violence video games

Written by Muhammad Malahim Zuberi 8:10 pm Opinion, Published Content

Violence and Video Games: Separating Fact from Fiction

The link between aggressive behavioral tendencies and violent video games is evidently more or less as old as video games themselves. Muhammad Malahim Zuberi examines the legitimacy of this long-standing link and discusses how crimes by the youth cannot be solely attributed to the violence displayed in video games.
About the Author(s)
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Mr Muhammad Malahim Zuberi is a student of law.

The 1970s was when the newest of the for-leisure blessings of emerging technology, video games, appeared in the markets for the first time, and those with displays of violent behavior came around a few years later, towards the middle of the decade. With time, of course, there came more video games for the public had found an interest in them and despite some resistance, they naturally started becoming more extreme to appease the engorging market.

Stronger resistance followed in the 1990s and further in the form of the filing of lawsuits and passing of laws aimed at preventing the wide and unregulated availability of violent video games to the youth. This resistance, at least in the US, was a direct result of the rising number of incidents of mass shootings perpetrated by the youth.

To this day, resistance to displays of violent behavior in media and especially in video games marketed for young audiences continues, as do the incidents of gun violence perpetrated by the youth, with the US having by far the largest number of such incidents each year.

The debate between psychologists on whether violence displayed in media does inspire violent behavior in the human mind had existed long before mainstream video games did. The scientific literature on the subject is quite murky with each side muddling the other’s position.

Those of the position that violent video games do in fact inspire violent behavior in their consumers are met with criticism for adopting weak methodology and producing results that are not simple or straightforward enough. They prove in their work that unrealistic or even cartoonish displays of violence inspire aggressive behavior, programming youth to expect more satisfactory outcomes from violent actions rather than non-violent actions.

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Further, routine exposure of youth to displays of violent behavior creates a readily accessible violent manual on how to respond to situations that undermine the likelihood of non-violent responses produced by them. Another adverse effect is that such exposure to displays of unrealistic violence desensitizes and numbs the youth at an early age to scenes of conflict or violence, diminishing the ability of their brains to produce a normally-expected negative emotional response when faced with similar situations in real life.

Scholars opposed to the aforementioned pose the question that if violent video games do inspire violent behavioral tendencies in youth, why then is the rate of violent crimes committed not increasing? Their queries are answered through some rather basic facts: the youth is not the sole perpetrator of violent crimes committed worldwide, and exposure to violence in video games is not the sole and neither the most significant factor in inspiring violent behavior in the youth.

The establishment of the last fact then makes room for a discussion that pertains to the other contributors to the problem in the discussion. It has also been established from the view of psychology that things learnt and taught during the early years of life do provide an individual with an understanding of how to act even later in life. That mandates an examination of the conditions and traditional practices around the raising of the youth.

Encouragement provided to projections of violent behavioral tendencies in boys is not hard to find in most cultures and families. Boys are trained to be bad and are even celebrated for how bad they can be. Boys are taught that if they stand to gain any respect in this society, then they must become unfeeling and unyielding men, and assume the only acceptable guise of masculinity, a distant and explosive one. It does then teach the youth, including those who are not boys, to believe that in order to have any power in this society, one must adopt this toxic model of masculinity.

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Power in Pakistani society is greatly but not equally divided amongst the many groups that it comprises. This inherently unequal access to areas of society does act as a deciding factor in things learnt by and taught to the youth. Those granted access to better educational opportunities are exposed to ideas in different ways to be dissimilar to what they may encounter around them, which affords them the opportunity to understand and determine on their own the right and wrong behavioral tendencies.

Moreover, those granted access to better economic opportunities find the choices afforded to them widened, making much space for exposure to different ways of being. A series of violent crimes perpetrated by the youth in Pakistan has not only been linked to but has been called a direct cause of violent video games and their dangerously addictive nature. This is not novel, and it has rather become a go-to practice on the part of the law enforcement authorities and others whenever there is an apparent link, even a meaningless one as it may pertain to the criminal case, between the perpetrator and a violent video game.

Several calls have been made by these authorities and others to ban video games that inspire violent behavior. The placement of the sole responsibility in inspiring violent behavior in youth on video games is, as proved here in a scientific fashion, unjustified. This misplacement results in a distraction for the relevant authorities as well as everyone else from the more significant causes of violent behavior in youth.

Is addiction then to be considered the sole factor leading to the execution of an undesirable act? And if the addictive agent is removed: would the act not have been executed or would a different agent take its place? That seems to invite a philosophical consideration about the extent or even existence of the free will of humankind.

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The failure on the part of those responsible for governing to rightly locate the most significant causes of violent behavior in youth so that they may work towards eliminating these causes is lazy and shameful, not to mention disastrous for the present and future of this nation.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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