Sunday, January 29, 2012

Video Game Violence and How it Affects Children

Only two or three readings into this week's assignment, I knew exactly what I wanted to post about here. I feel that video game violence and how it affects children (both young and adolescent) is a particularly salient topic in today's culture, due to the controversy surrounding games like Grand Theft Auto.

I've posted a link below (I couldn't figure out how to embed the video so you could just click and watch...there's my tech savvy for you) that will take you to a video addressing this very topic. It's the fourth part in a six-part series. Very cool stuff. I posted this one out of the series because it addresses Grand Theft Auto specifically, and as I was reading through Blumer, Wiley and Rice, and Mumford, my mind kept conjuring up memories of watching my older brother playing Grand Theft Auto Vice City as a tween and being stunned at the graphic violence in the game.

So, does playing violent video games have any sort of negative effect on children and teenagers? Does it make them more prone to violent behavior? Does it desensitize them from real-world violence?

The experts in the video makes some good points that agree with Blumer's writing. Violent video games, and Grand Theft Auto in particular, are "the equivalent of a Quentin Tarantino film." The difference, though, between a violent film and a violent movie is the level of participation. Blumer's (and his contemporaries') frame of reference was limited by this factor; a moviegoer can only watch violence on-screen. Video gamers can actively participate in violent acts. The video uses game samples from violent games such as Bully, Grant Theft Auto San Andreas, and Assassin, among others. These snippets show gamers pressing the buttons to make their on-screen character beat, shoot, maim, or kill other players.

This active participation, as the experts in the video point out, is especially dangerous to children. Blumer (and Addams as well) would agree with their worry, as he presents in his critique of cinematic violence: "[Movies] present the extremes as if they were the norm" (p. 93). This can lead to misunderstandings of when fantasy ends and reality begins.


  1. Hi Betsey,

    I also considered how violence and overt sexuality in general play such a significant role in media and mass communication today. When print media was new people likely complained when violent and/or sexual books were printed. Remember the banned books list? But what can be said about the difference between those themes in a book versus those themes in networked media (where as long as someone has internter access they can come across just about anything these days). Does seeing live action violence make it more "real" and more desensitizing for children than violent themes that used to appear in books and on the radio? Just like Addams had been concerned about in last week's reading, children view this media and then assume they can assimilate certain lifestyle or think that they should act in the manner that people in movies do. As media continues to merge more with reality where will that leave us on this topic of violence? Interesting videos!

  2. Thanks for the post Betsey! Having worked at an after-school teen program in the past, I've often thought about the impact that violent video games have on children. Up to this point, I've been of the mindset that violent video games will not necessarily cause a child to act out that violence in real life (here's the qualifier) IF the parent is active enough in the child's life to explain the fantasy of the video game and teach them normal behavior. With that said (and also drawing from my teen center experience), in most instances, this is not the case. I'll make a huge assumption and say that typically those children who play video games for hours upon hours and get fully engulfed in them do not have parents that are actively participating in their life or are large influences over their moral or civil behavior. Therefore, is it up to the industry or government to try to regulate who can purchase and play violent-themed video games?

    This is a good example of what Damien brought up in class that communication and culture are not affected by any one medium or cause.

  3. Thanks, Betsey.

    Your post reminded me of a blog I recently read, SHTF School, The author is Selco, a man who survived the 1992 - 1995 Balkans War. Through his own war-time experiences, Selco tells his readers how to realistically survive the collapse of society or an urban war situation.

    When you ask, "does playing violent video games have any sort of negative effect on children and teenagers? Does it make them more prone to violent behavior?" I think of one of Selco's blog posts agrees with some of the experts in your video link, that participation is key. But I think Selco goes further to explain how participation or rather the decision to participate can "change' the player in a negative or if you are from Selco's world, a positive way.

    "As i say before, act of shooting is not so hard, actually it is pretty much easy, but decision to shoot someone is much harder, and great majority of people have problem with that decision in real life."

    He tells a story of a man who bought a gun in order to protect himself during the war. There were not any rules, laws or law enforcement. The man got into an argument while he had his gun but was stabbed to death. Selco argues that he had made the decision to buy a gun but had not made the mental leap or gone through the mental practice of how, when and why he must use it.

    According to Selco, you must make the mental decision to take action and then you must practice. It seems to me that violent video games are perhaps a way to accomplish that goal.

    One who has made the mental leap in a video game and devoted hours of practice may be more prepared to be able to defend themselves, kill someone or commit a violent act.

    "It was not about his speed or something like that, i guess he was just stuck with whole situation, he hesitated too much, he was not prepared for that threat, he was not ready, call it as you like. Now when you look in whole situation looks strange that guy did not just raise rifle and fired, but to do that you need first to cross over some things in your mind. That change takes time."

    "Yes there is reason why you do “boring” airplane and ship rescue drills. It teaches you to act and this might make difference between life and death."