Video Game Violence
Concerns about the effect of media violence on children extends back at least to the beginning of the mass media, with the issue raised with reference to films, radio, television, comic books, and so on. As technology brings new types of media to the fore, the issue shifts to depictions of violence in these new media. Both popular sources and scholarly address this issue, asking in effect how violent video games change children’s behavior and make them more violent, assuming that it is believed that this is the case.
The first issue is clearly whether or not violent video games have a detrimental effect at all. This issue has long been argued with reference to television in particular, with some seeing violence in society as in part caused by violence on television, while others see a minimal effect if they see any at all. Video games are assumed by many to have a greater effect because playing the game requires direct participation and involvement on the part of the young player, a situation which is more likely to affect behavior outside the game itself by desensitizing the player, by accustoming the player to certain responses, and in effect by training the player to be violent.
One of the reasons for the concern is the popularity of video games, as is noted by Gale (2003), who cites both the widespread dissemination of violent video games and research showing that violent video games contribute to violent behavior. He states first that video games have become “one of the most popular and profitable types of entertainment” and that “90 percent of U.S. households with children have rented or owned a video or computer game” (Gale, 2003, paras. 1, 3). Of course, not all such games are violent, though Gale says 80 percent have violent content and then writes,
The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have all concluded that there is a relationship between television violence and aggression among children (Gale, 2003, para. 9).
As Provenzo (1992) shows, concerns about this are not new, though the spread of such games has increased greatly over the past decade. As Provenzo notes, one of the greatest appeals of the video game is also one of the major reasons for concern:
Part of the appeal of video games might lie in giving children a means to activate the "passive" medium of television. In video games, children can enter into the character of movie and television heroes and take action as that character. The idea that video games are a means by which children can activate television is of crucial importance (Provenzo, 1992, para. 3).
Children acting out violent actions as television heroes...