Doomed: Are Teens Taking Video Games to Far? A sniper perched high in a eagle’s nest zooms in through his scope to the head of his enemy, pulls the trigger, the enemy falls to the ground headless. This is a image that is common in the world of war, and now in the world of video games. Teens all over the world have become completely addicted to first person fighting games. With technology as great as it is today game makers are able to designed games that are so real it is truly scary. Millions of teens ( mostly male) play games in which they walk around various levels picking up weapons and killing ruthlessly their opponent. In the same day, we have teens walking around schools killing classmates ruthlessly. As an avid video game player I admit I have played many of the “shoot’em up” games. I completely agree that these games are fun and tend to feed the male ego. I also have played games that are too violent. Games wherein enemies bleed everywhere and almost nonstop. Games that you can see the opponent’s facial expression before your shoot them between the eyes. I have even played a game in which there is a secret level that is modeled after Columbine. Do these violent video games influence teen violence?
Probably the first violent video game was Death Race, which spawned in the 1970’s. The object was to drive and kill as many pedestrians as possible. Early games such as Missile Command and Space Invaders both had to do with the destruction of the planet. (Violence, 375) With the onset of “Nintendo” the video game world exploded, going from one home console to a 6.1 billion dollar industry. In the 1980’s video game companies designed games for every audience but many had a similar plot of violence. In a 1982 TV Guide eighteen popular video games were reviewed, fourteen of them were violent. There has always been some sort of violence in games. In the 90’s two of the probably most influential video games of the decade were introduced. Doom, and Quake they were first person shooters in which you went level by level slaughtering your opponents. With the onset of the internet, the companies who made Doom, Quake and others made their games available for anyone to download trial versions via the internet. Along with downloading the video games, gamers where allowed to play other players across the world. Another huge game that had plenty of violence and gore in it was the arcade smash Mortal Kombat. The public finally realized how violent video games were when this game was released in 1994 for home consoles. The publics concerns led to congressional hearings in order to set up a rating system for video games similar to the rating system used in movies and television. ( 375) After the hearings a definant rating system was set on all games in order to prevent young children from viewing the bloody violence seen in games. The rating systems ranged from; “E” for everyone, “T” for teens and “M” for mature. Today violence is apparent in thousands of video games. The question now is, where does the American public stand on this issue?
If one where to utilize a search engine and look up the words “Teen Violence” they would find numerous articles, journals, and publications stating several opinions on the issue at hand. They all come down to two arguments: those that feel that video games directly correlate to teen violence; and those who oppose the idea that any video game or media tool could cause such actions in a young adult.
Proponents of the idea that video games could directly cause teen violence hold one core belief: video games encourage/promote teen violence directly, and that inherently violent children are only encouraged further by such intensely violent games. The American Medical Association (AMA), in a statement before a House subcommittee in 1994, stated this: “like violence depicted elsewhere in the media, video game violence has a horrifying potential to coarsen society, promote acts of violence against real victims, and desensitize children to the real thing” (“Violence…” 195). Their report mentioned some preventitive measures such as the previously mentioned rating system as well as the “inclusion” of statements warning players of the “real life” effects of killing fellow human beings. The AMA also added the following,
“ scenes should be incorporated into games in which the consequences of violent acts are depicted…such as an ambulance rushing the character to a hospital or cemetery, and other characters representing the family and friends of the injured or killed character crying and grieving” (195).
The AMA feels that such definitive “warning labels” could at least educate young teens about the horrors of killing live human beings, and assure them that such matters are not humorous. The rating system mentioned would help parents take preventive measures against the mere purchase of such video games; thus preventing some children from even coming into contact with such actions of violence.
On this same note, the Video Software Dealers Association has vowed to enforce the current rating system as a means of helping parents take preventative measures against the purchase of these games. The VSD opposes government regulation of video games and instead feels that parents should be the means of control and filtering (“Do video games...”). The Dealers Association has taken it into their own hands to avoid, what they feel a potentially harmful situation, of kids killing in games as well as even on the streets.
Another proponent of the idea that media and games cause teen violence is the American Pyschological Association. Countering claims that some children are merely “prone to violence”, the APA states that, “Violence is learned behavior, and it is often learned in the home or the community from parents, family members, or friends” (Do video games…”). It is APA’s belief that, in fact, the violence seen on video games can and are learned by those who play them. With such influences, it may be difficult to recognize the other side of this issue. Nonetheless, not unlike those who feel games influence teens, there are those who hold a strong conviction against the idea of any video games influencing young adults.
Those who oppose the idea of video games affect teen violence have the following main arguments: Other countries with similarly violent games do not show as much evidence of a higher level of teen violence; that if video games affect teens that tremendously than we must censor other materials; and finally, there is no factual, or “hard core” evidence to support the idea.
Brandon Trissler, a video game reviewer for Console Domain, holds the belief that Japanese teen gamers who play first person shooters and other violent games, that are excrutiatingly more violent, seem to show no signs of youth violence(especially among their peers). Many think that it is due to our culture that teens aquire the need for violence. Trissler adds, “I don’t buy that. It is to easy to blame this type of senseless violence on death matches and BFG’s in video games…if these games inspire so much violence, why aren’t there more Japanese players acting in the same way? After all, the game culture there is even more violent than in the [United States]”( “Do Video Games…”). Trissler makes a good point: Could it be our culture that brings on this level of teen violence?
Another opponent, Henry Jenkins, director of comparitive media studies at MIT, argues that “violent video games alone cannot lead to violence.” He adds that if this were true and we tried to “clamp down on everything that triggered unstable people” then, “the Bible would be on of the first things we’d want to ban” (“Do video games…”). Jenkins attempts to point out that censoring the whole world is unrealistic and that if we must start somewhere, it might as well be the Bible; a book that holds as many acts of violence as some video games today. His conclusion: where do we begin the censoring?
One final argument would be that of a lawyer: where is the evidence? There is no clear, proven evidence that any video game has directly affected a teenager, and perhaps leading to an act of violence. For example, the incident at Columbine High School in Colorado: members of the media tried to link these shootings to media violence and namely, video game violence. It was thought that these boys have played so many shooting games like Doom and Quake that they were brainwashed and became “in love” with the violence they were involved with (Do Video Games…”). Regardless of all these findings it cannot be proven “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that these video games caused the shootings.
.In my opinion, I think that American teens are in a struggle to find themselves in our culture today. Teens are in a endless pursuit to discover who they are and want they want. Young people walk a thin line with confidence issues and moral dilemmas. I think that many teens are just violent by nature and will do things on their own free will. I believe that video games along with other sorts of media just seem to encourage youth violence. In short, I do not think that video games facilitate teen violence, I just think that it stirs the anger instilled in some violent youths. In the future, I think that better parenting, stronger regulation, and maybe a slower production of violent video games will help those teens that are affected by violent media.
It is clear that there are established points on this matter. It is going to be solely up to the government, parents, and game companies to plan the attack of ending teen violence.