Video game controversies
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Controversies over video games center on debates around video game content and the potential for it to negatively impact player attitude and behavior. Since the early 1980s, video games have become part of the political discourse with advocates emphasizing their nature as an expressive medium (protected under the freedom of speech laws of many countries), and detractors promoting various theories that video games are harmful for society and thus subject to legislative oversight and restrictions. Hundreds of video game and video game player studies have been conducted by a wide range of psychologists and government agencies with the aim of addressing the issue of harm. These studies have targeted possible links to addiction, aggression, violence, social development, and a variety of stereotyping and sexual morality issues. These studies have in turn been followed up by a number of meta-analyses.
The results of these studies have been conflicting. Within the realm of aggression studies, some analysts have found that exposure to violent video games correlates with at least a temporary increase in aggression and a decrease in prosocial behavior (caring about the welfare and rights of others), whereas others using similar analytical methods have concluded that video game violence is not related to engaging in aggressive behavior. Potential positive effects of video game playing have also been proposed, and some research has suggested that violent video games may even promote prosocial behavior in certain contexts.
Since the late 1990s there have been numerous highly publicized incidents where acts of great violence have been attributed to video game playing behavior in the perpetrators. Some commentators have argued that there is lack of substantive studies on the connection between video games and violence and that the video game industry has served as a fallback scapegoat for societal ills. In response to public concern about video games, governments around the globe have enacted—or attempted to enact—legislation regulating distribution of video games; sometimes banning them altogether. To this end, different video game content rating systems have been introduced in many countries.
- 1 Research methods
- 2 Demographics
- 3 Controversial topics
- 4 Physiological effects
- 5 Publicized incidents
- 6 Theories of video game effects
- 7 Regulation of video games
- 8 Positive effects of video games
- 9 See also
- 10 References
There are five dimensions researchers most often focus on when analyzing the effects video games can have on the players. These five dimensions are the amount of game play, the content of the game, the context that the game is played in, the structure of the game, and the mechanics of the game. Studies that focus on amount of game play often look at grades and health of individuals as the amount of time playing video games increases. Studies looking at the content of video games are often concerned with the level of violence in the games, or the manner in which characters act or are portrayed and how this affects players' perceptions and behaviors. The context a game is played in looks at the group dynamic of video games, and how prosocial behaviors are inhibited or developed. The structure of the game is less of a controversial topic, mainly pertaining to improvements in visual attention skills or translating three-dimensional information from the two-dimensional display. Lastly, mechanics of game play studies often look at the possible improvements to be gaining in certain areas, like hand-eye coordination.
According to The Entertainment Software Association, 20% of video game players are boys under the age of 17 and 26% are men and women over the age of 50. The average age of a video game player is 37. The updated information on a 2013 survey according to The Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a video game player is 30. According to a survey of 1,102 12-17 year olds, 97% have played video games and half played in the last day.
Three-quarters of parents who were surveyed in a study said that they check the ratings on their children's games before allowing them to purchase it. However, about 50% of the boys and 14% of the girls favored games with an "M" (mature) or "AO" (adult-only) rating.
The adult demographic is the fastest-growing segment of the American video games market; 32% of adults now play video games.
Crime and violence
One of the most common criticisms of video games is that it leads to increased tendencies for aggression in youth. Numerous studies have been conducted on this topic and several have found a correlation between these two aspects. However, several other major studies by groups such as The Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health, The Journal of Adolescent Health, and The British Medical Journal have found no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity.
