Video games have become one of the favorite activities of adolescents worldwide. A growing body of research is linking video game play to violent, aggressive and anti-social behavior. The purpose of this study was to “Investigate the impact of video gaming on society to determine whether it leads to aggressive, violent, anti-social behavior”. The first aim of this study was to document the different type of video games and how they work through electronic devices and also to examine associations among video game exposure and the impact it has on school grades and obesity levels. The second aim was to indentify factors which lead to violent, aggressive and anti-social behavior and the extreme lengths in which advertisers and players reach to enjoy the benefits of video games. In addition this study also presents brief outline of the current ratings and censorship on video games in Australia.
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The overall result of the study revealed that adolescents who expose themselves to greater amounts of video game violence were more were more likely to perform more poorly in school and increase obesity levels. The research also suggested that exposure to violent video games may increase angry and hostile feelings while interacting with peers, teachers and adults. Other results include that the encouragement of violence and the use of weapons like guns, knives, pipes and bombs in video games can ultimately lead to real life situations of violence. The study also goes to length by examining some video games which have been banned due the violent and inappropriate content. The study altogether reveals that modern technology for example video games have an association with many current issues in society like violence, obesity and the extreme addict adolescent have to video games.
Section One: Introduction
The impact of video games has become a controversial issue in modern times. The gaming industry has grown enormously through the evolution of modern consoles, games and accessories. The hype that surrounds new technology and technology gadgets is unprecedented even in the world of gamers.
Video games now play a huge role in society affecting many people around the globe. According to many studies, Video games can increase aggressive behavior and emotional outbursts and decrease inhibitions in many people. (Kardaras 2008). Teenagers are mostly affected by video games because nowadays in many of the richer countries it is perceived as a necessity in their lives, rather than a privilege. This paper provides an investigation into the impact of video gaming on society to determine whether it leads to aggressive, violent, anti-social behaviour.
For the purpose of this examination the information has been broken up into six sections. The first section examines what video games are and the different types of games found in the gaming industry. Next I look at how video games have an impact on society and then the possible factors which lead to aggression, violence and anti-social behaviour. Section five explores how video games have been used to form a second life. The final section will discuss how effectively game ratings restrict anti-social and adult content
The information presented in the first three sections is instrumental for the factors which lead to aggression, violence and anti-social behavior. There is no question that video games have an impact on society and it has become a huge problem in recent years. One thing that is certain is that the gaming industry is growing rapidly which increases the impact of video games on the society.
Section Two: What are video games and the different type of video games?
A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device. The electronic systems used to play video games are known as platforms .There are many different platforms which video games can be played on. These are personal computers and video game consoles. These platforms range from large computers to small handheld devices (Video Game 2009)
Video game platforms have become very common in households around the world. The Australian Bureau of Statistics completed an extensive investigation into the Australian Gaming industry and the results clearly show that gaming is widespread in society and that it continues to grow. Some of their findings include:
The Australian games industry is worth an estimated $140 million per year
- Australians spend over A$2 million per day on interactive computer games
- Annual compound growth of the industry is 12.3%
- 12.5 million games were sold in 2006
- 6.1million video game consoles have been sold since 2000
- 3.6million Australian households have a video game console
- 4.8million Australian households have an internet enabled PC which is capable of playing games
The platforms continue to evolve and become more and more sophisticated with time. Some platforms have been designed so that a gamer can access their video games at any time; for example with the PSP (play station portable) a gamer is able to carry his console around with him/her anywhere. The Wii console set a new precedent for the gaming world, trying to create a physical gaming experience. When it was released in December 2006 it was the fastest selling gaming console in Australian history, “In the first four days of its launch in December 2006, 32,901 Wii units were sold nationwide” (Moses 2006). It bought a new dimension to the industry; its main selling point was that it had games that allowed gamers to exercise reducing the need for outside activity and trying to curb obesity.
Due to the revolution of new game consoles there are many different types of games which are being played these days. These games range from action to puzzle to driving games. According to Caruana, Caruana and Bruner 2009 the seven different types of game that can be identified are action, adventure and role playing, arcade, strategy, simulation, driving and puzzle games.
