Effects Of Violent Computer Games On Children

I received a question regarding violent computer games from one of you readers:

I am a 6th Form Media Studies student, investigating into the effects of computer games, particularly violent ones on children, and if the effects are different on boys to girls? I would very much appreciate an input from your view on this question and what you feel the effects are are on the different genders (boys and girls).

Before answering to this question I really must point out that this answer is only my opinion and I won’t even try to pretend that I’d know 100% how violent video games might affect on children – so don’t count on getting facts based on research. These are only my opinions and I deserve the right to be 100% wrong on this.

Let’s move on.

I don’t know if there’s any difference on the effects depending on gender. I believe both boys and girls can feel the effects of computer violence – perhaps some individuals differently than others, but in this matter I would put boys and girls in the same basket. I think – and that’s my guess alone – that violence in games has similar impact to boys and girls.

What I think today about violent games is very different from the thoughts I had when I was a teenager. As a teenager (and perhaps bit older too) I used to say “computer games don’t create violent behavior” and “computer games might be played by violent people – but that they were violent beforehand”. Today I have a bit different opinion.

I don’t think that playing violent video games would automatically create violence. I enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat and Doom and I think they had much impact on me. I read Dalai Lama’s and Gandhi’s texts and think they make lots of sense when it comes to non-violence. But in games… sometimes it’s fun to shoot some zombies.

While I don’t think violent video games automatically turn us into murderers, they might still teach us patterns on how to behave (mafia games might suggest that revenge is okay for example). In some (rare – I’d say) cases, some kids might really model violence they see in games.

I’m bit concerned what the violent games teach us. For example: when you play any strategy game and after you’ve killed “the terrorists” you see “victory”. Ask somebody who has really been on some war, and he’ll tell you that there are no winners in wars. Splitting world into “good guys” and “enemies” (or “terrorists”) is some sort of propaganda… and we buy that. The games teach us that “it’s okay to kill bad guys” – and I’m not sure if that’s such a good lesson. Are there truly “good” and “bad” guys, or could it be that “good guys” also happen to do “bad things”? And is it really a “victory” if you kill your enemy?

There are some games that use violence only for the sake of violence. I wrote about the violence in games in the past after I played Punisher game… and to be honest: I really think that type of violence isn’t suitable for children (not sure if that’s suitable for anyone now as I think about it). Basically in that game you shoot anything that moves and if somebody messes with you – then it’s your duty to kick their heads.

There has been research made on this topic, and I recommend checking out some academic research to get more detailed and informative insight on this matter (scholar.google.com and search for “violence in video games” could be a good starting point). I believe there you can find more factual statements based on actual research – instead of some blogger’s comments. :)

Bottom line. In my opinion, I think the game age ratings are there for a reason. Parents should check out those ratings and see what games their kids play. Not everything is suitable for children, and violent video games should be supervised like any other media.

Juuso Hietalahti