A number of studies found a positive correlation between video game play and increased violent behavior. One study[which?][when?] did find an increase in reports of bullying, noting, "Our research found that certain patterns of video game play were much more likely to be associated with these types of behavioral problems than with major violent crime such as school shootings."  Long Island PTA president Ronnie Lamm pushed for legislation in the early 1980s to place restrictions on how close video game arcades could be to schools, asserting that they caused children to fight. Portrayals of violence have allegedly become more realistic with time, prompting politicians such as U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman to conduct hearings during the 1990s regarding what he referred to as "violent video games" which, in his opinion, included games like Mortal Kombat. His sentiments have been echoed by researchers including Dr. Craig A. Anderson who testified on the topic before the U.S. Senate and who in 2003 found that "[s]ome studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, it shows that violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased pro-social (helping) behavior." Anderson himself was later criticized by both opposing witnesses and the judge in a 2005 video game court case for failing to cite research that differed from his view.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002) is an example of a video game that stirred a lot of controversy due its violent game play and for allegedly encouraging racist hate crimes. The game takes place in "Vice City", a fictionalized Miami, in 1986, and involves a gang war between Haitians and Cuban refugees, with the player's character getting involved and encouraging the inter-ethnic violence. For example, in a shoot-out with the Haitian gang,  which highly incensed both Haitian and Cuban anti-defamation groups; after the Haitian-American Coalition threatened to sue Rockstar in 2006. Rockstar removed the word "Haitians" from this phrase in the game's subtitles and replaced with "gangster".
Lt. Col. David Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor, has written several books related to the subject of violence in the media including On Killing (1996) and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill (1999). During tense periods of video game controversy, he has been interviewed on the contents of his books and has repeatedly used the term "murder simulator" to describe first-person shooter games. He argues that video game publishers unethically train children in the use of weapons and, more importantly, harden them emotionally to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game. Grossman's conclusions have been criticized by some[which?] scholars, however, as highly selective and misleading.
Research published by Drs. Craig A. Anderson and B.J. Bushman in 2001 suggested that violent video games may increase mild forms of aggressive behavior in children and young adults. Also, analyses have found that exposure to violent video games results in increased physiological arousal, aggression-related thoughts and feelings as well as decreased prosocial behavior. The research comprised a meta analysis, laboratory and field studies. However meta-analyses by other groups have not replicated these findings and have been critical of attempts to link violent games with aggression. For instance in 2007 John Sherry asked: "why do some researchers (e.g. Gentile & Anderson, 2003) continue to argue that video games are dangerous despite evidence to the contrary?"
A 2003 study by Dr. Craig A. Anderson et al. compared the effects of violent video games on youth violence to those of smoking on lung cancer In a 2010 article for Review of General Psychology, Christopher J. Ferguson ruled out a relationship between video game violence and serious aggression, concluding: "Taken together these meta-analyses range from those which argue against meaningful effects to those which find weak effects. Thus the debate on video game violence has been reduced to whether video game violence produces no effects...or almost no effects."
Other studies reach the conclusion that violence in video games is not causally linked with aggressive tendencies. This was the conclusion of a 1999 study by the U.S. government, prompting Surgeon General David Satcher to say, "We clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that's where the science is." A 2007 meta-analysis by psychologist Jonathan Freedman reviewed over 200 published studies and also reached this conclusion, finding that the "vast and overwhelming majority" did not establish a causal link. A 2002 US Secret Service study of 41 individuals involved in school shootings found that only 12% were attracted to violent video games, while 24% read violent books and 27% were attracted to violent films. A 2007 Swinburne University of Technology study found that only children already predisposed to violence were affected by violent games. A long-term outcome study of youth published in 2010 by Christopher J. Ferguson, found no long-term relationship between playing violent video games and youth violence or bullying.
A 2011 longitudinal study of youth in Germany conducted by Maria von Salisch found that aggressive children tend to select more violent video games and not the reverse. This study found no evidence that violent games are psychologically harmful to minors. The author further speculated that other studies may have been affected by "single responder bias" due to focusing on youth self-report of aggression rather than reports by parents or teachers.
In Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do (2008), researchers/authors Lawrence Kutner, PhD, and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, refute claims that violent video games cause increases in violent behavior. The researchers' study finds that adolescents that do not play video games at all are most at-risk for violent behavior (but without statistical significance), and claims that video game play is part of an adolescent boy's normal social setting. However, the authors do not completely deny the negative influences of violent (M-rated) video games on pre-teens and teenagers. Kutner and Olson say that the views of both alarmists and the video game industry are often supported by flawed or misconstrued studies. The real risks according to them are not just exposure to violence, gore, and sex, but are more subtle—with some children at greater risk than others.
