English 12 College Prep
11 December 2017
It's easy to blame Video Games
The amount of problems our society has is astounding. We deal with so much in the world that affects us negatively, and in our attempt to make the world a better place we attempt to focus on these issues and find a solution. However, these topics we put our focus on are not always the problem and we end up wasting time and resources attempting to get rid of a problem that isn't there. Video games fall victim to this very often. A lot of blame is put onto video games for problems that have many other reasonings behind them because they are easy to blame. People try and blame video games for multitudes of things like making kids violent or making people addicted. The false negative stigma around video games is just used as an excuse to easily find a scapegoat for society's problems.
Video games, while seeming to be something simple end up being the opposite in modern day as they become extremely controversial with calls for bans and more extreme regulation. For many years video games have been the go to reason behind many things such as violence in children, addiction and physical problems, and much more. While there are often many other reasons behind so many of these problems, video games end up being the easiest scapegoat to point out which explains some negative aspects people believe about them. However, there are many people out there who fight these false accusations and assumptions, creating the immense level of controversy following the topic of video games. After the events of Columbine for example, Thom Gillespie states “After it was learned that one of the perpetrators of the Columbine High School killings was an avid player of Doom, there was an immediate call for action on many fronts. The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into the marketing practices of game producers and distributors. Hearings were held in Congress, in state legislatures, and in town halls” (Gillespie).
Most children growing up in the modern era play some sort of video game in their childhood. A survey taken by a student at Bordentown Regional High School, showed around 89.7% of people have played a video game before (Sekhon). If video games were really such a destructive thing, then the upcoming generation would cause our entire society to fall apart. Every human would be a violent criminal or ever leave their house because they're too addicted to playing games. Even if M-Rated games were causing children to become more violent, this is not on the video games as much as the parents buying their underage kids video games they shouldn't be playing in the first place anyways.
A violent attribute isn't gained from playing games and there are many other factors to peoples lives that attribute to them ending up so. Whenever a tragic event like a school shooting happens, video games seemed to always be in the cross hairs. They are often very easy to point out as something that caused the event to happen without much research and effort attempting to find causation. Zach Thompson states, “Reality is much more complicated than looking at two things in a vacuum and deciding they are causally related to one another.” (Thompson). In most events, people see two events with some relation and ignorantly decide one directly causes the other.
The idea that when a child plays a violent game that might be rated above their age like Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty affects their everyday personality is easily assumed at a short term state. In the long run, those games hardly cause any change in kids personalities and it is not actually proven they do. If every kid that picked up a Call of Duty game became so violent they wanted to emulate what they played in real life, we would be living in a much more dangerous world then we are now.
When looked from a position of no real knowledge of video games, anything can look bad especially the games. Video Games are often stereotyped as those games that little boys sit all day on and shoot people or do criminal acts. However, most of these accusations are falsely assumed and just easy stereotypes of video games that make them easier to pick on. Not only do girls all over the world play video games, the number has been rising for a very long time and today boys and girls in multitude of places have around the same numbers of playing games. In a survey where almost 90% of people admitted to playing videogames, 29% of the answers were from females (Sekhon). Assuming that playing video games is only a guy thing is not only very disrespectful to the statistics, but also plain out wrong with the percentages in most places where games are played being similar.
However, assuming that video games are only a guys thing to play isn't the only thing people in most cases get wrong. Assuming that all children play only violent games where they shoot, torture, and steal things is one of the most ridiculous statements as there is a plethora of games that does not include any high level of violence. Shooters and action games, while being some of the most popular games out there, are far from the only ones. A survey showed that usually family friendly Nintendo games, had around 66.3% votes when asked what kind of games people played (Sekhon).
First thing when it comes to the type of games children play, your basic sit in you room with your controller all day games are not the only ones kids play. In fact, mobile games are some of the most popular with the easiest access in the modern age with just being one tap on your phone screen away and a high amount being free to play. The previously stated survey had mobile games at the highest percentage of been played at 81.6% (Sekhon). These games in most cases are far from violent while revolving around simple patterns and repetitive actions to create amusement.
Although, even on console there are many games children have access to that today's society wouldn't consider violent. M-Rated games while being very popular, are far from making up the entire market. Non violent sports games are some of the most popular games on the market and many kids spend their time simulating playing some of their favorite sports at a professional level rather than what people assume games that make them violent. Even alongside sports, non violent adventure and racing games make up a significant part of the market when it comes to types of games children buy.
One of the biggest gaming companies, Nintendo, as a matter of fact focuses towards kids and their products are very popular. Being one of the top producing and selling gaming companies, Nintendo focuses on creating family friendly games such as Mario, Pokemon, Super Smash Brothers and many more. While games like Mario Kart do get a little competitive every now and then, family friendly games such as the ones from Nintendo and every other company are far from criminal and violent adult creators and shouldn't be assumed they do.
