Do Video Games Really Cause Violence?
Misconceptions tend to ruin experiences, whether of those purchasing an electric vehicle, or of someone letting their child play video games. With beginnings in the 1970s, video games were blamed for all sorts of violent tendencies that children would exhibit. Things got worse in the early 2000s, with the widespread availability of the internet.
From shooter games, to open world video games where the sole purpose of the game is to steal cars and essentially cosplay a sociopath, adults were convinced that playing video games could be a huge problem for their children’s upbringing.
Today, we know differently, or rather, we are not afraid to ask with an open mind, do video games cause violence?
The Tragic Columbine High School Massacre
On April 20, 1999, in Columbine high school, in the eponymous town in Colorado, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold committed what is known as the Columbine High School Massacre, killing twelve students and a teacher. Twenty one more people were injured during the shooting.
Klebold and Harris intended the shooting to be a bombing first, but the homemade bombing device failed, and they resorted to shooting.
This is related to gaming, because both were fans of Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. Harris had a blog on which he posted custom Doom levels, among other things. This prompted the community to develop even more animosity towards video games, particularly violent ones.
There were attempts at lawsuits against the developers, but that was quickly dismissed by the court. Even though FBI psychologists concluded that Harris was a clinical psychopath and Klebold had depression, the stigma stuck with video games. However, there has been much debate about the conclusions of the FBI psychologists.
Media Portrayal Sometimes Helps – But it Often Doesn’t
Whenever there is drama in the world, no matter the industry, the media get all over it, often spinning stories so that they seem more than they actually were. Whenever something tragic happens, the story is often blamed on things that are far-fetched.
A child jumping off a building or into a well is blamed on comic books, superhero movies, or video games. A parkour practitioner falling while standing on top of an old building’s skylight can hardly blame parkour for their own lack of awareness or common sense.
Yet, in the eyes of the media, the best story is the one that gets people emotional and talking, and in such cases, video games often took the brunt of the attack. In recent years, things changed, because people learned how to do their own research and not trust just one source of information.
What the Science Says
When it comes to science and research, there are many studies with regards to video games. One study deals with how video games can help gamers excel in task-switching and changing workflows in a heartbeat. This is a rather positive side effect that most gamers, particularly experienced ones, are exposed to and can benefit from.
Another study deals with how those who play violent video games, can have less social skills, and then a subsequent one on the same topic, finds different results. The problem here is that even under the best circumstances, scientists cannot get results which match and which other studies can confirm with certainty.
A study has also found that playing extremely violent video games seems to potentially increase aggressiveness, but only up to 15 minutes.
Nothing is conclusive, when it comes to video games and violence, but it seems to be in favor of them not leading to an increase in aggression and violent behavior.
What the Gamers Say
Depending on the gamer and the video game they prefer playing, the general consensus doesn’t conclude much, just as with the studies. Some games have a bad reputation, as far as the communities are concerned, such as League of Legends. League players tend to be “toxic”.
What this means in practice is that chatting will be a very bad experience, with people tending to be on the negative side of things, often cursing and using slurs. Most of the community would agree that this stems from the players often being either very young, in their teen years, or frustrated and without other hobbies or interests.
Online multiplayer games are the ones that are often associated with negativity and each game has its own stereotypical negative behavior trends. These are speculations and there is no real scientific evidence to back things up, at least nothing that is conclusive.
What Could Trigger a Gamer
Video games, especially online multiplayer games, can cause people to behave differently. When a game is competitive, the person playing wants to win, and will feel all the emotions that go with that, especially if they are on a losing streak.
Gamers dislike being interrupted when they are playing a competitive game, though depending on the situation, some react better than others, according to the context. Some are better at handling stress.
If someone loses their internet connection or if their computer freezes, they are likely to get annoyed. If someone interrupts a gamer during a high-stakes moment, they might even lash out. Most of the time, gamers blame others for their mistakes that led to a loss, which is known as the “my team is holding me back” attitude, or deflection.
From technical difficulties to a bad result in game, from a stressful day and accumulated stress, anything could annoy a gamer. That doesn’t mean a gamer will resort to violence or violent behavior after such an experience.
There is not enough evidence that video games cause violent behavior and violent tendencies. Many people will have anecdotes about gaming and outbursts, which can be a normal occurrence if someone loses an important match, or has had a bad day. But you can also see tennis players smashing their rackets when they lose a point, but that doesn’t mean that tennis makes people violent.
Also, gaming has some benefits when it comes to approaching tasks and problem solving, and are a valid career opportunity, as the professional gaming industry, as well as streaming, are growing.
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