Video games, whether they are played on your PC or on a console system, come in all shapes and sizes – and with a variety of parental ratings. From the colourful world of Hello Kitty Online to the remarkably violent Grand Theft Auto series, and every game in between, the range of violence in video games seems endless. But what impact do violent video games really have?
Video games have matured considerably since the days of Pong and Space Invaders, and so have their parental ratings, with some games being rated as high as mature or adults only. This is no surprise – in fact, many violent video games now even have an additional option in the menu to toggle “blood splatter” and other offensive content off. Video games are no longer just for kids, in fact, adults play video games just as much as people under the age of 18. With some of the best games this year being rated mature and up, it’s likely that many people under the age restriction are playing these games anyway.
Parents often ignore the warning on the box – and that’s only if they are the ones buying the game in the first place. Young adults can and do purchase the games on their own, without their parents’ consent or knowledge. The real question is if young adults are playing these violent video games when they’re not technically supposed to be playing them, are there negative effects of the violent and mature gameplay?
A History of Violence in Video Games
The belief that the violence in video games can, in turn, create violent tendencies in gamers themselves is not a new one. Parents have questioned the potential negative effects of violent video games on their children since the 1990s. Studies show, however, that aggression caused by video games is generally due to frustration over game mechanics, and not the violence itself.
Further studies show that there is no direct correlation between aggression or violence in individuals and violence in video games. In fact, while violence in video games has certainly increased, the number of young offenders has actually decreased considerably in recent years.
Gamers and scientists have repeatedly attempted to quell parental fears about video game violence causing real-world violence, but this reassurance seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The trouble with this myth is that parents still believe it, giving video games, in general, a pretty bad rap.
Video Games Aren’t all Blood and Gore
There are many games with violence to varying degrees, but there are just as many games that have none at all. Turn-based strategy games, such as the Civilization series, teach history, strategy, and mathematical skills, all without blood spatter or gore. There are also many story rich games that encourage strategic thinking and world exploration, such as the well-received What Remains of Edith Finch.
Young people may be missing out on the valuable education and skill building that could aid them as adults by being kept from these beneficial games. Many parents don’t realize that video games are actually a vast and varied market. Not all games are cut from the same cloth, after all, and video games can even help young people increase their productivity, confidence, and problem-solving abilities.
Jane McGonigal, the author of Reality is Broken, says that through the virtual world of video games, we can find happiness and confidence in our abilities in ways that reality doesn’t nurture. She says that video games can actually make the world a better place if we can only apply ourselves to reality in the same way we do in video games:
“I see a future in which games once again are explicitly designed to improve quality of life, to prevent suffering, and to create real, widespread happiness.”
Violent Video Games: Not a Clean Cut Issue
Video games can not only provide endless hours of entertainment, they can also be a beneficial and safe activity for children and teens – and, adults, for that matter. Despite concerns that violence in video games can lead to aggression, playing video games can actually increase productivity, nurture social relationships, and help young people learn. Even if your children are playing violent video games, there is no evidence to support that playing those games will lead to real-world aggression.
Through video games, we can find worthy heroes to look up to and can learn to value our own skills and talents. We can even apply those skills in the real world. We can be heroes, too.
With so many benefits from playing a variety of video games, gamers can only hope that the negative stigma will soon be extinct and that gamers everywhere can continue to enjoy this great – and fun – activity without public scorn or judgment.