This is certainly not an easy topic, but one that has been in debate since the 70s and 80s when the first video games (Death Race 1976, Berzerk 1981) stirred interest and made the national news. What is it about video games that everyone is so overwrought about? Since the 1980s some parents and psychology groups have been saying that some video games can lead to death or violence. These groups base this on the death of a 19 year old (Jeffery Dailey, 1981). The video games from the 70s and 80s were not like the ones we have today, but yet they sparked an interest. Why? According to then-National Coalition on Television Violence Chairman Doctor Thomas Radecki, games like Berzerk, Death Race, etc. “are training the next generation to be even more violent……….” (Patterson, P. S 2013). For those of you that do not remember the 70s and 80s, the games Death Race and Berzerk were about cars running over people and stick people with guns killing the bad guys. These are the type of games (violent video games) that are in debate, even though today they have gotten even more graphic.
Are these games the cause of so much violence? According to Doctor Douglas Gentile, (2011) Department of Psychology, the debate is over what is harmful or helpful to children and adolescents. He gives five dimensions in which video games can affect those who play them. How do the five dimensions affect children and adolescents? Doctor Douglas’s studies show that the amount of time played can possibly affect poor school activities such as a drop in grades, and health such as obesity, etc. The content of play according to Dr. Gentile can either be helpful or harmful, depending on what the script in the game is asking the player to do. (i.e. if the game is asking to solve a math puzzle or to shoot someone) and the game context is based on which goal or role one sets the at( i.e. role as in the game Halo, where one can set the game to team playing or to slayer mode where every player is for himself)(Gentile 2011) These and other dimensions can possibly tell how a person is affected by violent video games, but can these studies prove that violent video games are the cause of so much violence in the world? According to Professors of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University, Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman, these games cause aggressive behavior in children and young adults and that it increases physiological arousal and other feelings and decreases prosocial behavior (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).
However the video industry disagrees that the games has any harmful effects on its players. In a CNN interview on The World Today in 2000, President of the Interactive Digital Software Association, Doug Lowenstein said, “I think the issue has been vastly overblown and overstated……….( Anderson & Bushman 2001). Lowenstein goes on to say that there is no evidence that playing violent video games leads to aggressive behavior. Anderson and Bushman indicated that true, just because the individuals of the school shootings played violent video games is not strong enough evidence that these games causes or leads to aggressive behavior; although evidence from research has been accumulating since the 1980s (Anderson & Bushman 2001).
Can these games lead to real-life episodes? According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) exposure to violent media including games can lead to real-life violent behavior and other ways of harm to children. If this is true, what about the ones who played for hours, for example Joel West, Terry ’Trickman’ Minnick and Patrick Scott Patterson, who by the way has been a professor gamer since the 1980s. These men became business men. Terry Minnick made a statement that no matter how bad he was feeling while playing a game he never kicked, punched or threw anything and he doesn’t think he ever will; that he has