For about ten years, there have been constant arguments about juveniles playing violent video games and the affects those games have on them. There have been school shootings, violent incidents, and juvenile delinquent behaviors that appear to have been linked to the physically violent video games they are interested in playing. The biggest argument about these violent video games are the games feeding into the juvenile’s aggression or are there other factors in the juvenile’s life. For instance, how is their life at home, what do they watch on television, are they abused, and what social economic status are they in. Technology progresses every day and so do the video games, the video game consoles, and the graphics. Years ago the games were violent, but the graphics were not near what they are today. Video games are no longer only a children’s toy they have become a significant cultural force crossing old demographic boundaries, and now the games are played either online or off (State of the industry report 2000–2001, 2001).
Players can play online, which means the player can play with anyone in the world. If the player has a headset they can hear other players, communicate with them, and share information to assist each other during the game. These games are considered Role-Playing games (RPG) and another type online video game is a Massively Multi-player online role-playing game (MMRPG) both of these are very popular with teens.
This paper will look at available, peer-reviewed, scholarly works to find out if violent video games cause juveniles to become more violent in their behavior. Also this paper will discuss the detail violence shown in the video games and what exactly juveniles are exposed to while playing. To begin, there will be a discussion of the violence and the ratings that go with the different types of video games. Along with the definition of different ratings and terms used in video games, other terms found in this paper will be defined. The method used to select the studies to be included will be discussed followed by the limitations of this paper. The effects of violence in video games and the effects on juveniles will be discussed in general terms and then broken down into more specific categories, that is males compared to female juveniles, how often the juvenile plays the video games, and so forth. Before the conclusion of the paper, areas that were identified as needing further research will be discussed.
Physically Violent Video Games
What makes a video game violent’shooting, killing, or running people over with a car’sex, drugs, or prostitution? The problem with this it depends on whom is making this decision. Games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB). The rating are from everyone (E) to adults only (AO).
Video Game Ratings
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) assigns each game an age-based label created by assessing several content rating categories, including violence, use of illicit substances, ill-mannered language, nudity, and sexual references. Research has shown that user rating and expert ratings were reliable and valid measures of the violent content in video games (Center, 2015). For example, some games that are considered violent are: Grand Theft Auto V (rated M for Mature), Call of Duty (rated Mature), Assassins Creed (rated Mature), and Hitman (rated Mature).
Grand Theft Auto V (also known as GTA V) allows the player to drive around a city. Players can exit the vehicle rob, beat, or rape people. The player can steal cars and get into a police chase. Players can also shoot and/or murder people. During the game the player can sleep with prostitutes, go into strip clubs, and use drugs. Of course, the rating Mature comes from the intense violence, blood and gore, mature humor, nudity, strong language, use of drugs and alcohol.
Call of Duty is a first person game where a player can go into warfare either solo or as a team. Players can organize a team and talk to other teammates to tell them when to move while in combat. The player can shoot people, blow people up with grenades, or cut a players throat. Killing a player is very graphic and bloody. Rating for this game is Mature based off the blood and gore, drug references, intense violence, and strong language.
Assassins Creed is a game where players feel guilty and are able to decide how much revenge they will purse as well as how they will assassinate other players. Players get rewarded for certain kills and taking down key targets. Missions include cutting someone’s throat from behind, breaking their neck, or stabbing them with swords. Assassins Creed is not as violent as the above games, but the killing is graphic. Rating for this game is Mature based off the brutal violence and strong language.
Hitman is a game where the player is a paid hitman. Players travel the globe and track down mob targets. The player can kill the target by any means necessary, but the most common way is by shooting them. Rating for this game is Mature based off the blood, intense violence, strong language, use of drugs and alcohol.
Video Game Violence
In violent video games, the player must identify targets, choose violent strategies to kill the targets and/or survive. Violence in video games is considered justified and entertaining. Some researchers argue that it has been proven that playing violent video games increases negative cognitions, affect, and behaviors. More work is needed to identify who is at more of a risk for negative impact and under what conditions negative outcomes are most likely to occur. (Funk, Flores, Buchman, and Germann 1999).
