Have you ever noticed like me that there is much more violence going on in books, movies and TV shows or even in the TV news? That´s what some friends and me realized when we talked about this issue. The violence in movies is not only more realistic presented, it targets also a much bigger audience including teenagers and that even at times when they are still awake. And I don´t talk about the violent and bad language in movies, shows or songs that we could find every day.
Now there is a fresh new study from Canada which came to the result that playing violent video games for a long time can hold back the “moral maturity” of teenagers. They monitored 100 teenagers in the age of 13 and 14 and found out that playing video games weakened the empathy for others. Yes you did read right, they monitored 100 teenagers and mean that this would be a sufficient and representative number to find answers about morality, empathy and maturity.
The study says that teenagers who play violent video games, would lose a sense for “right and wrong”. They define “violent games” as games where you basically can maim, decapitate or kill other human game characters. Isn´t that an awkward scenario? I play a lot of games and can´t remember too much games where the target was to maim or decapitate human characters. Ok don´t understand me wrong, these named characteristics may describe the word violence very well but it simply does not describe the violence in recent popular games, so that I would say that this definition is not representative characteristic of mainstream games but rather a good description for violent horror movie or the TV news or newspaper.
And, if they mean that this is a representative definition of a violence in a game, then I do think that they should really study as well how some violent movies would affect teenagers. My main concerns with this new “video games are bad” study are that I did play so many games and my friends too and some of these games had indeed violent parts like “killing the bad” and so on but it didn´t affect me or my friends much. To be honest, I don´t think they will find answers about morality in a medium like games or movies.
The answer why violent games, books, songs or movies exist, the answer is found in our society. If you want to find violence then go on the street, open a news paper or watch TV news. How often do you see violence? How often do you here the word “war”? I do think games and movie stories are mostly built around our own imagination. Our imagination is build up from things we heard or experienced in the reality. Violence is reality and in reality it is much more violent than a game could ever represent. Game developers are inspired by this kind of violence as same as movie creators or writers are and the result is a product that contains violent story or gameplay elements. Games and movies for example are just the reflection of our reality. It is an interesting topic but how can someone study such a complex subject and the results based on just a single medium where violence could be found?
Don´t get me wrong, I hate real violence as well and I always shake my head if I read the news to find out that yet a nation bombed families and childs again just to achieve their economic interests for example. That is something that affects me pretty much because it makes me believe that there is not much of a morality in our world. I also hate it to read in the news that yet again another guy stabbed someone to death. Violence is bad but the root of violence is somewhere but not in games. Games simply present the imaginable violence of our real world.
Then the study says “Spending too much time within the virtual world of violence may prevent [players] from getting involved in different positive social experiences in real life, and in developing a positive sense of what is right and wrong.”
Oh really? I considered my self as a hardcore gamer years ago but I had a lot of positive social experiences in real life anyway and still do have good social experiences today. I think I can talk for my friends here too, because they played a lot of games and started with gaming very early as well and they all are socially very well bound today.
What does the new study about games tell us? Nothing. It is just another try to find answers about real life problems in a medium like games. You know what? I was always sad if I heard that again another person was running amok in a school for example but I had to laugh when I heard in the news “They found a computer game at his home and therefore games must be bad”. Is it really so simple? I don´t think so. Humans tend to find fast and simple answers in such hard times, and that will never change. But in reality, finding an answer is much more difficult and if it wouldn´t be, then we would not need experts like psychologists.
Even if the study was not exactly about this issue, I see a try to make a relation between psychological or social problems with video games. I am not sure if you can lay the blame on the door of the video game industry when we talk about social behaviour or similar subjects. The life of a person with social problems is much more complex than they want to tell us again with this study. In fact, this study does not give any answer.
What do you think?