Grand Theft Morale: The Effect of Video Games on Today’s Society
An epidemic was created when video games grew ever more popular, blaming them for influencing immoral behaviour. There is no profound evidence to settle the debate. However, there is an indication that video games may be subliminally manipulating our minds. The Columbine Massacre, to this day, is blamed on violent nature of video games for those horrific events. On 20th April 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an assault in Colorado, murdering a total of 13 and wounding 23 before turning the guns on themselves. The youths who committed the massacre were said to have taken an influence from playing the bloody shoot-’em-up, Doom – a game licensed by the U.S. military to train soldiers to “effectively kill”.
Their parents attempted to sue game makers; the lawsuit alleged: “absent the combination of extremely violent video games and these boys’ incredibly deep involvement, use of and addiction to these games and the boys’ basic personalities, these murders would not have occurred.” 25 companies were named in the lawsuit and the group sought $5 billion in damages including Sony, Atari, Sega, Activision and Nintendo to name a few.
Research shows 97% of children play video games. School children devote 7 hours per week playing games with parents are unaware of the brutality, bad language and violence of these games. What’s more, murders of children, by children, tripled in the three years leading up to 2008. Children who have suffered abuse and neglect as part of their upbringing committed such crimes. But were these children simply born ‘evil’? Or could it be they were influenced by terrible backgrounds?
In one survey conducted with children; 15% said their parents “always” or “often” check the age ratings before allowing them to buy video games; 53% said they “never” do. With a lack of parental oversight, morals can be severely distorted, potentially leading to violent and aggressive behaviour.
Nintendo created the Wii in an attempt to integrate families, receiving initial success due to its innovative technology. However, adolescents wanted ‘better’ games featured on Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s XBOX 360. The highest selling games are popular due to vivid graphics and violence. Children between the ages of 9-10 reported most of their favourite games were violent with a staggering 59% for girls and 73% for boys.
Activision’s Call Of Duty has been the highest selling and profitable game for 3 years. Call of Duty: Black Ops set the 24 hour sales record with $360 million, holding the title of best-selling game of all time. With games such as these being mass marketed, children want to acquire the latest trend with their parents being oblivious to what they are being exposed to.
Games including violence with cartoon-like characters are classified by the industry as being “appropriate” such as Artificial Mind’s Naughty Bear, 2010, rated PEGI 12 (avideo game about bullying and mental torture). Characters are teddy bears but there is no gore – murdered bears spill fluff instead of blood. Players are awarded points for torturing and bullying until the victim commits suicide; creativity in injuring and killing is encouraged and rewarded. If this game included people or realistic violence, it would be rated 18.
With this in mind, are video games rated 12 are less likely to desensitize a child to real-world violence rather than ones that are rated 15? It could more likely to result in real-world behaviour as they do not show the negative consequences of violence, such as pain, suffering and gore.
Shops are strict on selling age-rated games, liking it to selling alcohol to a minor. The growing online presence of video games – some of them extremely violent, sexist and racist – allows anyone to purchase these age rated games, without proof of age.
Are video games making us violent? During WWII, Nazi soldiers tortured and slaughtered the Jewish race under authoritative order. Immoral behaviour and violence occurred before video games ever existed. Are the media using video games as an excuse as opposed to allowing parents to take responsibility and accept that their child’s behaviour could potentially be a result of their upbringing and peers.
Millions play video games, yet the world has not been reduced to chaos and anarchy. The Japanese play video games more than Americans, but their society is much less violent.
The media blames video games. However, politicians who get critical about incorporated violence usually don’t want to worry about poverty, bad parenting and a culture that commends greed and war. Since the early 1990s, violent behaviour among youths has decreased, contradicting fears of a slighted media.
The bloody version of Mortal Kombat sold seven times more units than the less violent version of the same game. Violent video games are the most profitable and popular genre in the industry. For instance, in 2004, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sold over two million units in just five days.
Video games glamorize content in order to make missions feel like achievements for being immoral; Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto is one example. Its objective is to steal cars and hire prostitutes on street corners. These illegal actions are things you would never do in a real life situation but within GTA you are rewarded for ‘achieving’ them, such as a hero.
Previously mentioned Naughty Bear uses a similar scoring system; you are rewarded for how ‘naughty’ you can be. The player does not feel guilty or remorseful about what they are doing, potentially installing similar values into real life situations.
We are over exposed to so much violence that we have become desensitized to fear marketing such as horror films and charity causes. An experiment was conducted whereby a variety of subjects were shown to an audience linked up to MRI scanners. When shown images of real life violence, people who played violent video games were found to have a weak response. However, when the same group were shown other disturbing images such as dead animals or ill children they had a much more natural response.
Although there is significant evidence that video games have impacted and influenced behaviour and actions, it is substantial in a minority of cases such as Doom influencing the Columbine Massacre. The majority that play video games are not dangerous to society because they spend hours a day transfixed on the latest gaming craze and the correct measures and mediation of age ratings are utilised to keep this in order.
Violent media does have an effect on the minority. But there are other factors to consider other than youth’s hobbies, such as background and upbringing. There are many factors that can lead to violence, it is not solely due to a gaming obsession.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below.
Article written by Sophie May Cheetham – Design For Digital Media student at University of Salford with a passion and love for all things art, design, music and literature: Art & Design is a real escape for me and when I’m doing work I don’t feel like I’m labouring over everything as I enjoy it so much. I love expressing myself and helping people out with their artistic dilemmas. Every aspect of my life is creative; I love drawing, painting, writing, photography and listening to/playing music in my spare time. I love to create designs which are innovative and cleverly constructed, particularly ones that take a different (and daring) angle on a subject. Art and design is always changing and developing, so it’s very exciting to know that I will never stop learning and developing my artistic and design skills.