On June 27, 2011, the U.S. Resolved the case of Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association. It’s ruling not only decreed the protection of video games under the First Amendment but also established that video game content could not be regulated by governments. The main driving force for this ruling was the lack of convincing psychological evidence linking violent video games to violent behaviors. Psychological and scientific research is a reliable source in the courtroom when addressing the cause of criminal behavior. However, the lack of consistent empirical data linking video games to effects on youth and their violent behavior indicates that violent video games are not the cause of violent behavior in kids and teens.
Many experiments of the past decade have concluded no correlation between violent video games and violent behavior. In one study, the participants had two choices of video games. One had the participants playing as a car avoiding collisions with trucks and another where the participants played as a mouse avoiding being caught by a cat. After the game concluded, the players were asked to label various images. Players who participated in the car game were instructed to identify if the image shown was a truck and players who participated in the mouse game had to identify pictures of cats. This is a psychological phenomenon known as Priming. Priming is a technique where exposure to one stimulus will influence the response to a subsequent stimulus. The point of this experiment was to see if playing the video games allowed faster reaction time when identifying the images. However, participants in both video games were no quicker at categorizing those images. This is just one of many experiments done that concluded with no correlation between violent video games and violent behavior.
As a society, when catastrophic events occur, people tend to place the blame on one thing only. For example, whenever school shootings occur, people from both sides of the argument will place the blame on factors like gun control or mental health issues. These issues are very complicated with no simple answer, and the country continues to debate the source of the question to this day. Violent video games have become one of those variables to be blamed for violent behavior. In general, most violent outbreaks in society will be blamed on one singular factor. This treatment is not exclusive to video games, but unfortunately, society will continue to place blame on singular factors. The truth is, if people continue to blame tragic events on only one variable instead of looking at the issue on a grander scale, locating the actual issues and taking action to prevent those events from occurring will become increasingly difficult.
Although there is a lack of evidence linking violent video games to violent behavior, can the same be said for aggressive behavior? The argument that violent video games may impact kids leading to an increase in aggression definitely has merit. Organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) acknowledge violent video games as a risk factor for aggression. Although this argument has merit, there is a glaring flaw in it. Violence is a form of aggression, but not all aggressive behaviors are violent. Aggressive behavior could be an assertive and forceful pursuit of a goal or interest. For example, if a player is losing in a video game, they may start to play more aggressively and take more risks towards winning. This is not exclusive to a video game. This behavior is observable in sports when a team is losing, or even in academics when a student starts to place a higher emphasis on studying after a bad test.
Ever since it’s conception, video games have been a target by the media. They have been blamed for many tragedies such as the Columbine shooting in 1999, and more recently, the Parkland shooting of 2018. Video Games will continue to be the scapegoat for future tragedies, However, until there is sufficient empirical data, there is no link between violent video games and violent behavior.
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