With the video game industry having grown rapidly over the years, everyone has access to some sort of video game be it console, PC, your phone or even the tiny minigame we play on Google Chrome. The current trend is video games which include a lot of violence in them, due to which there are new video games constantly coming out which are very violent in nature. To what extent do these games affect our actions?
There have been many instances where people influenced by violent video games tend to start behaving violently as well. The most recent incident occurred this Thursday in Kansas where an innocent man was shot due to an argument between two Call of Duty players.
A person called 911 as a prank and made a false report about a kidnapping and shooting which prompted the police to show up. When the police got involved an innocent unarmed man was shot, the man was a father of two kids. This is a fine example of “swatting” where police/SWAT teams are sent to people’s homes based on false claims such as the one in this case.
Police then tracked the person who made the call and arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss on Friday. This was not the first time Barriss had made a prank call to 911 as he was previously arrested for phoning in for bomb threats.
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The police responded to the ‘prank’ call which said that an armed man was holding his (the caller’s) family hostage. This was not the case and the person who answered the door was shot after the man reached for his waistband many times.
The person who was shot was identified as 28-year-old Andrew Finch and he had nothing to do with any of this. His family claimed that he was not a gamer and that he was not involved in the online dispute either.
It later came to be known that the call was made over an argument between two Call of Duty (a popular online shooting game) players. The two players made a bet. This may have been fun and games for the two players, but this led to the taking of an innocent life. Two kids don’t have a father anymore due to their actions.
With the number of violent video games growing every day, the number incidents like this (though not as extreme perhaps) are also increasing. Many people have argued for this very reason against video games that violent video games like these promote violent behaviors among individuals. There is research to back this claim up as well.
A research done on school students was done to test aggressive behaviors linked to video games. Several variables were taken during the research such as the participant’s favorite game, average weekly hours played on video games, the amount of time they’re allowed by their parents to play video games, their grades and much more.
It was found based on the responses that the students spent an average of nine hours per week on playing video games and an overwhelming 62% of their favorite video games were rated a 7 or above out of 10 in the “violence scale”. Boys were more likely to play violent games.
The hypotheses were confirmed as a positive link between video games and trait hostility was found. Video game violence was also found to have a positive relation with aggressive behavior such as arguments with teachers, physical fights etc.
The results were also consistent with the predicted as long-term effects of prolonged exposure to violent video games. Other factors that were measured such as school grades or parental limits did not have any effect or real correlation with the video game choice and quantity of the participants and thus no real link between violent behaviors caused by video games due to these factors (Gentile).
The many variables used in this research provide a thorough insight as to the effect of prolonged exposure to video games (“The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance.”).
Another huge argument made against video games is that violent video games desensitize the players to actual real-life violence. People become used to what they see in video games.
Desensitization can lower people’s awareness of violent incidents around them. Also, due to playing violent video games, a person’s perception of the seriousness of an injury can be reduced which may cause serious problems in the case of a fatal injury or emergency because the person would not be aware of the seriousness of the situation.
The incident discussed earlier of two Call of Duty players making a wager that cost someone his life is a great example of desensitization. Call of Duty is a violent game, the whole purpose of which is to ‘kill’ as many people in the game as you can (as with other shooting games as well). The two players were so used to whatever they saw in game that they did not realize the seriousness of the situation they were about to create.
Swatting is no joke, every bomb threat or call claiming that there’s a shooting is taken seriously and can hurt many people this way. An innocent life was taken in this case. Therefore, violent video games and their effects on people did play a role in the shooting of Andrew Finch.
It is argued a lot whether these video games do affect a person’s way of thinking or not, but the research and its results provide solid evidence towards the argument that violent video games do indeed have a negative impact on people. For this very reason there are some countries that have acted against violent video games.
For example, Germany has taken steps to censor video games. In games like Call of Duty, the German version of the game does not have humans, instead they are replaced by robots which you kill instead of the humans.
The issue is with prolonged exposure. There has also been research which suggests that video games can be beneficial if they aren’t played for too long (which is not the case most of the time). If something can be done to reduce playing hours or do something about upcoming violent video games, then there won’t be more cases like Andrew Finch in the future.
Gentile, Gouglas A. “The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance.” Journal of Adolescence. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2017. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140197103000927>.