Violent Video Games Research - Joshua.Lown(website)

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Nov 14, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)

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Lown
1


Joshua Lown

Professor Farr

Enc 1102
-
450

1 December 2011

Violence in the Cyber World Translating into the Molecular World


Witnessing a violent crime such as someone’s head being sawed off with a chainsaw
while blood spatter, from that victim’s severed
head, blinds the spectator is a scene that most
parents would not allow their kids endure. However, most children actually mimic this crime for
themselves in their own bedrooms almost every day. Violent video

games have become an
American pass
-
time for
c
hildren

of all ages.
Nearly
98.7% of

adolescents play video games
containing

varying amounts of violence

(Ferguson 310)
.
Some critics argue that these video
games are putting the youth of America at risk. Some would claim that this electronic
stimulation

has caused kids around the world

to act violently. From the school yard
antagonist

to
the psychopathic school shooters, critics believe that a majority of this violence stems from the
adaptation of violent media. As a natural reaction to the deadly acti
ons around the nation
,

parents have expressed their concerns by attempting to pass legislation to ban violent video
games; however, according to the Supreme Court “the Federal District Court concluded that the
Act violated the First Amendment and permanent
ly enjoined its enforcement” (
Brown v
Entertainment Merchants 1). To analyze the violent effect of video games on children one must
know what compels the youth to
infiltrate the cyber world on a habitual level
.
One must look
into the physical effects tha
t video games have on the children’s aggression levels. The final

realm of exploration is how
society can

regulate the
profusion

of
aggressive
video games.

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Living in reality for some teens can be a horrific realization that the rest of their lives are
only going to get tougher. Many juveniles explore a virtual
existence

to alleviate the harsh
reality they are beginning to face

in the molecular world

(Rigby, Ryan 13).
It is important to
understand the causes for adolescents to seek out an escape through

video games because they
may inhibit behaviors from these video games deemed aggressive.

Researchers have developed a
model to explain the aspiration to be
coming an

abiding gamer. This model is called Player
Experience of Need Satisfaction also labeled P
ENS (Rigby, Ryan 10). This model has been
studied and refined for thirty years
,

and seven of those years were strictly dedicated to video
games. The PENS model depicts three major areas of desire
that cause

children to
covet

these
video games.
(Rigby,
Ryan 15)


The competency, or the desire to grow one’s ability,
is an intrinsic need for an adolescent
to feel accomplished. Pushing one’s self
is
predisposed to every human being at birth, from
pushing one’s self to learn to walk as an infant, to running
four miles at the gym.

“From

the
moment we’re born, we naturally seek to gain maser over ourselves and our environment,
learning how things work by observing, exploring, and

manipulating them.” (Rigby,
Ryan 15)
.
To obtain the sense of accomplishment one

must overcome something the person deems
challenging. A person cannot get a sense of accomplishment by dunking a basketball in a three
foot

tall

basket, that person would have to set a goal in which they would have to overcome some
task deemed difficult
such as a standard sized hoop. This is why people who perform daunting
tasks such as factory workers set goals such as beating their best time
s

at assembling an
item;

they tend to make a game to increase their
interest levels.

Video gamers
tend to
find
ac
complishment with their games; they are given rewards consistently, and they overcome
multiple obstacles in a brief period of time.
This may give children an overly abundant source of
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competency in the critical character developing stages of their lives.

A student Paul Knowlton
initiated an experiment in which he gave other students a stressful
task;

this brought their
disposition to substandard levels. Mr. Knowlton then gave his peers a variety of different video
games varying in difficulty from easy
to

hard to master. The games that tended to be more
difficult were ones that provided highest levels of satisfaction. This sense of c
ompetency can
demonstrate

the PENS model stating why the youth of America are astringent to video games.


The underlying
need for autonomy is also a congenial explanation
of

the
infatuation

that
children

display
towards
the

cyber reality

that is video games
.