Action games usually have a large amount of violence due to their fast-paced nature. Many of these games fall under the category of mature rated games which are inappropriate for children. Some games are milder but may contain suggestive themes. Action games may allow the user to play person against person or person against animal/alien. Some examples of such problematic games include Halo, Star Wars, Jedi Knight and Enter the Matrix (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Adventure and role playing games are usually less graphic than action games and typically have an element of surrealism and fantasy. Many times these games are combined with a role playing element and allow the character to initiate dialogue. These adventure and role playing games are designed to be less intense than action games; they often do include violence. These games tend to be among the most addictive due to the narrative fantasy themes. Examples of this genre are Starfox Adventures and Billy Hatcher. (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Arcade games can be almost anything from the violent Street Fighter to the classic Pacman. This category includes games that cover the entire spectrum of ratings. Many older arcade games have been updated and turned into 3-D. Some examples are Pacman and Soul Caliber 2. (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Strategy games most often involve tactical movement of troops and/or players. These games may be warfare based or may be as simple as chess. The content of many of these games can be appropriate for children but they tend to be difficult to play. Combat is often slower paced and allows time for strategic thinking. Some examples are Advanced Wars I & II and Chessmaster 2000 (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Simulation games are often aircraft simulations. You get to fly a jet or a helicopter. Most have nothing more to them than the destruction of enemies; rarely do they use excessive language. Some games in this category include Secret Weapons Over Normandy and SimCity. (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Driving games are most often racing, but some are also crash derby or mission-based. Players usually get a choice of car and get better and better cars over time. Some of these games are Project Gotham Racing, ATV Offroad Fury, and the highly offensive Grand Theft Auto. (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Puzzle games are rated for everyone. They all involve thinking and logic skills. A common puzzle game is Tetris. Many others are Tetris-like or involve color matching skills. Many games incorporate puzzle aspects but are not true puzzles. Some of the puzzle-incorporating games fall under Action or Role-Playing games. (Caruana, Caruana & Bruner 2009)
Section Three: How do video games have an impact on society?
Adolescents and children are the groups most exposed to video games. They are at such crucial stages in their development and highly influenced by their environment which is why they are deliberately targeted time and time again by the gaming industry and advertisers. It is a common belief in society that they are becoming increasingly exposed to games that cause some to become violent, aggressive and antisocial.
According to Gentile, Lynch, Linder and Walsh (2004) the average child in the USA aged 2-17 years old plays video games for seven hours a week. This average masks wide differences between boys and girls and children of different ages. There is a gender difference in the number of hours spent playing games. In modern studies it has been shown that adolescent girls played video games for an average of five hours a week whereas boys averaged thirteen hours a week.
The two aspects of video game use that are of interest are the amount of time involved and the content. With respect to content, researchers have been most interested in violent games compared with non-violent games. Although not all studies have differentiated between violent and non-violent content this is an important distinction as it is likely that the effects of amount of play and the content of games may be independent of each other. For example most evidence suggests that amount of play affects school performance whereas violent content affects aggressive outcomes (Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh 2004). Although Greg Thom reports that “The games which have the most positive impact on users are educational games which help users with the enhancement of visual and communication skills” (Thom 2009).
A good indicator of the negative effects of video games is its impact on school and grades. School performance is very essential for many adolescents and their families all around the world. Performance at school will offer more opportunities for the students in the future. While students are provided with these opportunities for the future many adolescents around the world choose to spend hours on video games rather than focusing on studies. Video games can have some positive aspects but studies have shown a negative association between the amount of video game playing and school performance for children, adolescents and college students. Games can be played in moderation but for many who are avid gamers it becomes more important than other things that they should be focusing on.
Studies show a fairly consistent negative connection between leisure video game play and grades. For example, high-school students who report spending more time playing video games or who report spending more money on video games had poorer grades in English classes. This indicates the huge impact it has on students because students are addicted to the enjoyment of different games. The content of the games being played certainly could affect the relationship between amounts of play and school performance (Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh 2004)
However, regardless of content the amount of play could affect grades negatively by displacing time spent in other educational and social activities. This suggests that electronic media can influence learning and social behavior by taking the place of activities such as reading, family interaction and social play with peers. If the average child plays video games for seven hours week, those are seven hours that the child is not engaged in reading, homework or participating in creative activities. The content of the games being played certainly could affect the relationship between amounts of play and school performance
The overall impact that video games has on students affects them both mentally (addiction of the game) and physically (lack of movement and exercise). Video games become a necessity in their lives leading them to forget other responsibilities like school and social interaction. As shown before with the impact of video games on school performance affecting adolescents, it can be said that adolescents are also affected by video games through the increasing obesity levels. “Numerous studies have shown that sedentary behaviours like watching television and playing computer games are associated with increased prevalence of obesity”(Dehghan, Akhtar-Danesh & Merchan 2005)
The cause of teenage obesity is generally because of lack of physical activity combined with unhealthy eating habits. Society has become very inactive especially adolescents because they have become addicted to video games which becomes part of their daily routine rather than their regular exercise. Adolescents spend hours sitting in front of computers, video games or televisions. One survey showed 43% of adolescents play video games for more than two hours games per day (Teen Obesity Statistics 2009).
Obese teenagers may also suffer from depression which can lead to a viscous circle of staying at home watching TV, snacking and gaining more weight feeling worse about themselves (Teen Obesity Statistics 2009). This cycle attracts people to play video games because it can be played at home and they are able to snack during their games. It harms a video gamer both mentally and physically which further increase obesity levels.