This paper is a literature review that examines published, peer-reviewed, scholarly works on the effects of juveniles playing violent video games and whether being exposed to the violence causes the juveniles to become more violent or aggressive. The search for qualifying works yielded hundreds of articles and published studies addressing the effects that violent video games have on juveniles. Literature was chosen to be included in this review that presented experimental or quasi-experimental studies which had reasonable control groups and dealt with relatively large groups of subjects. Since much literature looked at the same data from previous studies, albeit in different ways, studies and articles that did not cover the same material were selected for inclusion where possible. Newer works were favored over older works however, works from all decades since the argument started about violent video games may have an effect on a juvenile’s behavior are included.
This paper is limited to analyzing previously published works and presenting conclusions drawn from that analysis. No new experimentation or field research was conducted in conjunction with this paper and statistical manipulation of the data analyzed is outside the realm of this paper. The information presented here has the danger of being influenced by “publication
bias”. Publication bias is the phenomena of the findings of published papers being inflated simply because publishers tend to choose articles for publication that present significant findings while passing on articles that have less dramatic conclusions. In this case, there is a second level of potential publication bias which is, the author’s selection of works to include in this paper. An effort was made to select a representative subset of the available works for inclusion and not to only select those articles that had dramatic findings in favor or against violent video games. All selections were made with the aim of limiting publication bias in mind.
Violent Video Game Effects on Juveniles
There are a number of ways the effects of juveniles playing violent video games could be evaluated. First, it has to be determine what behaviors are being looked for and what ages will be tested. Previous reviewed literature, showed that violent video game exposure was associated with the following behaviors: an increased composite aggression score; increased aggressive behavior; increased aggressive cognitions; increased aggressive affect, increased desensitization, and decreased empathy; and increased physiological arousal (Calvert et al., 2017). These behaviors were looked at but there was insufficient evidence to show a potential link between violent video game use and delinquency or criminal behavior in juveniles.
Playing violent video games has been linked to juveniles having an aggressive personality. Juveniles exposed to excessive violent video games can lead to them being meaner, more aggressive, and more violent. They can also become more desensitized to violence (both in the media and in real life), more callous, and less sympathetic to victims of violence (Center, 2015). Of course, this has not been prove to be a definite effect on all juveniles. It has shown a popularity of violent video games and the level of the violence in the games can affect juveniles significantly. When a juvenile experiences aggressive behavior it can cause aggressive knowledge which can structure their minds to develop differently and may change the juvenile’s personality structure. A person’s personality is shaped by experience and requires repeated experiences to create lasting change.
Looking at the General Aggression Model (GAM) it acknowledges that (a) experience influences knowledge, perception, affective states, and belief; (b) which are used to guide people’s interpretations and behavioral responses to their social (and physical) environment; and (c) can become automatic with practice (Anderson & Bushman, 2002). Therefore, long-term effects can include a change in the individual’s personality or cause aggressive behavior. The main concern with these studies is the effects of prolonged exposure to playing the violent video games. How these juveniles see the world and react to it depends on the particular situational factors in their world and on the knowledge they have learned and habitually use. Unfortunately, juveniles can learn complicated behaviors, attitudes, expectations and beliefs through playing these violent video games.
It can be argued though that these juveniles see this type of behavior and actions on television also; so could it be strictly playing the violent video games or a combination of both. This is why these studies are great in learning the effects that the games can have, but the outside contributions also have to be looked at while investigating. Not only watching television, the home life has to be examined, the social economic status the family lives in, and what other things have gone on in the juvenile’s life. For instance, has the juvenile experienced any type of trauma in his or her life? Has the juvenile been severely abused or seen someone abused? These types of factors could also hinder these types of studies.
Desensitization to Violence
Which leads to the next factor that has shown a problem with juveniles in this day and age. Repeated exposure to violence in video games that juveniles play can cause a desensitization to violence. This means a person is experiencing milder physiological reactions and has become less anxious following repeated exposure to a stimulus (Anderson et al., 2010; Carnagey, Anderson & Bushman, 2007; Cline, Croft, & Courier, 1973). Desensitization is a gradual process that reduces a person’s initial arousal responses to an impulse.