Does fake violence lead to real violence?
It is no secret that fake violence sells video games but can it lead gamers to become violent in the real world? Some of the most popular video games in the industry are based on the player(s) killing other people/creatures; there is an entire genre of video games that primarily features the player going through a series of violent acts from a first-person perspective (called first-person shooters or FPS games). What is the correlation between gamers who indulge themselves in fake violence and psychopaths who commit acts of real violence?
Throughout the growth of the video game industry, there has been an ever-prevalent concern over how the amount of violence in video games is supposedly affecting young people, children, and adolescents alike. Some of this concern is understandable as social groups can easily influence children in their schools or other public places. However, I think most of this concern is needless fear-mongering, especially since most of it comes from older generations who do not play video games as frequently or as often as younger demographics. This fear-mongering also carries over into a more general fear of new technology of which every generation is guilty but that is another topic of discussion.
The first thing we have to think about regarding this issue is the common reasons why people play video games: to escape reality, to provide more excitement in a seemingly unexciting daily routine, to experience something new (be it real or fake), to play out experience in a way that you typically would not within the safety of a fictional environment, etc. The list can continue, but I think you understand the common theme: escaping reality. Video games are primarily a form of escape, and I believe that it provides so many more beneficial value than detrimental value as does reading a desirable book, what thing a “popcorn movie,” or any other activity one would participate in to “get away” from reality.
The fear-mongers may have you believe that violence in video games leaves bad impressions on kids and encourages kids to reenact such violence. This may be true for kids whose only influences are their video games, and that simple fact is often overlooked. We all have many influences growing up – our parents, our extended family like our grandparents and cousins, our peers in the local neighborhood and our schools, and then (of course) media like books, television, and video games). Not to mention that people have an uncanny ability to divide themselves into particular social groups based on common interests – children even more so. Parents like to point a finger at the superficial qualities of video games showcasing time spent alone on a device but conveniently ignore the fact that video games have a social element within them. One person playing a game on his computer could be connected with a team of several other gamers through an internet connection and such a network could be fostering strong friendships (and they do). Real-world gatherings are organized around digital worlds so gamers can find each other in the flesh and connect even further. Online communities are not as anonymous as one may initially believe especially compared with the early Web in the 1990s. Digital spaces are fast becoming our new social spaces and already are for many.
The increasing popularity of video games is even making itself known in the education sector with specific games designed to develop empathy and emotional awareness in young kids. The world in Minecraft is laid out with a grid of stackable blocks that can easily be used to teach basic geometry. Adventure games like No Man’s Sky can teach kids organizational skills as well as provide a sense of perspective regarding the larger universe we inhabit. Even first-person shooters can teach young adults teamwork and tactical maneuvers (as long as they are balanced with historical lessons on real warfare).
Fuck Politicians and their "OMG VIDEO GAMES CAUSE VIOLENCE"
Here I am, peacefully playing Tetris 99 while a fucking politician bashes everyone by saying that video games cause violence.
— 💖 Kirb The Kawaii Artist 💖 (@KirbBirbUwU) March 3, 2020
For a school project, all answers are appreciated: Do you think violent video games increase violence in adolescents and why??
— rokts (@rokts_) March 10, 2020
— Game Rant (@GameRant) March 6, 2020
Thinking about the fact that there are politicians who use video games as as scapegoat for violence while being whole ass war criminals…AND while taking money from the NRA hand over fist.
— Shay💖 (@ItsSLCP) March 7, 2020
The primary influences are probably our parents or the people we interacted with most often as kids, and there lies the core of the issue. The people or things that we interact with most often as kids are our most significant influences growing up. What we would call “good” parents (relatively) are parents who pay attention to what their kids’ are consuming regarding food for the body as well as food for thought (media).
If a child acts out a scene from a video game that includes causing harm to another person and then actually harms another person, the first thing a passerby may wonder is, “where are the parents?” That is most likely the first question on our minds any time we see a child misbehaving in public given that kids need some form of caretaker due to the fact that they generally cannot take care of themselves.
Why are some people so quick to blame violence in video games but not so quick to blame violence in more traditional media like movies or even books? We can look to the book “1984” by George Orwell as an example of over-looked violence, the book has a scene in which the protagonist is literally tortured by the oppressive government that holds a commanding presence over the story’s backdrop world. The book “Lolita” by Russian author Vladimir Nobokov is about a pedophile but has been praised as well as criticized for its erotic descriptions of infatuated romance. Plenty of authors have written some messed up scenes in novels but they don’t get nearly the amount of needless criticism as video games. Is that simply because visuals are quicker at triggering an emotional response than text?
Video games like television, movies, and other media vices are usually used as coping mechanisms for more pressing matters and should not be blamed for a child’s potential issues.
“Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors,” states the American Psychological Association.
A kid who conflates fake violence with real violence will probably have difficulty differentiating the real world with any fictional world. A lack of empathy and awareness toward other people represents failed social integration, which begins long before a kid starts paying attention to external media outlets. Adequate social skills start with the parents.
Dylan is a passionate writer and gamer with experience in print and digital media. He graduated from New Mexico Highlands University in 2015 and hopes to use his writing skills to build a career as a reporter on multiple beats as a source of information to people.