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Can Videogames Cause Violence?

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During my lunch break today, I came across an article that piqued my interest on Forbes about a District Attorney in California starting a buyback program in the vein of the gun buyback program. Instead of guns, it’s violent videogames, and instead of money, you get ice cream. As Marla Hedlund was quoted in the original article, “[c]hildren reflect the culture they live in… This is really all about having a conversation with our community and our children about the culture of violence.”

Here’s the thing: Marla is 100% correct. Violent videogames can affect children in a negative way. Much in the same way that you wouldn’t give a child a weapon without the proper training first, violent videogames are not appropriate to give to children or to even be played while children are around.

Serving both as an Adolescent Mental Health Counselor who works with children in the K-5 age range, and who is also  level 115 on GTA Online, I can point my finger directly at the group at fault. The bad guys are not the game developers, retailers, or ESRB raters; the fault lies directly with the parents. In a society which is becoming more “me-centeric” and electronically connected, parents are often becoming more detached from their kids, using the popular “electronic babysitter” to do the miserable job of dealing with their children for them. The newest buzzword for dealing with these electronics is “screen time.” The idea is to limit the amount of screen time the children are getting for those hours at night when the teachers aren’t watching your kids for you. However, what is being done to monitor the content that the kids are seeing when they are on those screens? Are the kids watching Phineas and Ferb, or are they watching a speed run of Assassin’s Creed 2 and ⅔? Because let’s give them some credit – even kids know to stay away from AC3.

The common question asked is this: “do videogames make people violent?” Thing is, that is the wrong question to ask. It’s too direct, and it assumes all people are the same. The better question is, “can videogames make people violent?” The answer to that is yes. Yes, videogames can make people violent. Can they make me violent? Only when I get blown out playing NHL 15. Can they make you violent? Probably not. Can they make an eight year old autistic boy with minimal parental supervision violent? Yes, they can. Not, “they absolutely do,” but they can.

frozen gta

Maybe this isn’t the Frozen game your daughter wanted…

Do I have proof? There have been numerous studies done on this topic, and often with conflicting results. All I can offer are anecdotes and stories of my time as an avid gamer working in adolescent mental health. There have been days when kids that were prone to violence beforehand had exposure to Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or Duke Nuk’em (poor kids), which, in my opinion, led to more frequent outbursts of violence. How do I connect this? When asked about the child’s previous night, on several occasions the parents have responded with a, “he played Grand Theft Auto,” or, “she watched her dad playing Assassin’s Creed.” Could Suzy have watched dad get drunk and hit mom with a belt after playing Assassin’s Creed? Yes. However, when Billy responds that he learned to kick like that from his Xbox, you begin to question things.

So, how do we change this? We can’t. Sorry. The game developers aren’t going to stop making violent games, and they shouldn’t. That isn’t their problem, and you probably can’t do anything about this. I can tell the parents of the kids not to let them play games out of their ESRB-approved age range. Can I force them to? No. When a family is on a fixed income and can afford only one or two games a month, guess who usually picks which ones to buy for the family? The parents. Dad doesn’t want to play Pokemon or Mario Sunshine. Dad wants to play Call of Duty 6: The Dutying. So, little Timmy, hunker down with your carbonated sugar water of choice and watch Daddy get a killstreak, and do the best you can to understand the difference between the fantasy of 360 noscopes and the reality of hurting a living person. Because your daddy probably can’t be bothered to teach you that.

About Kyp Madak

I'm just a simple man, trying to make my way in the universe.

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