Obesity is one of the biggest unsolved issues around the world with USA having the highest obesity levels in their population. “According to research, 14% of adolescents in the United States are overweight. This figure has nearly tripled in the last 20 years” (Teen Obesity Statistics 2009). This clearly indicates that obesity is an enormous problem for adolescents in the USA and countries with advanced technologies such as video games consoles like the PS3, PSP and Xbox 360.
Section Four: Factors which lead to aggression, violence and anti-social behavior.
Violent video games have been a high discussion issue for many years now. Many violent video games have been linked back to aggressive, violent and anti social behavior, for many the line between reality and fantasy is lost through their addiction. For many gamers they are able to live out their fantasies for example in the game “Second Life” in this game players are able to live their fantasies to the point where they can no longer make the distinction between what’s real and what’s not. Even though the games on their own don’t make a person aggressive violent or anti-social they are still a contributing factor.
In modern times games are designed to be entertaining, challenging and sometimes educational. Many companies and advertisers want to push the boundaries, so games are released where it is better to kill people, attack police and drive dangerously, all illegal acts in real life. Recent content analyses of video games show that as many as 89% of games contain some violent content and that about half of the games include serious violent content towards other game characters. Therefore among the games being purchased and played by youth, a majority contain violence. The popularity of video game violence has driven much research on the possible harmful effects on children and adolescents. (Gentile, Lynch, Linder & Walsh 2004).
Although violent video game exposure is related to negative social outcomes, some experimental work suggests that video game exposure independent of content is related to improvements in certain types of cognition and learning. (Barlett, Anderson and Swing, 2008)
With some research for positive outcomes of video games, the negative outcomes are clearly more evidence of negative outcomes through surveys and analysis. For example a meta-analysis by Anderson and Bushman (2001) found that across 54 independent tests of the relation between video game violence and aggression, involving 4262 participants, there appear to be five consistent results of playing games with violent content. Playing violent games increases aggressive behaviors, increases aggressive awareness, increases aggressive emotions, increases physiological arousal and decreases pro-social behaviors. These effects are strong and have been found in children and adults, in males and females and in experimental and non-experimental studies.
These modern games due to consumer demands are made to have violent and disturbing scenes in them. Research by Anderson has suggested that exposure to violent video games may increase angry and hostile feelings while interacting with peers, teachers and adults which leads users to violent behavior. (Anderson et. al. 2004)
Perhaps the best example of violent video games influence over adolescents is the case of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. They opened fire in their Colorado high school in 1999, killing 13 people. Experts made a link back to the continuous playing of video games by these two young men. Reports revealed that Harris and Klebold played a lot of violent video games including “Wolfenstein 3D”, “Doom” and “Mortal Kombat.”
“Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold enjoyed playing violent video games and these games played a role in their violent acts at Columbine High School. Eric Harris had actually modified a version of the game Doom and placed it on his Website. In his version there were two shooters, extra weapons, and the other people in the game couldn’t shoot back. Eric and Klebold essentially acted-out their version of Doom on innocent classmates” (Holmes 2005). The dramatic rise in violent shootings by teenagers many of whom have been like to be play violent video games is fueling the argument that video game violence translates into real-world situations (Layton 2007).
In many violent video games players are encouraged to actively participate as a character by choosing how they will interact with other characters including which weapons will be used while fighting or attacking other characters. Weapons often include guns, knives, pipes and bombs. (Anderson et. al. 2004)
In cases of extreme violence like the case of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris as described above encouragement of violence in video games can ultimately lead to real life situations of violence.
The addictive nature of video games can cause anti- social behavior. Often gamers can connect with people around the world without even meeting them or knowing who they really are. From the comfort of your own home, one can communicate via countless chatrooms, twitter, msn, facebook, email and my space; the list goes on and on. The easy access of the internet and the speed which one can do it eliminate the need to go out and socialise in order to meet people.
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Time spent on video games results in time lost socializing and interacting. Although reports by Greg Thom suggests fun games which encourages teamwork and friendship, can lay the groundwork for positive interaction between children, leading to better behavior and academic results show some positive connection with video games (Thom 2009). The negative linkage with video games is shown more with players spending hours alone on a video game which isolates them from the rest of the world physically, which weakens their social skills. Basic social functions are forgotten. The video game player does not know how to handle social behavior. One cause of the anti-social disorder is even more time spent in front of video games. Another cause is isolation, aggressiveness, and disregard for rules and regulations. An initial addiction of video games can easily turn into a psychological anti-social personality disorder (The Dark Side of the Internet).
Section Five: Second Life: Escape from reality.
