Mini-Essay Contest Winner #2: Chris

Here’s the second and last of the Mini-Essay contest winners from this semester, this one by Chris S. from the 2:30 pm ENG 121 class, on video games and violence. Please to enjoy, and good job all FRCC Comp writers!   ~Jenn

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by Christopher Snyder

On December 14th, 2012 a 20-year-old man shot 20 children and 6 adults at an elementary school before committing suicide himself.  It was a horrific and heart breaking event carried out by a deranged person, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.  The original report pegged Ryan Lanza as the shooter.  Ryan had “liked” the video game Mass Effect on his Facebook page, and the laser space shooter was immediately blamed for warping the man’s mind.  The official webpage for Mass Effect was flooded with accusations calling the creators, “murderers” and “baby-killers”.  US Senator Joe Manchin talked to the media, stating that these violent games should be banned before they do anymore damage “see what it promotes, shouldn’t that be looked into and maybe be banned?” (Matulef).

The shooter turned out to be Ryan’s younger brother, an avid fan of StarCraft and Dance Dance Revolution.  Evidence of Dance Dance Revolution’s violent gameplay is shown here.DanceDanceScreen1

Blaming video games for violent acts isn’t new, in 2013 Obama funded a 10 million-dollar witch-hunt to attempt to find a connection between video games and American violent crimes (Matulef).  The research findings are promising.  Not only do video games not increase violent tendencies, the rise in video game sales coincides with a more peaceful America and has even been proven to have viable cognitive benefits to young gamers.  So why are video games okay?

The myth has been successfully debunked, a study by psychologist Christopher Ferguson has proven that there is absolutely zero link between “violent media and behavior and also questioned the methodology of previous studies suggesting the two were related” (Independent).  A long-term study from 1996-2011 showed that the amount of violence in video games has increased dramatically, while at the same time the rates of violence among younger people have gone down.  “Youth violence dropped precipitously despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of videogames” (Ferguson).  Initial studies and statements linking video games to violence have been questioned due to incorrect testing measures.  Aggression in initial testing was measured based on how many non-painful noise-bursts a player would want to inflict on another, more noise-bursts was marked as a higher amount of aggression.  These studies are controversial due to the fact that they have very little relation to how aggression or increased violence would carry over into the real world.

As it turns out, increases in video game sales actually coincide closely with large declines in youth violence.  From 1995 to 2010 video game sales have risen dramatically.  During the same time period, violent youth crimes dropped to nearly a quarter of their incidence rate over the same time period.

If violence and increased aggression are really a problem created by video games, why are there more games and less violence?  Studies have shown that the opposite can be true and that video games can actually do a lot of good for people.

Researchers are currently conducting studies to determine the theoretical positives of gaming.  Psychologists argue that games “are beneficial to social and cognitive development and psychological well-being” (Wikipedia).  Experiments with different types of games show the benefits that they can deliver.  We’ve all seen the Wii remote.  Bringing full range of motion into video games has shown that it can help children develop full range of motion.  Action games create greater hand-eye coordination.  Violent video games have been proven to reduce stress by providing an outlet for anger.  One study showed that almost 50% of young male children actively use violent games to lower their stress levels.  Other benefits noted by psychologists include education in the form of reading and learning facts, increases in entrepreneurial and problem solving skills, some games can actually be used for physical rehabilitation.  By creating a consequence-free environment in which a person can explore while fully engaging their brain and body, we can help kids with special needs to become more active members of society.

The witch hunt on video games is a huge waste of money.  The blame game and finger pointing is a knee-jerk reaction, and has cost this country valuable time and resources that could’ve been spent on solutions to poverty or increasing energy demands.  It’s been proven time and again that there isn’t a negative link between video games and violent crimes.  It’s painfully obvious that video games can actually help our youth to grow and develop.  If we keep throwing money and the right people at it, I’m sure we can find many things to vilify in modern gaming, but why not spend those resources on tracking and developing the positives that video games bring to the table?

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References:

Ferguson, Christopher J. Journal of Communication. 1st ed. Vol. 65. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcom.12129/full

“Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting.” Wikipedia. Retrieved from http://www.citationmachine.net/bibliographies/67460940?new=true

Vincent, James. “Long-term US Study Finds No Links between Violent Video Games and Youth Violence.” Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/gaming/long-term-us-study-finds-no-links-between-violent-video-games-and-youth-violence-9851613.html

Jeffrey, Matulef. “Obama spends $10 million to research link between video games and violence.” Eurogamer.net. Retrieved from http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-01-16-obama-spends-USD10-million-to-research-link-between-video-games-and-violence

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