Violence in Video Games (Unit 6)

Violence In Video Games

One of the biggest concerns effecting the games industry is the presence of violence in video games. There are many anti-video game activists who believe that violence in video games could cause violence in real life, and that children are being exposed to this violence- and it is causing them to be more violent. 

Jack Thompson- anti-video game activist.

There have been numerous studies on the subject, and the results often vary. For example the American Physiology association reported that "violent video game use has an effect on aggression".( APA Review on violent video game literature- page 16). However there have been studies that disagree with this, a study conducted by Oxford University on British primary school children, stated that there is no evidence of violent video games making children aggressive; at most it effects there behaviour and performance at school- but "only slightly so".

The study went on and stated:

"Overall those who played for less than an hour a day were less likely to have problems such as aggression than those who did not play at all."
This shows that aggression in the children who didn't play games, was higher than those who did, this could mean that aggression can be caused by factors such as:
 boredom, socio-economic disadvantages, an unhappy home life. There are many reasons why children are aggressive, it seems unfair to blame violent video games.
The study then stated:
"But those who spend more than three hours a day displayed higher levels of aggression and were less academically engaged." This may link video games to aggression, and bad academic performance, but who's to say that games are the source of these behaviors. There could be many reasons why a child is playing more than 3 hours a day on games, they could be getting bullied, they could have a bad home life, or maybe they just don't enjoy going to school, to a point where it makes them aggressive. Growing up is not easy, but video games might make it a lot easier- especially in the teenager years when you're too old for toys and playing.

Hypodermic Needle Model
 The reason for a lot of the blame going towards video games, is the "Hypodermic Needle Model", this theory states that a person will listen to the mass media's opinion on a subject, and accept it as a fact- even if there is no evidence to back it up, the media will blame real life tragedies on video games. An example is when Mass Effect 2 was blamed for the Sandy Hook School Shooting, it happened because the Shooters Brother like Mass Effect 2 on Facebook- the shooter carried his brother's ID to get into the school, so they originally thought he was the shooter. A lot of people went on Facebook and blamed Mass Effect 2

Uses and Gratification Theory

The uses and gratification theory is a theory which shows why people seek out and play video games.

Arousal – Arousal is a simple reason why people play video games, a lot of people play games for fun, games which stimulate arousal tend to have fast paced action, and pretty graphics. People who play games just for the arousal, will just as easily put the game down if they feel overworked.

Challenge – Many gamer's seek a challenge, when they play video games, this challenge creates a special kind of fun, which is very rewarding when completed. Gamer's who play for challenge, are much more prepared to fail than others

Competition – Gamer's might also seek competition, especially with online multiplayer games. The idea of winning, and being the best, can be quite rewarding to some people. It also might show dominance and power, and people do enjoy this; although not everyone will play a game for the glory of winning, you have to remember people who play games for competition put in a lot of work to become the best, they might notice gameplay patterns that others would have missed.

Diversion – The diversion aspect of video games is in common use among casual gamer's. Many people play games to relieve stress, and fill the free time they have. Games that aim at this audience should be quite short in length, but also very re-playable.
Fantasy – Fantasy is an important aspect of all video games, a game should let a player do something they probably haven't done in real life.
Social Interaction – Social interaction is a common theme in many online multiplayer games, many of these games have communication features such as: voice chat.

The following is a survey created on survey The survey asks questions about violent video games are if they affect gamer's. The audience of the survey are students of a games design class, I think this is a good audience to ask about the subject, because they have more than likely played their fair share of violent video games. However you could argue bias against the survey, as the only participants enjoy playing video games, but to this I say: not all gamer's enjoy the same games, not all play violent games, and not all gamer's agree with violence in video game, its all down to their own personal preferences. 
The gender question is just to show the difference in opinions between genders, however there seems to be a lack of female participants in the survey, so any opinions gathered will not really show the difference between male and female gamer's; as it will just show one or two opinions, compared to the other 20 answers it won't really show much. One of the most noticeable things in the audience of video games, is that the majority of gamer's are male, there have been statistics to say that nearly half of gamer's in the UK are female; but the survey does not really backup those statistics.
And according to the Oxford University study I referenced earlier- "Two thirds of the children said they played video games every day – although boys were almost twice as likely as girls to do so. Around one in 10 said they played more than three hours a day, again a group dominated by boys."

