Why violent video games do not inspire real violence

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Whyviolent video games do not inspire real violence

Thecapacity of client video games to inspire players to engage in realviolence has been a controversial issue for close to two decades.Ferguson, a psychologist at the A&ampM International Universityindentified that the majority of the opponents of violent video gamesare influenced by the moral panic and subjective views to hold theirnegative opinions in an article “Blazing angels or residentialevil? Can violent games be a force for good?” Although differentpeople hold different views the ongoing debate about the use ofviolent games is healthy because it will culminate in the developmentof a viable solution. Paul Adachi and Teena Willoughby, professorsof psychology at Brock University distinguished the aggressive playfrom aggression by stating that a violent play involves two or moreparties who use digital models to enjoy wrestling or war, whileaggression intentional behavior that causes humiliation or physicalharm. Although many members of the society are convinced that violentvideo games are harmful, empirical studies prove that violent videogames do not inspire real violence and they should be utilized moreproductively in the education and other learning settings.

Anotion that violent video games can have positive impacts on thelives of the children and the youths may appear absurd to manymembers of the society. However, the current statistics prove thatthose who claim that violent video games have negative impacts areguided by emotional reactions, and none of them use objectivereasoning to make convincing conclusions. The subjective opinion thatviolent video games inspire real violence is inconsistent with thecurrent empirical studies. Brandon Nadeau an anthropology student atthe University of Connecticut identified that violent crime hasreduced by 30 % since the introduction of the PlayStation in the year1995 and the development of the violent games, such as “Grand TheftAuto 3” in the article “Video games make society less violent”.Empirical evidence, unlike the subjective arguments, shows that theviolent games play a key role in reducing the rate of violent crimesin the society.

Althoughmany violent video games have more violent scenes than non-violentscenes, the Bandular’s concept of learning indicates that not allinformation is absorbed in the same way. For the users of violentgames to learn aggression from video games, people have to learn howto shape their motivation, internal goals, and the coreresponsibilities (Ferguson 76). This implies that the chances of theusers of violent video games learn violence instead of other lessonsthat can be offered through the video games is rare. In addition,human beings (including young children) are known to be selective inwhat they absorb into their minds as well as what they model. Incontrast, other types of learning (including visuospatial cognition)do not call for an internal shift in a stable personality. Inessence, all video games (including the violent ones) pass raw data,but do not transmit personality traits and moral beliefs. This meansthat the informational content of the video game can be transferred,but personality traits of the characters in the game cannot betransferred to the users of the game (Ferguson 78). Therefore, it isnot reasonable to associate real violence with the use of violentvideo games.

Allvideo games (including the violent games) improve the process of thedevelopment of the visuospatial of the player. Visuospatial is aprocess that involves the development of cognitive as well asintellectual capabilities that are related to selecting, scanning,attending to, and altering visual information (Ferguson 76). Playingviolent games is positively associated with the development of ahigher perception, visuospatial acuity, mental rotation, visualmemory, and processing. Nonviolent video games, on the other hand,have been associated with a weaker development of the visiospatialcapabilities (Ferguson 76). However, the study did not identify anyassociation between violent video games and the development ofaggressiveness among the users of these games. These findingsindicate that cognitive information is transferred better throughviolent video games compared to non-violent video games or othertypes of media.

Therelationship between the development of the visuospitial capabilitiesand playing violent video games is attributed to the speed of thefirst-person shooter, and not the violent scenes found in multiplescenes of the game. Violent video games involve more rapid movements,which explain the reason for their synonym “action video games”(Ferguson 76). Therefore, the speed of the actions tends to impactplayers more than the violent scenes. For example, studies have shownthat playing the “Half Life 2” improves the swiftness as well asthe evacuation drills of the firefighters (Ferguson 77). This isbecause the visuospatial tasks that players engage in during thevideo games require a similar swiftness to the real life visuospatialtasks. This explains why expert gamers always do better in real-lifevisuospatial tasks compared to non-gamers. In addition, Will Write, aguest editor at WIRED identified that the moves that players areexpected to move in order to win the game amplified their power ofimagination in the article “Dream machines”. This enhances thedevelopment of the cognitive ability of the players instead ofmotivating them to engage in violent activities.

