Can video games be considered addictive or a scapegoat for violence

Published 8:22 pm Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In the past few months I have seen and heard much in the media about the adverse effects of video games and now with the shootings at Virginia Tech I expect video games will be the most likely scapegoat.

It seems that anytime something goes wrong in society the most popular form of media that has not undergone decades of scrutiny is the scapegoat. As in the past this usually entails the newest popular media medium. My problem is that there seems to be claims that video games are becoming the scourge of society, either from people becoming addicted or from children seemingly becoming violent due to playing games with violent content. My purpose is to debunk both common thoughts.

When I was a kid I remember not being able to play my parents’ Atari 2600 as much as my heart desired. Instead I was forced outside to a world of riding bikes and playing with friends. I know, I was so abused. So on those rare occasions that I could get game time in, I never wanted to stop playing. Many an hour passed on those occasions as my little brother and I went round for round in games of Combat, specifically the tank games. Now that I am older, and get to play games when I have free time I find that I play for two to three hours before moving on to something else. That contends statements of people becoming addicted to video games. Additionally not once have I killed a group of my class mates, which contends that violent video games lead to violent behavior. I do play some violent video games, but usually the only thing I want to kill is the antagonist on screen. After that I go back to the real world where I know that killing real life people is wrong, both morally and lawfully. My parents helped instill that in me.

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As far as addiction, anything could become addictive. Be it movies, food or chocolate. Heck, I am addicted to music, even though most people in the office contest what I listen to is not music.

There have been reports ( of many adults becoming addicted to video games, just like with drugs or any other substance that can be abused. Again I play games, but I still get up in the morning and head to work to be a productive member of society. My point is anything can become addictive to a person with an addictive personality. However the majority of the population does not have addictive personalities and also get up and go to work.

The violent aspect of video games falls right in line with previous forms of media as they became popular. In previous centuries certain books were banned or censored due to content that had violent content or prompted readers to think. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is a prime example of violent content. Then movies, radio, television and recorded music came along in their respective eras of popularity and were similarly scrutinized for content.

Today those forms of media are accepted and are a large part of today’s society. Books that were once banned are now required reading for students and movies with nudity or foul language are sold in our largest local commerce hub, which by the way only sells censored versions of music CDs.

This morning as my alarm clock clicked on I heard Walton and Johnson going on a rant about violent video games. While I did not leave the clock on long enough to find out the context of the rant, it would be safe to say given recent events it had to do with the Virginia Tech shooting. Even if they weren’t, someone else will. To blame anything or anyone other than the shooter is nonsense; mankind’s violent nature leads to their violent behavior.

The fact is there are many things children and adults can learn from playing video games. Eye hand coordination has been proven to increase with game time, as with problem solving skills. This fact is recognized by the military as video games are used to train soldiers, but that may not be a good example given recent headlines. Many of the better games incorporate puzzles to solve leading to better problem solving skills.

It was stated in an article that, “Game players (are) active problem solvers who do not see mistakes as errors, but as opportunities for improvement.” That information comes from James Gee in his book What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy described on video gamerevolution /impact/myths.

Research shows that adolescent violence is at a 30 year low, in spite of video games increasing popularity. “The overwhelming majority of kids who play (video games) do not commit antisocial acts,” /videogamerevolution/impact/myths. Additionally it is estimated that 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play video games, the article states. I certainly do not see 90 percent of male children attending school with guns in hand. In contrast those few students who did go to class with intentions of causing harm to class mates most likely did play video games.

That same article shows “risk factors associated with school shootings are centered on mental stability or quality of home life and not media exposure.” Did I mention that this article comes from the PBS website?

So I conclude video games are not to blame, in essence everyone and no one is to blame. Violent behavior and addictions have been and will be a part of human nature, but must be controlled with inner strength and proper upbringing; not censorship or outside control. The real blame should rest on the individual and most importantly, the parents who raised that person.