Official 2010 records at the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Office of Justice Programs show that violent crime rates have declined dramatically since the early 1990s in the USA, among both juveniles and adults. This decrease occurred despite an explosion in sales of violent video games and increases in graphically violent content during the same period. According to Dr. Craig A. Anderson, video game violence is not the primary contributor to societal violence, however, as there are many other factors at play.
According to media scholar Henry Jenkins:
According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It's true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers — 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do not commit antisocial acts. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to fester.
Fears have been expressed about player exposure to violent video games. For example, politicians[who?], people[who?], and organizations[who?] have considered video games effects on society, where the causative factor was not clear, "there has been some fears specially from UK news service that hijackers may have used flight simulator software to practice flying jet planes, also, Beam Breakers removed all references to the World Trade Center already used in the game 1".[who said this?][not in citation given]
The most recent large scale meta-analysis (2010), examining 130 studies with over 130,000 participants worldwide, concluded that exposure to violent video games causes both short term and long term aggression in players and decreases empathy and prosocial behavior. However, this meta-analysis was criticized by Dr. Christopher Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communications at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, for a number of methodological flaws including failure to abide by quantifiable measurements of aggression and for failing to engage dissenting studies which Ferguson suggested as having an aggravating effect on the sampling bias of incorporated studies. Some of the authors from the original meta-analysis replied to this critique by defending their methodological and statistical approach. In an interview with CBSNews.com, Ferguson said he has not come across any link between playing violent video games and likelihood for violent behavior. Referring to children with mental health problems, Ferguson noted that "we can't find any evidence that those kids are affected either."
Some researchers believe that while playing violent video games leads to violent actions, there are also biological influences that impact a person's choices. According to Sean P. Neubert of Rochester Institute of Technology, a person who is biologically predisposed to aggression will be more strongly influenced by violent scenes and thus will have a greater risk for carrying out destructive actions. For example someone with antisocial personality disorder has a greater risk of going out and shooting someone after playing hours of Grand Theft Auto or a game of a similar nature.
Other biological theories of aggression and violence have specifically excluded video game and other media effects. For instance the Catalyst Model proposed by Ferguson and Beaver specifically exclude media violence as a contributor to violence, arguing research evidence for such effects have been weak, and media violence is too distal a factor to have much influence.
Sexual themes in video games are much less tolerated in the US than violent themes. One well-known example of a controversy related to sexual themes in video games is the Hot Coffee mod controversy. In June 2005, an entire portion of unused code was found within the main script of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, allowing the player to simulate sex with the main character's girlfriends. The game could be accessed in the PC version via mod, and through Action Replay codes in the PS2 and Xbox versions. The scene was left on the disc and could be accessed by altering a few bytes of the game's code via hex editor. This feature prompted the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to change the rating of San Andreas to "Adults Only" on July 20, 2005. Furthermore, the game was pulled from many stores. Rockstar Games posted a loss of $28.8 million that quarter.
Another game that sparked controversy because of its sexual content was RapeLay, a Japanese eroge (see below) with a storyline centering around the player's character stalking and raping a mother and her two daughters. Campaigns against the game resulted in its being banned in many countries. RapeLay's publisher, which had never intended for the game to be available outside of Japan, eventually withdrew it from distribution entirely.
Sex and nudity
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2013)|
Very few North American video games display full frontal nudity. Sexual themes are more common in Japanese PC games, particularly in the eroge and visual novel genres, where they often play a similar role to the obligatory sex scenes in Hollywood movies. However, console companies such as Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony often do not license adult-only content games for their systems, except for visual novels. These novels are often ported to Sony and Microsoft consoles in Japan, but with sex scenes removed from the game to lower the CERO rating.
Portrayal of gender
A 1998 study conducted at the University of Central Florida found that of the 33 games sampled, 41% do not feature female characters, 28% sexually objectified women, 21% depicted violence against women, and 30% did not represent the female population at all. Furthermore, characterizations of women tended to be stereotypical: highly sexualized ("visions of beauty with large breasts and hips"), dependent ("victim or as the proverbial 'Damsel in Distress'"), opposed ("evil or as obstacles to the goal of the game"), and trivial ("females depicted in fairly non-significant roles").
