Violent actions in video games have sparked controversy for many years over whether or not the violence causes those who play the video games to become aggressive and violent themselves. Because most consumers and players of video games are adolescents and young adults, many parents are fearful of what their children are playing, and what it is they are being shown. So the question is, do violent video games cause violent behavior in adolescents and young adults? The answer is yes, they do cause violent behavior, because witnessing violence, as well as being the one causing it, causes a psychological change in one’s mental state, causing them to become more aggressive. This issue, if left unaddressed, may very well turn most of the younger generation into violent delinquents and criminals.
Any Violence Brings More Violence
Most video games have violence in them, even if it is an extremely small amount or of a cartoon style. Anderson, Gentile, and Buckley (2007) created an experimental laboratory study in which elementary school students and college students were randomly assigned to play either a violent or nonviolent video game, which was then followed by a number of measurements, including a standard laboratory measure of aggressiveness, that resulted in the fact that even children’s games that contained cartoonish violence increased aggression for both the children and the college students, which means that even more developed brains are not immune to the effects of the violence, no matter how small.
More Exposure Means Longer Term Effects
Higher levels of exposure to violent video games have predicted a long term increase in aggressive behavior. From the same article, Anderson et al. (2007) described two more studies, which show the effects of long term exposure to violent games. Study 2 was a survey study of high school students’ media habits and several aspects of aggressive personality. The main result was that high levels of exposure to violent video games predicted aggressive personality measures of anger, hostility, and aggressive and violent behavior, even after statistically controlling for theoretically relevant variables. Study 3 was a longitudinal study of the effects of elementary school children’s media habits on aggressive behavior across part of a school year. Children who had higher exposure to violent video games early in the school year became more verbally and physically aggressive later in the school year, and less helpful. These effects were partially mediated by children’s hostile attribution bias. Additional analyses suggest that the violent video game effects are larger than violent television and movie effects, and are at least as large as several other known risk factors for youth violence.
Time Spent Playing is Increasing
Studies show that over the past seventeen years, the amount of time adolescents have spent playing video games all over the world has increased dramatically. Through research, Exelmans, Custers, and Van den Bulck (2015) have found that Americans aged eight to eighteen years old play approximately one hour and fifteen minutes of video games per day. However, in 1999, the amount of time American children played them was twenty four minutes per day, which then went to forty nine minutes per day in 2004, and then to seventy three minutes in 2009. Not only that, but in Europe, earlier studies have found that Belgian adolescents played an average of one hour and twelve minutes per day, and their Dutch counterparts played approximately one hour and thirty seven minutes per day.
The General Aggression Model
The General Aggression Model is a model that is commonly used to measure relationships between violent and aggressive behavior and their causes, as well as to describe their effects. Exelmans et al. (2015) stated that “The General Aggression Model (GAM), which provides a comprehensive synthesis of prior theoretical models, is commonly referred to for explaining these relationships (Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson & Groves, 2013; Carnagey & Anderson, 2003). The GAM is a social cognitive model that describes the short- and long-term effects of exposure to media violence on aggressive behavior (Anderson & Groves, 2013; Dewall & Anderson, 2005). For the short-term effects or single episode cycle, the GAM postulates a three-stage process whereby situations (i.e., provocation, unpleasant environment) and person factors (i.e., traits, values, and attitudes) indirectly influence the likelihood of aggressive behavior through thoughts, feelings or physiological arousal. For the long-term effects, the GAM specifies that chronic exposure to aggression-related stimuli such as media violence results in the development of a more aggressive personality. By changing an individual’s attitudes and beliefs and their beliefs about other’s behavior, an aggressive personality develops. In other words, individuals who repeatedly experience situations that provoke aggressive thoughts gradually develop and reinforce aggression-related knowledge structures. The repeated activation of these knowledge structures results in a higher accessibility and thus higher likelihood of them being used in social situations. In particular, repeated exposure to media violence may result in decreased attention to violence, a more positive attitude towards violence and increased antisocial behaviors such as aggression and delinquency
(Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Anderson & Bushman, 2002; Anderson & Dill, 2000; Bushman & Anderson, 2002)” (268). This article references many of its own sources, so it is very well supported. Also, the studies done by Anderson et al. (2007) that were discussed earlier have had their findings integrated with the risk and resilience approach and the developmental aspects of the General Aggression Model.
Mental Effects of Violence
Studies have shown that violence in video games have a major effect on the psychological minds of those who play them. Exelmans et al. (2015) stated that “In a metaanalysis of 136 studies, Anderson et al. (2010) found that exposure to video game violence was associated with higher levels of (1) aggressive behavior, (2) aggressive cognitions, (3) aggressive affect, (4) desensitization, and (5) decreases in prosocial behavior” (268).
Realism and Immersion Have Greater Effects
Many games use a sense of realism and realistic controllers, using both shape and motion controls, to create a feeling of immersion. However, using this immersion in violent video games may multiply the effects. McGloin, Farrar, and Fishlock (2015) created a research article on the effects of realism, immersion, and motion controllers on the levels of aggression that stated that “Previous research links violent video game play and aggression, and shows that playing games using natural mapping motion capturing controllers increases immersion and perceptions of realism. We extend current research by experimentally testing whether the “weapons effect” emerges when using a realistic gun controller to play a violent first-person shooter video game. The results provide compelling evidence that using a realistic firearm controller positively impacts cognitive aggression. Participants playing with the gun controller also experienced increased perceptions of game realism and feelings of immersion. The findings raise concerns about the harmful effects of popular realistic firearm controllers and are discussed in terms of the model matching hypothesis and the weapons effect. Given what is known about violent video games, realism, immersion, and aggression (e.g., Ivory, 2005; Ivory & Kalyanaraman, 2007; Lin, 2013; McGloin et al., 2013), we argue that using a realistic gun controller to play a violent video game, while witnessing enacted violence on the screen, may be a potential “triple whammy”” (280-282).
Do violent video games cause violent behavior in adolescents and young adults? While there are some positive aspects of playing them, overall, they cause massive changes in personality and behavior, making people more aggressive and violent. Once again, the key points that support this is that any amount of violence can increase aggressiveness, high levels of exposure to violent video games predicts a long term increase in aggressive behavior and personalities, different genders, both as players and in-game avatars, cause different levels of aggression, the time spent playing violent video games by adolescents and young adults is increasing, there are specific psychological effects that violent video games cause, the use of the General Aggression Model to show increased violent tendencies, and the use of realism and immersion in violent video games causes greater effects. To prevent the violent behavior, one should limit the amount of time playing video games to about an hour per day, as well as restrict the sale and use of especially violent video games to adolescents under certain ages, as indicated by the ESRB ratings on them. That is the best way to prevent violent and aggressive behavior in those who play violent video games. Also, while many people who play these games and do not even remotely show their violence or aggressiveness, it can easily be seen or shown by taking away their televisions or video games and examining how they react. After all, as many of us gamers tend to say, “They say TV makes you violent, but not having my TV is making me pretty violent.”
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VIOLENCE AND AGGRESSION IN VIDEO GAMES AND ITS EFFECTS ON ADOLESCENTS