However, like all those family friendly games, shooters and other M-Rated games are far from what society considers a poison to today's children. As stated earlier, long term effects rarely show any violent tendencies gained from these games and as a matter of fact they increase many physical and social skills as well. Competitive shooters such as Call of Duty, Destiny, Battlefield, and such all help children more than they hurt them. The social activity with teammates online helps build social and teamwork skills. Also, those type of games are heavily based on some physical aspects like instinct and reaction time, both improved by having access to and playing these type of games. These “horrible” and “poisoning” games aren't easily proved to cause long term problems, but are proved to help children build real skills. Susan Scutti from CNN talks about how "Basically, by keeping young males busy with things they like" -- and this would include everything from playing sports and collecting stamps to playing first-person shooter video games -- "you keep them off the streets and out of trouble," (Scutti). This shows her talking about the fact that while some people do see video games as an addiction, it's a fine alternative to everything else kids could be doing. The benefits of video games cannot be denied and have much support such as Sara Corbett who states “Salen, like many people interested in education, has spent a lot of time thinking about whether there is a way to make learning feel simultaneously more relevant to students and more connected to the world beyond school. And the answer, as she sees it, lies in games.” (Corbett). Here, she talks about how in today's day and age the only way to connect with and make children more engaging is with the one thing they love, games.
Besides just learning and honing skills, children having access to video games provides many more benefits. While people assume kids get more aggressive playing these games, it is actually quite the opposite. Kids and teens today have a lot to deal with in their lives. They need to worry about so many things like school and sports while some kids add on to that with more negative things like bullies or abuse at home. Playing certain games allows them to have a place to release this stress and pent out their aggression, rather than gain it. Nakaya Andrea states “For instance, according to research conducted between 2014 and 2015 by the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of teens aged thirteen to seventeen play video games” (Andrea). If such a large number of 72% is getting more aggressive rather than having an option to release their aggression, wouldn't the problem be a lot worse.
Even if there were to be proven problems with specific games causing negative effects on young children, it is far from entirely the game and game creators fault. The ESRB reviews and rates games to see what kind of content is appropriate for each age group. If something is rated M for mature, then the person playing should be the age of 17 or above. If a parent buys a game rated M for mature for their child, then the blame should be on them instead of the actual game. The content for M-rated games is approved for people above 17 so if you give your child access to a game with this content then you made the choice knowing what type of content is in the game. The argument blaming the games is invalid since the ESRB makes sure to put a warning and kids who will easily be affected should not be receiving these games anyways. This is the same as blaming fast food companies for the food that you choose to buy and the argument itself is flawed.
A survey I created and spread out to see the public opinion on the matter resulted in many different answers showing how the people feel. Many people responded strongly to the questions asked and showed their support for video games. When asked if games like Grand Theft Auto makes kids more violent one person replied “No, as games like Grand Theft Auto provide an outlet for the violent behaviors to be channeled into. This removes the possible buildup of anger that they could eventually unleash in public.” Another person gave a strong reply of “No there is no factual evidence to support that video games make children more violent. It is a game like any other. Its like saying football makes kids more violent because its a contact sport, it simply doesn't. If anything video games are a medium and platform that can help teach children or get them to think about a certain topic. Games such as the Binding Of Issac series and indertale help get children to think about certain philosophical issues. Video games don't make children more violent.” The question asking if videogames have a negative impact and should be regulated received around 70 different variations of no. The question of game companies and creators being blamed got responses such as “I don't think the video game companies and creators are to be blamed for people growing up to have violent tendencies because the games are bought and played at the viewers discretion. The buyer is provided with the material of the game and it's rating and such.” and “Never, as it wasn't the companies who bought the game. It wasn't the companies who ignored the rating labels and played it. It wasn't the companies who decided even after getting angry at the game the first time, to continue playing, over, and over, and over again.” With the last question of if people saw video games as an issue to society reaching around 61 versions of no they don't.
In conclusion, almost every negative accustation and assumption on video games can in some way be debunked, They don't make children aggressive, create criminals, nor many other issues they become accused of. Research doesn't prove any of these accusations, nor do the experts believe so. Even the public opinion seen through certain polls and surveys doesn't criminalize video games. So neither should the people who look for something easy to accuse behind their problems. Instead of harm, video games actually cause a lot of good with many benefits like improving social skills and reactions. Karen Sternheimer states, “News reports of the shootings that focus on video games ignore other research on the meanings that audiences make from media culture.” (Sternheimer). Sternheimer here talks about while focusing on video games, we fail to recognize the real problems at hand. There are far more serious issues we could be dealing with and should put time and energy into those issues, rather than starting a war with a form of entertainment
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