However, this report has been criticized for not representing a wide range of video games, and that the games analyzed - being up to 20 years old - do not represent the current status of the video game industry. Also, strong female characters are increasingly more prevalent in video games. There is also analysis lacking on the often narrow gender role depictions and stereotypes of male characters, whether it be represented physically as violent, overly muscled, or blazing big guns, or demonstrated socially in what is expected of them to be viewed as worthwhile. For example, despite male characters often being depicted as powerful, the power comes at the high price of risking life and limb often solely to attain the affection of a beautiful female, who may be argued to hold a kind of beauty, sexual, or emotional power which causes the male character to go through such risk in the first place. It can also be argued that if female characters can be viewed as sex objects then male characters can be viewed as violence objects, with both male hereos and villains often receiving ample violence onto them as well as using much violence themselves onto others.
A study conducted by Children Now in 2003 has indicated that gender stereotypes pervade most video games. Male characters (52%) were more likely than females (32%) to engage in physical aggression. Nearly 20% of female characters were hyper-sexualized in some way, while 35% of male characters were extremely muscular.
Terry Flew has expressed the view that gender bias exists in many games. In 2005, Flew wrote that general representations of gender in digital games are stereotyped. Male characters are portrayed as hard bodied, muscled men while female characters are portrayed as soft bodied, nearly naked women with large breasts. In addition, Flew also believes that female characters in games are usually portrayed in a narrowly stereotypical manner. Females are usually constructed as visual objects in need of protection who wait for male rescue, whereas men are portrayed with more power. According to Flew, such depiction of females in games reflects underlying social ideas of male dominance and themes of masculinity. Although not all video games contain such stereotypes, Flew suggests that there are enough to make it a general trait. Ultimately, Flew ends with the statement of the broad demographic's excessive demands, in that '...different genders have different gaming.'
However, other video games feature more active, powerful female characters. One such example would be the protagonist Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider video game series. She is presented as a beautiful, clever, athletic, and brave English archaeologist-adventurer. Lara Croft has achieved popularity with both males and females as an action heroine, although depending on what perspective is applied she can either represent 'a positive role model for young girls' or a 'combination of eye and thumb candy for the boys'. In 2004, game developer Eidos remodeled the character for Tomb Raider: Legend. The character was modified to have a more believable figure with less revealing clothing in order to avoid offending female gamers.
It has also been claimed that violent video games have the effect of reinforcing sexist stereotypes.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) characters have been depicted in some video games since the 1980s. LGBT content has been subject to changing rules and regulations by game companies. These rules are generally examples of heterosexism in that heterosexuality is normalized while homosexuality is subject to additional censorship or ridicule. Sexual orientation and gender identity were significant in some console and PC games, with the trend being toward greater visibility of LGBT identities, particularly in Japanese popular culture and games marketed to LGBT consumers.
Over two hundred published studies examine the effects of violence in entertainment media, partially focusing on violence in video games. Some psychological studies have shown a correlation between children playing violent video games and psychological sufferings, although many other studies find no such link causation.
In 2004, the American Psychological Association summarized the issue as "Psychological research confirms that violent video games can increase children's aggression, but that parents moderate the negative effects." A more recent press release by the APA in 2010 summarized recent research findings as "Bad effects depend on certain personality traits; games can offer learning opportunities for others". Craig Anderson has conducted meta-analysis of previous studies and claimed they have demonstrated five effects: "increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased pro-social (helping) behavior".
Nevertheless, other studies have explicitly denied that such a connection exists, most notably Anderson and Ford (1986), Winkel et al. (1987), Scott (1995), Ballard and Lineberger (1999), and Jonathan Freedman (2002). More recently, Block and Crain (2007) claim that, in a critical paper by Anderson (and his co-author, Bushman), data was improperly calculated and produced fallacious results. Other meta-analyses by other groups, such as by Ferguson and Kilburn (2009) and Sherry (2007) have repudiated any links between video game violence and aggression, as have recent reviews by the Australian Government (2010) and the US Supreme Court (June, 2011).