With jobs that work children to
their
threshold
, the ever demanding
responsibilities of school, and the attempt to
fulfill their
parents dreams of who that child shall become, are

all things that constrain the children of
America to become a model citizen. Everyone has the ch
oice of freewill; however, free
will is
subjective in its own definition. It may be that child
’s choice to go to school; moreover, that
child would likely not choose to do so if there were no punishments or constraints on their lives.

We know in theory that choices are always out there for us (and they really are
)
. But
contrary to the old saying,
rarely does ‘opportunity knock.’ In reality, when we feel that
longing to visit the pyramids or to go to culinary school, these notions seem pretty far
away and unattainable. Indeed, rarely do we classify these thoughts as “opportunities”
because this imp
lies they are within our reach when in fact
they seem like distant dreams
.
(Rigby, Ryan 43)
.

One cannot just decide one day to quit their job in order to become a stay at home parent because
they are disinterested at work. Children turn to video games to
capture that sense of innumerable
opportunities.
There is no cyber
-
mother telling the child to do the dishes, and if there were, he
would have the choice not to do so.
Not only are they aloud to do what they want, they can
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choose to be who they want. Ch
ildren around the world can choose to be an alien chef from a
distant planet who
desires

to
be the best chef in the universe, to a person of the opposite sex who
enjoys slaying dragons. Games give adolescents the choice to change their natural state of be
ing
into what is known as an avatar. These youths, in a sense, become existential versions of
themselves in virtual reality. If the player deems a task worth
y

of his time they have
a

choice to
do with the task as they will. The ultimate plane of choice
and no constraints often lures children
towards their televisions and
repeatedly

glues
gamers

to their seats for hours.


The concept of relatedness is a trait that humanity is based largely off of. Everyone has
the need to feel close to others, whether i
t is a friendship or an amorous relationship, humans
desire that connection with others. Singer and songwriter Dean Martin stated it best when he
wrote “Everybody needs somebody sometime” (Martin).
Games have given the impression to
the general public t
hat gamers are antisocial and lonely. That may be a fact in some cases;
however,
online games and multiplayer functionality has annexed the soci
al prosperity of
gamers.
The instantaneous ability to connect with a friend to share challenges, goals, and
re
wards has a gratifying effect to many gamers (Rigby, Ryan 66)
. Not only is the showering of
online companionship a satisfactory relationship, players can obtain camaraderie with the
artificial intelligence placed throughout their cyber world. Non player
characters, also known as
NPCs, have a similar effect
on

players as a character in
a book or movie
. If one were to observe
a teenager at the movies
,

one may witness
a
connection between
said

person and many of the
characters. For example, when the antagonist of the film dies or gets defeated, the audience
primarily acclaims the protagonist. This scenario may occur in games with a thick plot line or
strong senses of character. Why does it m
atter when the gamer defeats the antagonist? The
gamer gets the sensation of necessity to the game world.
The player is most importantly
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acknowledged for their role in the worl
d which can attract players to
keep their controllers
steadfast.

The PENS mod
el depicts a reasonable explanation for why these gamers revisit their
own virtual reality, and it shows why they often choose the cyber world over the molecular one.


In a small town called Paducah, Kentucky, Michael Carneal stole a gun from one of his
ne
ighbors. He then proceeded to bring the firearm to his school and fire
d

eight shots into a
student prayer meeting (Grossman, DeGaetano 4). Reports

of violence

from around the country
have begun to sprout as the inflammation of violence in the media and m
ost specifically in video
games.
Video games have been in the spotlight for contributing factors in adolescent violence
since the Columbine High School shooting incident. The evidence seems to prove that there is a
correlation to violence in some childre
n

who play violent games.

“Recent
meta
-
analyses have shown that violent video games, like violent television
programs and films, can increase aggressio
n… In general, early and middle adolescents
ranging from ages eleven to seventeen are more susceptible t
o being influenced than are
others”
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn
1038
).


