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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ask Bobby #12
September 25, 2023

Video Games Do More Good Than Harm

The question isn’t whether video games are violent in their nature—they are—but whether they lead to actual real-life violence.

Video games have become the new scapegoat. Seventy or 80 years ago it was comics that were blamed for the delinquency in the youth of society; the fact is that there will always be some type of youthful fad that will be blamed.The media is overly eager to find something to blame for the violence in today’s culture. It saturates all mediums: movies, video games, music, and even the news.  

Video games in particular are blamed for the violence and mental instability that results in shootings and this is perhaps due to the fact that video games animate the generation gap between those who are playing them for fun and those who fail to understand them. Shootings are the kind of violence that receive a disproportionate amount of coverage that creates a bias among the prevailing opinion of the negativity in video games. Additionally, because these events are so publicized it seems as if they are more frequent than they actually are.

Contrary to the prevailing opinion, video games have many positive effects on players. It cannot be proven that video games create violent tendencies since the number of people that play video games in this generation has increased rapidly; it is part of this generation’s mainstream culture rather than a niche group of loner gamers, as the old stereotype preaches.

It is almost impossible to find someone who has not tried a video game at this point, which detracts from the argument of asking criminals if they play video games as a way to determine a cause for their violence.

It is perfectly plausible to believe these qualities could be pre-existing and they are therefore drawn to violent games. Video games become the scapegoat instead of any of the real issues like gun control or treatment for mental illness because video games are vastly easier to deal with. Video games are not going to cost any money to reform, but increasing the difficulty of background checks of mental health for purchasing guns or reducing the availability of certain guns commercially would be costly and unpopular.

Grand Theft Auto is a game that encourages certain forms of violence and reached a billion dollars in sales revenue in a mere three days—even the extremely popular Avengers movie took 19 days to reach that accomplishment. During this time where violent games were able to expand their influence through an iconically violent game, not only was there no spike in violent crime, it was actually at its lowest in years. The logic of the influence of the media of video games falls apart—people who play Monopoly are not millionaires. Arguably, Monopoly is more frustrating and incites violence in its players more than any game to date.

There are plenty of positive results of playing video games. First, with XBox Live’s 17 million online players (according to a recent PEW survey) there are opportunities for them to communicate online and create relationships.  

The added feature of microphones and cameras not only allow friends to explore high definition worlds together, but supports a greater quality of communication than other more simple, text based games. XBox Live also harbors teamwork for players to get their characters to coordinate with each other and to be comfortable sharing information thereby creating prosocial relationships.

Virtual reality gaming sounds like it is just another superficial entertainment device, but if encouraging prosocial behavior is not helping society in a meaningful enough way, then it must be recognized for the its further application as a tool for helping veterans with PTSD. Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy, known as VRET, draws from  the traditional exposure therapy concept except it is not limited by the imagination alone; the environment is recreated to make it believable and thereby more effective.

More important than being believable, the VR environment is made in a context that makes it safe rather than actually in the field. This constant and safe environment is more cohesive to a healing process leading to the desired ability to differentiate between safe versus threat based scenarios. Another benefit to this mode of therapy is that during these sessions the exposure levels can be directly controlled.

At Rochester University a study was conducted that proved video games actually improved reflexes. The subjects were tested by having them play Halo which is a fast paced first-person shooter game and then having them identify letters on a screen that would disappear quickly. Those who played video games were better at identifying the letters at a faster and more successful rate.
Now more than ever video games seem to be doing more good than harm. It is simply a bad reputation that is perpetuated by the media that video games are causing the violence in society. In reality video games are providing numerous services for the benefit of society and its youth.