After conducting a two-year study of more than 1,200 middle school children about their attitudes towards video games, Harvard Medical School researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson found that playing video games did not have a particularly negative effect.
The portrayal of race in video games has also been an issue, seen in games like the Grand Theft Auto series, Custer's Revenge, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, and Def Jam: Fight for NY. In 2009, the issue of race emerged with the release of Resident Evil 5, wherein the player kills numerous African enemies, resulting in arguments from both parties. In response, supporters of Resident Evil 5 argued that to censor the portrayal of black antagonists was discrimination in itself. A similar outrage also occurred when it was revealed that "Left 4 Dead 2", set in New Orleans, would include African-American zombies. These and other games demonstrate an interesting trend towards the increased presence of racial differences in video games. It is true that "significantly, these games, and particularly their questionable claims of authenticity, establish compelling learning environments that help facilitate how young gamers develop their knowledge of and familiarity with popular views of race and urban culture."
Video games have been linked to improving cognitive functions such as visual cooperation and decision making. Daphne Bavelier has conducted many studies on the effects of video games, and in a study conducted by the University of Rochester, gamers who played action games were able to make decisions faster and more accurately than non gamers. Bavelier said "It's not the case that the action game players are trigger-happy and less accurate: They are just as accurate and also faster. Action game players make more correct decisions per unit time. If you are a surgeon or you are in the middle of a battlefield, that can make all the difference."
Video game addiction is the excessive or compulsive use of computer and video games that interferes with daily life. Instances have been reported in which users play compulsively, isolating themselves from family and friends or from other forms of social contact, and focus almost entirely on in-game achievements rather than broader life events. The first video game to attract political controversy for its "addictive properties" was the 1978 arcade game Space Invaders.
Many video games have certain elements removed or edited due to regional rating standards. While, in the past, games were often toned down when translated overseas, in terms of violence, religious references, sexual themes, etc., when compared to Japanese counterparts, in recent years rating organizations have imposed restrictions on games.
Digital rights management
Digital Rights Management (DRM) is a type of technology that it intended to control the use of digital content and devices after purchase. Many companies make use of DRM to prevent copyright infringement and protecting an entity’s intellectual property from public access. Opponents of DRM argue that it only inconveniences legitimate customers and allows big business to stifle innovation and competition. DRM has gained strength thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998; which sought to outlaw any attempt to bypass DRM.
Always-on Digital Rights Management (DRM), also known as persistant online authentication, is a type of controversial technology related to video games. This technology requires a consumer to maintain a connection to a host server in order to use a particular product or play a game. Supporters focus on DRM as a tool for companies to protect and auto update their products. Those against Always-on DRM focus on server connection difficulties, single player offline preferences, and game playability once companies shut down a server.
Criticism of DRM has even caused Microsoft to do a complete reversal on its DRM policies for Xbox One.
In a 2011 study from Karachi, Pakistan, it was observed that short periods of electronic gaming in young adults are associated with increased heart rates in inexperienced gamers to an extent similar to that of moderate physical activity for an individual. On the other hand, results also showed that experienced gamers actually had lower heart rates during the same time period, in comparison to inexperienced gamers. Similar and other effects were denounced in 2004 by Gary Webb in his article The killing game, exposing the use of increased reality videogames by the US Army.
Many incidents that are speculated to be related to video games in recent decades have helped fuel controversy.