As mentioned previously, children
tend to

relate to video games because they relate
themselves to the character that they
become
. They often wish to be the charismatic protagonist
that
resolves the overlying conflict of the story (Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn
1038
). As these
children identify with these characters they tend to personify the character into themselves
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn 1
038
). In the current society, video games have

depicted

the aspired
protago
nist to be the
resilient

male warriors and alpha aggressive males who solve their problems
with violence. These characters tend to act violently
and
are rarely castigated for any crimes or
acts of violence they commit. The a
ppeal to the violent behavior grows on the child because
they see that they can
resolve

their
conflicts

with aggression

and they will not be reprimanded by
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authority (Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn 1
038
). The aggression that is built up in these children
from t
he identification of these characters can have short and long term effects on their overall
aggression levels
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn
1039
).

Children can identify with characters from
books, television, or even the radio; however, video games summate an

entire new plane of
reality, and that is due to the level of interactivity that video games provide. Not only is the
gamer witnessing the violence that this avatar is committing, they are controlling and choosing to
do the action for this chara
cter.

Gam
ers prefer games with more realistic graphics and
environments rather than unrealistic ones
;

therefore
,

promoting violence through elevated
immersion.
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn
1039
).



The social learning theory supports the claim that children can iden
tify and even reenact
the actions of the characters of whom they idolize.
“The social learning theory emphasizes the
importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes and emotional reactions of
others” (Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn 2).

Youths ten
d to venerate
towards
characters based on

how much they can relate to

them

or on how much they aspire to be like the character. Most of
the time, children choose the latter of the two because
these characters appeal to the autonomous
aspect of their
desires. The kids are susceptible to idolizing these characters because of the
social stereotype of a tough alpha
-
male; therefore
,

they tend to become more violent and choose
to mimic the more violent characters
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn 2).



Researcher
s at University of Michigan and VU University Amsterdam conducted a study
in which they randomly assigned a group of adolescents a choice of four genres of video games:
violent
-
realistic, violent
-
fantasy, nonviolent
-
realistic, or nonviolent
-
fanta
sy.
They
assigned a
competition for the children on their reaction time; the winner was able to choose how intense of
a blast of high frequency noise they shot into the others earphones. The children who played
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violent video games, or who were frequently predispos
ed to them, were inclined to choose higher
levels. The aggression
became

intense as the children choos
e decibel
levels t
hey understood to
possibly cause

permanent hearing loss.
Children consciously intended to inflict harm on the
other participants
,

and
felt that the other was deserving

of the possible deafening sound wave
. “I
blasted him with Level 10 noise because he
deserved

it. I know he can get hearing damage, but I
don’t care”
stated one participant
(Bijvank, Bushman, Konijn
1040
).



Researchers ar
ound the world have attempted to uncover the effects of violent media and
the impressions upon its youthful viewers. Another study found a researcher attempting to
address whether or not these games altered ones personal behavior. Players were given eith
er a
violent game or a nonviolent game. The subjects were then exposed to a violent confrontation
thought to be outside of the experiment. Th
e gamers who played the violent video games were
less likely to involve themselves in the scuffle; they also took

a longer time to intervene if they
had done so at all. The same gamers also tended to rate the fight as a “less serious incident”
which shows the desensitization to violence caused by a predisposition to violence

though the
games they previously played
.

Many gamers “never heard” the confrontation or was completely
o
blivious to any conflict at all;

h
owever
,

the gamers who played the pro
-
social games reacted
quicker to a confrontation and took the scenario more contemplatively
(R. Hall et al 315).


Other

vital studies supporting the presence of violent correlations between games and the
gamer have obtained similar results. They vary in a few different smaller aspects of factorization
in the amount
s

of violence and what
precisely

causes this violence

in th
e media
. For example,
scientists have found a correlation on the length of time that a violent video game is played and
subsequent changes in behavior. This behavior was defined as troublesome and led to poor
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academic achievement; however, children who p
layed more educational games tended to
exceed
in school

(R. Hall et al. 316)
.
Another researcher states
:

“Certain populations are more at risk and/or ar
e more likely to play violent v
ideo games
than others. Studies suggest that at
-
risk individuals are
usually male, have preexisting
personalit
y

disorders or traits (eg, conduct disorder), have preexisting mental health
conditions (eg, attention deficit disorder), have had a difficult or traumatic upbringings,
and are insecure (with poor self
-
esteem)” (R.
Hall et al. 316).