The gaming world has developed enormously in the last ten years. Today there are virtual reality games invented for users to interact with other users online in a whole new world. “Second Life” is a program that has taken the world by storm. The second life offers similar worldly commitments like business, leisure and friendship. When there is a place to turn and virtually become anything you want to be, why would any user want to leave that fantasy life.
This virtual world promotes itself as an escape from reality. Second Life is a 3D virtual world created by its residents that’s bursting with entertainment, experiences and opportunity. The Second Life Grid provides the platform where the Second Life world resides and offers the tools for business, educators, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs to develop a virtual presence (Holmes 2005).
The main in-world activity is the building of interactive objects using a scripting language that is theoretically designed to be simple enough for those with no previous programming experience. This fits in with Second Life’s stated goal of encouraging widespread group participation and creativity. Objects can be either donated to the world or can be brought for Linden Dollars the Second Life currency.
Once you have been through the Second Life orientation a user will be able to explore the world of Second Life. There are so many things to do in Second Life. Just about anything you can do in real life you can do in Second Life. Some of these things which you can do in Second Life are shopping, partying, attending events and having sexual relationships. These types of activities make Second Life such a popular game because it allows users to live a life of fantasy and glamour.
Although with all the fantasy of Second Life there has been cases were inappropriate actions have taken place. “While Second Life has taken technology to new heights the platform also has been severely criticized for interesting many visitors and turning them into Internet addicts “(Linden Lab 2009). The attraction of second life is that users can enter a world that would allow them to be whatever they want and have a life different to their real one. When one can turn into a millionaire with mansions and cars at their disposal, why would they want to go out into the real world.
Section Six: Overview of ratings and censorship in Australia.
The intention of a rating system is to restrict people from playing certain games. It is designed to provide users with adequate information to make informed decisions. However the current system is open to manipulation quite easily whether that be by corrupt retailers or careless parents. Games that are rated MA15+ or AO are at risk of falling into childrens hands. With pirated media rampant in society a game that is banned in your country could be located and downloaded from a destination where is has been released.
Two of the main reasons that games are banned are because they promote anti-social behaviours and expose users to high violence and adult content. For example ‘Marc Ecko Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure’ was banned, for amongst other things, its glorification of graffiti’ (List of banned games 2009). While one could argue that it is harmless, the fact remains that graffiti costs approximately 300 million each year in Australia, which families end up paying for with higher cost for services, rates and insurance premiums.
Of the thirty three games that have been banned in Australia fourteen of them contained images that were deemed inappropriate for users and considering that the average age of a video gamer in Australia is 30 years old that is indicative of just how explicit the content is (List of banned games 2009). There are already issues in today’s society with children being exposed to images/cultures which are not appropriate.
The game, “Phantasmagoria” goes so far as to have a rape scene in it. Without censorship games like these that are highly inappropriate could easily make their way in to children hands. Ratings are vital because they are a tool by which companies must abide to produce a game that can be made available to the masses. However while it is possible to control the content of what hits the shelf, it is what happens once they have been bought that remains the issue.
Section Seven: Conclusion
The impact of video games is enormous and is increasingly affecting people around the world daily. From street fighter to FIFA 09 these games are impacting society through mental and physical conditions. People are becoming addicted to games and they are impacting some people in a way that they act like the characters they play in the games. In one case, a murder, as explained in the essay, was linked back to the playing of violent video games.
Young people in society are mostly attracted to video games. Games with contain violent content and lead aggressive and anti-social behavior are reaching our childrens hands. One question which we should ask “Are we to blame the video game companies for producing very harmful games, the parents for buying inappropriate games for their young children or the young people who play the games?”.
The impact of video games on society is evident with the gaming industry estimated to be worth millions and the development in technology over the years. The research revealed that an estimated 6.1million video game consoles have been sold since 2000.Video games impact society in many ways like school performance, obesity levels and violent behavior. Many games have been banned for there violent and inappropriate contain for example in Australia the game “Phantasmagoria” was because of its caused huge controversy with rape scenes in it.
The issue of video games and there negative effects is evident as shown in the essay. The gaming world had has become so dominant that people are playing games more and more every day because of the releasing of different games daily. The adventure and role playing games were found to be among the most addictive due to the narrative fantasy themes. With new technology like PS3 players allowing the users to use the internet for daily purposes like online banking and shopping. The gaming world has come part of many people’s life and it has either affected them positively or negatively. In many cases gamers have been affected negatively with outcomes like violent, aggressive and antisocial behavior from the exposure to video games and there inappropriate contain in some cases.
There is no definitive solution to the issue of gaming and the effect that it has one the user. There needs to be more regulation and parents should become more aware of what they are allowing their children to play. Ultimately, people need to be more conscious of separating the gaming world from the real world and try and maintain a reasonable balance between reality and fantasy. For many the line between reality and fantasy is lost through their addiction of gaming.
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