“On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot 26 people, including 20 children, after also killing his mother in their home” (Harrington, 2018).This event specifically left an imprint on my mind and a provoking fear that hasn’t diminished since. As a Freshman at Mountain View High School, I walked into my 6th period algebra class. Everyone in the class sat down and my teacher shared some sorrowful news that would break my heart. She shared this tragedy with us, that a young man had come into an elementary school with a gun and killed 20 children and 6 staff members just a few hours prior. I remember this moment so vividly because I had never thought that someone would do this, let alone at an elementary school. I remember thinking to myself, how could someone even have the idea to commit a crime so horrible and actually go through with their violent thoughts? To this day, I still don’t know why or how this would happen. I bring up this personal anecdote not only to remember these students and teachers who were murdered but also to recognize the claim of Lanza’s excessive time spent playing violent video games. After this event happened, President Obama encouraged “Congress to dedicate $10 million to the study of the connection between violent video games and societal violence” (Ferguson & Olson, 2010). Similarly, a young man named Nathan Brooks committed two counts of attempted murder on his parents in March of 2013 and told police he did so because they grounded him and took away his electronic devices (Bates & Swan, 2018). These two stories seem to explain the effect of violent video games however Christopher Ferguson believes there is a larger problem that society is facing.
Ferguson (2014) states that, “we would do well to… concentrate on more pressing matters such as poverty, and forgo discussion of cultural issues, if we are really serious about crime”. He believes that the root of the problem lies within mental illness and there’s a lack of seriousness about why these crimes are being committed. The real question would be do these individuals have a family history of mental illness? Did they encounter any adverse childhood experiences early in development? Have they participated in other criminal activities besides the major violent offenses that have just happened? All of these questions should be analyzed when discussing why individuals would commit such heinous crimes as these. Kristin Bates and Richelle Swan further look at this issue from the perspective Adachi and Willoughby as they found that the “competitive element of playing video games … is linked to an increase in aggression over time, not necessarily the violent content of a given game”(Adachi & Willoughby, 2013). Although the competitive element is considered to be something that happens outside of the video game realm, there are some dangers to them.
Craig A. Anderson and Karen E. Dill conducted two separate studies that examined Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life. Both of these studies were obtained through the General Affective Aggression Model that predicts long-term or short-term aggression (Anderson & Dill, 2000). The first study looked at had a positive relation between violent video game interaction and aggressive behavior and delinquency (Anderson & Dill, 2000). The second study concluded that viewing and playing “graphically violent video games increase[d] aggressive thoughts and behavior” (Anderson & Dill, 2000). Anderson and Dill found that women view the world less hostile than men do within the study. In both short-term and long-term exposure is correlated to aggressive behavior. They suggest that the repeated practice of aggression in video games will lead individuals to act more aggressively in conflict situations, it will slightly alter the individual’s personality and overtime will change how the individual socially interacts with others (Anderson & Dill, 2000).
Anderson and Dill have further analyzed data on the violence within video games and discussed three specific prolonged effects it has on individuals. The first is that the person who is playing the video games would want to identify themselves to act like the aggressor within the game (Anderson & Dill, 2000). This could implicitly target children in their middle childhood who are struggling with self-esteem and acceptance from peers, family and classmates. If a child feels like an outcast in these various environments, they may suppress or escape their feelings by playing video games for hours on end. A negative outcome that could result from this is that the child may feel false acceptance from others on the gaming system, therefore they identify as an aggressive person and justify the actions of the virtual characters and in the end believe they can act similarly. Another concern discussed is the, “active participation involved in video games” (Anderson & Dill, 2000). As the child or adolescent chooses to play certain video games, specifically ones involving high violent behavior this may lead to them choosing other aggressive or violent media like TV or movies. Lastly, Anderson and Dill assume the danger of how addicting video games can be and the “reinforcement characteristics” it provides for aggressive behavior (Anderson & Dill, 2000). Similarly, to slot machines, Braun and Giroux (1998) conclude that similar to slot machines, video games have the same effect on individuals’ brains and the cognitive reward neurotransmitters are released. All in all, the simple act of playing violent video games doesn’t cause violence but can reinforce and provoke the user to learn these actions virtually.If the action of playing violent video games reinforces negative behavior, does that mean other sources of violence do the same? Bates and Swan (2018) state that, comic books were labeled as the “source of corruption of youth in the 1950’s”. Characters such as Donald Duck and Archie, animations directed towards children were concerning as they consisted of “romance, crime and horror”. Shortly following the peak of causal corruption in comic books music continued to influence youth in a similar way. A couple different artists that were associated as inappropriate, specifically for youth, was the genres of jazz and rap. Both of these genres were considered inappropriate during this time era. In the 1980’s, these types of music were put into the category of “lyrics [that] glamorize drug and alcohol use, and glorify death and violent rebellion, ranging from hatred of parents and teachers to suicide – the ultimate act of violence to oneself” (Bates & Swan, 2018). Not long after these violent acts were paired with exposure to media violence, individuals associated the act of listening to rap music with its causation in delinquency acts. During this era, Dr. Dre a famous “gangster rapper” hit records with his music that alluded to drugs, alcohol, gangs, violence, sexist language and explicit lyrics (Quinn, 1996). Straight Outta Compton, a population movie that came out in 2015 looks into the life of Dr. Dre and other artists from Los Angeles, California. This film goes into detail about how these men faced racial and ethnic disparity and were scrutinized by society for their controversial music Consequently, after this epidemic the technological advances occurring during this era resulted in the boom of “gaming” (Bates & Swan, 2018).
Stay tuned for the release of the remaining part of the blog for my final conclusions.
Adachi, P. J. C., & Willoughby, T. (2013). More than just fun and games: The longitudinal relationships between strategic video games, self-reported problem solving skills, and academic grades. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 42(7),1041–1052.
Anderson, C. A., & Dill, K. E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(4), 772–790. doi: 10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.1242
Bates, K. A., & Swan, R. S. (2018). Juvenile delinquency in a diverse society. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Braun, C , & Giroux, J. (1989). Arcade video games: Proxemic, cognitive and content analyses. Journal of Leisure Research, 21, 92-105.
Ferguson, C. J., & Olson C. K. (2010, July). The Supreme Court and video game violence: Will regulation be worth the costs to the First Amendment? The Criminology, 35(4), 18-24.
Ferguson, C. J. (2014, January 3). Lanza’s violent video game play overblown. Op Ed.Hartford Courant. Retrieved from http://www.courant.com/opinion/hc-op-ferguson-violent-video-games-blamessless-for-20140103-story.html
Harrington, R. (2018, December 14). It’s been 6 years since the Sandy Hook shooting. Here are the names and pictures of the 27 victims, including 20 children, who were murdered that day. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/who-were-the-victims-of-the-sandy-hook-shooting-2017-12.
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