat and/or messaging. This is designed to increase the experience of video games, allow for strategic planning, and general chat to other players with the games that provide these facets.