Violent Beginnings Meet Violent Endings


Grace Daniel

Video games, such as Call of Duty, where the player shoots at his or her opponents with a gun are some of the most popular video games in the world (Photo courtesy of Grace Daniel).

Video games are becoming more and more popular every year. However, the types of video games that are gripping young minds are unnerving. Violent video games are climbing to the top of the gaming market and bringing our generations’ attention and morality with them. Of the five most popular games in 2018, four of them are violent games where the goal is to shoot and kill his or her opponents. Should we be concerned that adults and children alike are spending hours a week filling their minds with ideas of aggression and violence?

“Video games are comforting to a lot of people. People enjoy something once they’ve worked hard to become good at it,” said senior Santino Longobardi.

Most of the violence in popular video games, such as Fortnite: Battle Royale and Overwatch, are animated and unrealistic. However, they may be even more dangerous than more realistic looking games. Playing video games often and adjusting to the game may lead to the player becoming desensitized to the behavior being mimicked on their screens. They would be less likely to feel guilt or remorse for something that happens in the real world just as they would feel in their fantasy world.

“I enjoy video games because I think the challenge is fun, and it’s a way to do things that aren’t possible in the real world. However, I know that video games affect certain parts of your brain that can negatively impact your performance in areas like your memory or your eyesight,” said freshman Seth Daniel.

Studies have shown that video games have affected young minds for many years in many different ways. Violence can cause increased stress levels while playing the game because the video game activates the visual-motor areas of the brain, which initiates the fight or flight response and puts the individual on edge. Video games are created to mimic dangerous situations without actually putting the player in danger.

“It’s scary to think that so many young kids play such violent games. I honestly don’t understand why everyone finds it so interesting to play with guns, especially children,” said junior Mary Grace Sanders.

Arousing responses to danger when playing video games can be extremely harmful. It causes the participant to lose his ability to differentiate between real and fake threats. The “flight” side of the fight or flight responses activates the more primitive instinct-based part of the brain and impairs the functioning of the thinking part of the brain, which is dangerous. Also, the hormones released from the perceived danger cause the individual to be on-edge and may lead to long-term anxiety and chronic stress.

“My cousins play violent video games a lot. I’ve noticed they are antisocial and aren’t good at communication. They are really aggressive towards everyone. It’s unnerving,” said sophomore Abby Race.

If video games have so many negative effects, especially in children, why are they so popular? Why do parents allow their children to engage in such violent virtual worlds?

“So many people, especially today, grew up with video games. They enjoy things that remind them of when they were younger. For instance, I love playing Nintendo games because I’ve been playing for so long and I’ve gotten really good,” said Longobardi.

One of the most common reasons people play video games is for a sense of accomplishment. Finishing a difficult level, defeating a challenging opponent, or completing an entire game is extremely satisfying, especially if the task proves to be tough and time-consuming. This sense of accomplishment encourages continuous gameplay, especially if the player notices his or her skills improving as he or she plays.

“People probably start playing to escape reality, but they continue to play for the thrill. They become motivated to get better at the games,” said Sanders.

The sense of accomplishment that video game fans crave can actually result in something much more dangerous. With accomplishments in a video game comes more time devoted to the game, which increases the player’s knowledge and understanding of how the game works. If the game they play most often involves various types of guns, the participant will eventually learn each gun, how it works, and which gun is best for each type of combat. It may even convince the individual they could use the same weapon in real life.

“The way people get better at video games is so interesting! As you play more often, you pick up on certain strategies using trial and error. You become more driven to get even better. Obviously, it takes a long time to master a video game, but it’s really fun to work towards that,” said Longobardi.

Video games are being created to be more realistic to try and mimic real-life as much as possible; this includes the portrayal of guns. The damage weapons cause in video games is often based on how fatal the weapon is in real-life. Video games in which shooting guns to pass levels are usually structured very similar to each other, which reinforces the idea that the way the participant shoots people in the game would also occur in real life. This gives the individual a false sense of confidence in their knowledge about violence.

“I’ve heard stories about people playing video games and becoming so used to violence that they become school shooters. They become desensitized to the dangers,” said Sanders.

While many mass shooters played violent video games, research shows that they are most likely not a direct cause of their violent actions. Most children who play video games do not engage in violent behavior; however, crime offenders have been shown to spend more time on video games than the average person. While they do negatively impact children psychologically, they do not increase aggressive behaviors.

“When I have kids, I’m not going to let them play video games, especially violent ones, for long periods of time. I think the cons outweigh the pros in this case,” said Race.

Although many school shooters were lovers of violent video games, especially first-person shooter games, there is no causal evidence supporting the theory that violent video games encourage school shootings or other violent actions. While it is a risk factor that should not be ignored, there are so many other factors that affect a person’s choices, such as their home life or their mental stability. Video games, especially involving violence, should be monitored and not overly encouraged, but research shows that they are nothing to be afraid of.

“Even though [violent] video games can have negative effects on people, I believe that they are better than real life [violence]; they are the lesser of the two evils,” said Sanders.