Age is an important part of the survey, because video games have PEGI ratings(age ratings). As you can see from the results the majority of people were 17 years old, this is an important statistic, as these people are not old enough to purchase rated 18 games- such as Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and many other popular titles. But this does not necessarily mean that these 17 years old have never played a game with an 18 rating, in fact, it seems quite silly for a 17 year old not being able to play a rated 18 game, as they are more than likely mature enough to play the game.

Time is an important thing to consider, when talking about the effects of playing video games. Playing video games is a type of hobby which involves sitting down and staring at a screen, if you play games for long periods of time, it could have effects on your health, for example it's not uncommon to become overweight or obese, if you spent a large proportion of your time sitting around playing games. This can also effect someones mental health- but not just in a negative way- in fact video games have been known to treat people with mental health problems, for example first person shooters have been used to treat soldiers PTSD. So playing games can possibly change someones mentality in a positive way, so it's also possible for a negative change to occur, playing violent games might cause a negative effect if the player is playing for excessive lengths of time.

The survey's results show that in a week 45% of the respondents played over 21+ hours on average in a week; however this is just an estimate. 21 hours is 3 hours a day, which is not too excessive- as long as their getting up every now and then and moving around.

These results show that the majority of the surveys audience play violent games on a regular basis. And only one person never plays violent video games, this shows that the audience enjoy playing games which are violent; though this does not really say that they play games because of the violence.

59% of the audience would not describe themselves as a aggressive gamer, however 40% say that they do get aggressive when playing video games; but this could mean that they just become frustrated or upset when they fail or struggle at the game.

Most of the audience do not take age rating into account, this is not surprising- as we know from the age question earlier-, 13 out of 22 people are over 18, so they don't need to take age ratings into account, because they can purchase any game for sale. The other 9 people, who are under 18 years old, cannot legally purchase a game rated 18, so they should be looking out for age ratings if they are purchasing the game themselves; but only 5 people do take age ratings into account.

The answers to this question show that 21 out of 22 people did not wait till they were 18 to play a game rated 18, 19 of these people were under 15, and 7 of them were less than 10 years old. This shows that- to gamer's- age ratings do not really stop people from playing games they are "too young" for; because their parents, or other family members will buy the game for them.

The Majority of people in the survey, believe that violence does not change their opinion of a game. The point of this question is to see if violence in games really changes the game for the player, this could mean the violence in the game is too grotesque- it is unbelievable, or disturbing. Some games will have a good level of violence, until one moment where it goes too far- for example GTA 5 had a torture scene which sparked controversy; some people will stop playing after seeing something like this, and they might not want to play to game again, or will not enjoy it as much. But according to the survey that percentage of people is likely to be lower- 18% of people's opinions have changed on a game, because of the in game violence; when compared to the 81 % who believe the opposite , it really just shows that some people are more sensitive to violence than others- they might not enjoy the site of blood, even when it's a digital graphic.

This could also link to Passive and Active consumption. Passive consumption means the audience of a game accepts a message the game conveys. Whereas active consumption means that the player engages in the message of the game. Both of these can change an opinion of a game, if the game is very violent and the player doesn't know why, it's passive consumption; some people don't like random killing in games, because it passes it off as being okay in the game world. For example the GTA 5 story involves a lot of killing, in order to complete mission, which eventually lead to heists- where the player steals a lot of money, the characters in the game are doing it for the money, but the player is playing for fun. Active consumption is more subjective, a player might not enjoy a game like  Battlefield, because of the fighting between different nations, for example in Battlefield 4, China are shown as the "bad guys", in a fictional war against them and the United States- someone from China might not enjoy this.

This question is an important question, many anti games activists will say something on the grounds of "Violent video games are murder simulators", this is quite a bold statement, as not everyone who plays a violent video games will turn into a psychopathic killer; the point many anti games activists will make is that violent games will desensitise people from real life violence, which might make them more likely to carry out violence. According to the survey, 63% of people say they are desensitised to real world violence because of video games, but this doesn't mean that they would be the ones committing the violence, it just means they can handle the sight of violence better because of the similarities it has with what they have seen in violent video games. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, and it could even have many positive effects on the world. It's possible that someone who has been desensitised by violence in games, could help stop real violence in real life- because they would have the courage to do so; this may seem like a bold claim with not much evidence to back it up, but it's the same as a video game activist claiming games are "murder simulators".

As for my personal preference on this question, I feel that I have not been 
desensitised by video game violence. I have seen videos of real life violent scenarios online- such as fights, and accidents- these video do cause me a lot of distress, but video games do not at all cause the same amount of distress.

68% of people said that violence scenes in video games did not cause them distress, this shows that a lot of the audience are okay with violent scenes in games.