The ocean of data towards the acclamation of the violent tendencies of the youth
ful gamer

is
almost overwhelming for some. All of this information
,

despite any critics
,

shows that there
must be some contributing factors that violent vide
o games cause an alteration in aggression
levels. Some researchers tend to disagree on this issue stating that games benefit children in
certain terms. These researchers claim that adolescents can release their violence and aggression
in a controlled virt
ual world instead of in the real world (R. Hall et al. 315). The counter
argument to that statement is that a majority of the aggression that these children feel the
necessity to release is caused by the
violent
video games themselves
(R. Hall et al. 315)
.


Violence in video games is something that used to be overlooked, and until the recent
extremities of violence pervading into the schools of America, was considered impervious.
Many parents found themselves
gazing

at what their children were playing and

were astounded
when they finally woke up and saw little Timmy bludgeoning prostitutes with a purple dildo in
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Parents around the country found themselves beseeching for
regulation. All along the suggested age group was on th
e back of the box of the video game, and
many parents neglected it. In a recent survey only 83% of parents knew what the ESRB rating
system was, that is an increase from the 70% it was in th
e previous year. O
f those 83% of
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parents,
53% of them allowed th
eir children to continue playing games marked for mature
audiences ages 17 and above (Haugen, and Musser 124).

It is imperative to engage society in the
regulatory process in order to suppress violent tendencies in kids who are too impressionable to
play violent games.


ESRB or Entertainment Software Rating Board is the regulatory system that video game
manufactu
rers use in order to provide satisfactor
y regulation on their products
(Haugen, and
Musser 118). This is the description former President Patricia Vance of ESRB described their
company as.

“The Entertainment Software Rating Board, established in 1994, is

a self
-
regulatory body
for the interactive entertainment software industry. ESRB independently applies and
enforces ratings, advertising guidelines, and online privacy principles adopted by the
computer and video game industry” (Vance 56).

ESRB has an ag
e based rating system and provides parents a tool t
o guide them while buying
video
games that are appropriate to their child’s maturity level. Clearly labeled on the game’s
box is the appropriate rating symbol, and the content descriptors
which

describes
the excessive
content throughout the game (Haugen, and Musser 118). The rating company has categorized
their rating system into five different age groups. EC stands for early childhood and is suitable
for ages three and up

(Vance 56)
. E for everyone
sug
gests

that gamers ages six and older
are the
appropriate age group or target audience for this game. Games with an E rating may contain
minimal cartoonish violence (Vance 56). T denotes that gamers 13 and up are an appropriate age
and maturity level for s
aid games, these titles may contain minimal violence, strong language,
and or suggestive themes (Vance 56). M for mature is the category most violent video games
fall under. These game
r
s
are
suggested to be ages 17 and older and must be able to maturely
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handle games containing sexual themes, intense violence, and or strong language

(Vance 56)
.
The final rating age is AO standing for adults only

(Vance 56)
. These video games contain
strong sexual themes, nudity, excessive

violence, and strong language. O
nly 2% of video games
fall under the AO rating and many of them are not regularly sold in stores; for example, the
popular title
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
origina
lly obtained the rating of M. However,
when hackers found explicit materials hidden throu
ghout the source code of the video games,
ESRB modified their initial rating
to an AO title

(Kutner, and Olsen 167)
.