Oneof the key sources of fear among the opponents of the violent videogames is that the games damage the social connections for the youths,which increases their risk of engaging in violent crimes. This isbased on the notion that players of violent video games spend toomuch of their time with electronic gadgets and have limited time fora physical relationship with their peers (Ferguson 79). However, thistype of fear can be regarded as being baseless because modern violentgames facilitate social interaction of players who can share a singlevenue or interact with each other online. For example, one can assumethe role of the first shooter in the “Medal of Honor” incooperation or against another online player (Ferguson 79). Otherviolent games (such as the World of Warcraft) facilitate thedevelopment of an extensive network of players. Social connectionsestablished through the online violent games are meaningful and keepthe youths engaged instead of being idle.

Violentvideo games are highly social as opposed to being isolative as manypeople think. Modern violent games, unlike the initial games, createroom for many players to play the same game, which allows them tointeract as they play. Currently, it is estimated that about 97 % ofteens in the U.S. play violent video games, where the majority areable to establish social networks with other players (Adachi 259).Most of the children who have the opportunity to engage sociallyduring the game are more likely to engage in civic activities compareto non-gamers. Social interactions facilitated by online gamesencourages off-line social experience, which help teens in learninghow to interact with other people and develop sustainable socialnetworks. This confirms that violent video games are useful toolsthat facilitate social interactions as opposed motivating theplayers’ engagement in violent activities.

Violencein video games is tangential to the educational content with anexemption of police and military simulators. However, violence isincluded in the modern video games as a means of attracting theattention of players, especially the boys who prefer violent scenes.Currently, there is not empirical evidence to confirm that theviolent scenes inspire the viewers or players to engage in violencein real life. On the contrary, the violent scenes enhance theeffectiveness of using violent video games to impart some knowledgeinto the minds of learners. For example, Pamela Kato from StanfordHospital, Department of Pediatrics assessed the impact of violentvideo games on young medical patients indicated that the violentscenes help patients understand more about their illnesses. Theresearch used the game known as “Re-Mission” in which a femalerobot (microscopic) is injected into the patient’s body where theseverity of infection and the cancer cells differ with the type ofthe weapon used. The video game was shown to enhance the youngpatients’ cancer knowledge, enhanced their self efficacy, andadherence to treatment more than any other approaches used in thehealth care sector to enlighten young medical patients.

Thesuccess of the game can be attributed to the fact that violent scenesheld the attention of players during the game, which provided anopportunity for the educational component to be imparted. Accordingto Leonard Annetta, a professor of psychology at North CarolinaUniversity, stated that the lack of any case of the young cancerpatients turning violent after playing the game repeatedly indicatesthat the use of the violent games for educational purposes isharmless since they do not inspire learners to be aggressive in anyway. In addition, other games (such as WoW) can promote the learners`capacity to read and write and display a higher ordered thinkingability, instead of promoting violence. However, the social panicamong the stakeholders in the educational sector has reduced chancesfor the inclusion of violent scenes in the games designedspecifically for the educational purposes, which has put these gamesat a disadvantage since very few students pay attention to theircontent.


Thenotion that violent video games have the capacity to inspire realviolence is based on subjective opinions and influenced by moralpanic among the members of the society. However, empirical studieshave cleared the panic by showing that violent scenes in the videogames attracts the attention of the players, but the aggressivenature of the games is not transferred to players. All availableempirical evidence indicates that violent crimes have been decreasingwith time since the discovery of violent video games. Theeffectiveness of the violent video games in transferring other typesof knowledge and failing to transfer aggressiveness to players isbased on the fact that human beings (including children who like thegames) are selective and are more likely to absorb the positivecontent of the violent video game as opposed to its aggressiveness.In addition, violent video games enhance the development ofvisuospatial ability as well as the cognitive ability of the players.This increases the decision making capacity of players, thus reducingthe probability of them engaging in violent crimes after playingviolent games.


Adachi,Paul. and Willoughby, Teena. The effect of video game competition andviolence on aggressive behavior: Which characteristic has thegreatest influence? Psychologyof Violence1.4 (2011): 259-274. Print.

Annetta,Leonard. The “I’s” have it: A framework for serious educationalgame design. Reviewof General Psychology14.2 (2010): 105-112. Print.

Ferguson,Christopher. Blazing angels or residential evil? Can violent games bea force for good? Reviewof General Psychology14.2 (2010): 68-81. Print.

Kato,McGill. A video game improves behavioral outcomes in adolescents andyoung adults with cancer: A randomized trial. Pediatrics,122.2 (2008): 305-317. Print.

Nadeau,Branon. Videogames make society less violent.Storrs, CT: University of Connecticut, 2005. Print.

Wright,Will. Dream machines. CondeNast Digital.2006. Web. 1 August 2015.