I am well aware that violence in video games is a touchy subject for gamers. So, I would like to begin by saying that I have friends who are gamers and family who are gamers and I respect all of their (and by extension, your) opinions. This is mine.
I do not believe that violent video games generate violence out of thin air. I believe that violence is a human instinct, albeit one that we do well to control.
The part of our brain that determines how good we are at controlling our violent instincts is our frontal lobe. Recent studies have shown that the frontal lobe (which also houses emotion, personality, problem solving and judgment) continues to develop into our 20s. So, we should be aware that our actions and habits in early life influence the way the above-mentioned qualities form in us.
When pre-teens and teens play games like Call of Duty, Halo and Red Dead Redemption, the effect on their minds can be significant.
In the worst case, there are school shootings and murders. From there, effects get incrementally less tragic. It is needless to say that most gamers never commit homicide, and have strong morals. But they are still affected in other ways.
The American Psychological Association (APA) speaks of the two common things that happen to people who begin gaming when they are young. In its article “Violent Video games: Myths, Facts and Unanswered Questions,” it said that the excessive playing of violent games “creates more positive attitudes, beliefs, and expectations regarding use of aggressive solutions” and “decreases the normal negative emotional reactions to conflict, aggression, and violence.”
Basically, the APA is saying that the more someone plays a violent video game; (a) the more he/she will view violence as a legitimate way to solve problems and (b) the more they will disassociate the violent images they see in a game from the emotional effects they bring on in real-life situations. Together, these effects cause the brain to be desensitized to violence. Some might call this “toughening up,” but I would call it losing touch.
A gamer-friend of mine (a player of Red Dead Redemption and Halo) gave me an example of desensitization.
He said that if he saw a violent image on the internet, he would easily forget it, but if he saw the same image in real life, he would be very affected. I answered my friend by saying that I would be very affected by both seeing the violent image on the internet and in person, adding that I have never played violent video games. Whether this difference holds true in every internet vs. real-life comparison, I do not know. There are other possible variables affecting desensitization, and each person’s case is different (hence the drastically different, above-mentioned, consequences).
Your opinion on the issue really comes down to your opinion of this desensitization. My stance is based on the fact that I view violent solutions and desensitization to violence as bad things. I think that violence is something very real in our culture and should not be made fun of or taken lightly (as desensitized people are prone to do). Others say that both the jesting and the desensitization come with the territory of modern society and our age group.
In the end, I certainly understand (and occasionally, enjoy) the importance of video games. But, I am positive that I will always stick to my Zelda, and my squeamishness, and you can keep your Modern Warfare.
– By Quinn Kerscher