The ESRB must hold a standard in reviewing these video games so that the parents are
appropriately informed of the content of the game; pa
rents must be able make an informed
decision on whether or not certain video games are appropriate for their child. Most parents are
unaware of the content that lurks in the virtual world; therefore, they must have a tool to guide
them into making the pro
per decision. It is also important that the parents know how ESRB rates
their games to establish a sense of validity of the rating. Video game companies must send a
detailed video that includes the extremes of every possible situation including violence,

gambling, voice acting scripts, and any sexual content.
The content is then reviewed by three
different analysts who collaborate all of their opinions into one final score (Haugen, and Musser
124). Although the ESRB is not affiliated with any official go
vernment facility, they hold the
standard of the ESRB to be regulatory in the video game field. Most stores will not sell or
affiliate themselves with games that are not rated by ESRB, and most of these games may not be
broadcast on television. In an add
ed bit of security for parents, ESRB is legally allowed to fine a
video game company up to one million dollars for any information that was undisclosed or
undiscovered to the ESRB team (Haugen, and Musser 124). As time passes, the future of the
ESRB is ge
tting more prevalent in the eyes of parents, almost 4% a year (Haugen, and Musser
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124). As the ESRB grows stronger, so do parents with their decisions to allow their children to
play the appropriate game for their maturity level. This rating system can a
id in the ability to
reduce the aggressive impressions on children who may not be able to cope with the violent
response

on the
ir

psyche

(Haugen, and Musser 126).


The
children,

who shot, bludgeoned, stabbed, and
even
murdered their parents, peers, and
tea
chers may have been predisposed to factors of violence at an early age. The fact that children
are susceptible to the enticing virtual world of video games makes the threat of violence more
imperative to society. These adolescents are more likely to buy,
play, and idolize these video
games due to major psychological desires. Not only do these video games display violence
,

it
entices gamers to enact some of the behavior they observe. Studies have proven that children
tend to desensitize violence due to
impetuous

games.
Not all violent video games will cause a
child to bully the
so called “nerd”

in school, nor will they entice every gamer to

shoot a gun
aimed
down a crowded hallway. With the assistance of the ESRB rating system, and average
common sense,

parents
can help fight the war of violent behavior induced through media that
they allow their children to examine. Columbine was not caused by the video game
Doom
nor
did children learn to have sex by playing
Grand Theft Auto;
however, these violent act
ions that
these youths observe tend to build up and produce unnatural discharges of violence.





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Works Cited

Brown, Governor of California v. Entertainment Merchants Association. Certiorari to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. 27

June 2011.
Supreme Court
. Web. 1 Dec.
2011. <
http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/10pdf/08
-
1448.pdf
>.

Ferguson, Christopher John. "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: A Meta
-
analytic Revie
w of
Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games."
Psychiatric Quarterly

78.4
(2007): 309
-
16. Print.

Hall, Ryan C., Terri Day, and Richard W. Hall. "A Plea for Caution: Violent Video Games, the
Supreme Court, and the Role of Science."
Mayo Clinic

86.4 (2011): 315
-
21.
Academic
Search Complete
. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.

Haugen, David M., and Susan Musser.
Media Violence: Opposing Viewpoints
. Detroit:
Greenhaven, 2009. Print.

Konijn, Elly A., Marije Nije Bijvank, and Brad J. Bushman. "I Wish I Were a Warrior:

The Role
of Wishful Identification in the Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression in
Adolescent Boys."
Developmental Psychology

43.4 (2007): 1038
-
044. Print.

Kutner, Lawrence, and Cheryl K. Olson.
Grand Theft Childhood: the Surprising Truth about
Vio
lent Video Games and What Parents Can Do
. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
Print.

Martin, Dean.
Everybody Loves Somebody
. Prism Leisure Corp., 2000. MP3.

Rigby, Scott, and Richard M. Ryan.
Glued to Games: How Video Games Draw Us in and Hold
Us Spellbound
.

Santa Barbara, CA: ABC
-
CLIO, 2011. Print.

Vance, Patricia E. "Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)."
Congressional Digest

(2005): 56
-
58.
Academic Search Complete
. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.