- On November 22, 1997, thirteen-year-old Noah Wilson died when his friend Yancy stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife. The mother of Noah, Andrea Wilson, alleged that her son was stabbed to death because of an obsession with the Midway game Mortal Kombat. She alleged that Yancy S. was so obsessed with the game that he believed himself to be the character Cyrax. This character uses a finishing move which involves getting the opponent in a headlock and stabbing them in the chest. Although Wilson alleged that this was the reason for her son's death, the character Cyrax does not actually perform this move at all. The conclusion of Wilson v. Midway Games, Inc. was, according to the court case report, "Wilson's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
- On March 24, 1998, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11-year-old Andrew Golden killed 4 students and a teacher in the Westside Middle School massacre. Although no connection to video games was drawn by the press at the time, the case was re-examined by commentators a year later subsequent to the events of the Columbine High School massacre (below) and it was determined that the two boys had often played GoldenEye 007 together. Connections were drawn between the Jonesboro and Columbine shootings in relation to the fact that the shooters had in both cases enjoyed first-person shooter games.
- On April 20, 1999, 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and a teacher in the Columbine High School massacre. The two were allegedly obsessed with the video game Doom. Harris also created WADs for the game, and created a large mod named "Tier" which he called his "life's work". Contrary to certain rumors, however, neither student had made a Doom level mimicking the school's layout and there is no evidence the pair practiced the massacre in Doom.
- In April 2000, 16-year-old Spanish teenager José Rabadán Pardo murdered his father, mother and his sister with a katana, proclaiming that he was on an "avenging mission" by Squall Leonhart, the main character of the video game Final Fantasy VIII.
- In November 2001, 21-year-old American Shawn Woolley committed suicide after what his mother claimed was an addiction to EverQuest. Woolley's mother stated, "I think the way the game is written is that when you first start playing it, it is fun, and you make great accomplishments. And then the further you get into it, the higher level you get, the longer you have to stay on it to move onward, and then it isn't fun anymore. But by then you're addicted, and you can't leave it."
- In February 2003, 16-year-old American Dustin Lynch was charged with aggravated murder and made an insanity defense that he was "obsessed" with Grand Theft Auto III. Long time video game opponent and then-practicing attorney Jack Thompson offered to represent Lynch and later encouraged the father of victim JoLynn Mishne to pass a note to the judge that said "the attorneys had better tell the jury about the violent video game that trained this kid [and] showed him how to kill our daughter, JoLynn. If they don't, I will." Lynch later retracted his insanity plea, and his mother Jerrilyn Thomas commented, "It has nothing to do with video games or Paxil, and my son's no murderer."
- On June 7, 2003, 18-year-old American Devin Moore shot and killed two policemen and a dispatcher after grabbing one of the officers' weapons following an arrest for the possession of a stolen vehicle. At trial, the defense claimed that Moore had been inspired by the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
- On June 25, 2003, two American step brothers, Joshua and William Buckner, aged 14 and 16, respectively, used a rifle to fire at vehicles on Interstate 40 in Tennessee, killing a 45-year-old man and wounding a 19-year-old woman. The two shooters told investigators they had been inspired by Grand Theft Auto III.
- On February 27, 2004 in Leicester, UK, 17-year-old Warren Leblanc lured 14-year-old Stefan Pakeerah into a park and murdered him by stabbing him repeatedly with a claw hammer and knife. Leblanc was reportedly obsessed with Manhunt, although investigation quickly revealed that the killer did not even own a copy of the game. The victim's mother Giselle Pakeerah has been campaigning against violent video games in the UK ever since. The police investigating the case have dismissed any link, as discussed in the relevant articles.
- In October 2004, a 41-year-old Chinese man named Qiu Chengwei stabbed 26-year-old Zhu Caoyuan to death over a dispute regarding the sale of a virtual weapon the two had jointly won in the game The Legend of Mir 3.
- On December 27, 2004, 13-year-old Xiao Yi committed suicide by jumping from a twenty-four story building in Tianjin, China, as a result of the effects of his addiction, hoping to be "reunited" with his fellow gamers in the afterlife, according to his suicide notes. Prior to his death, he had spent 36 consecutive hours playing Warcraft III.
- In August 2005, 28-year-old South Korean Lee Seung Seop died after playing StarCraft for 50 hours straight.
- In June 2007, 22-year-old Alejandro Garcia from Texas shot and killed his cousin after arguing over whose turn it was to play the game Scarface: The World Is Yours. He pleaded guilty for murder at his trial on April 6, 2011, and will serve 15 to 30 years in prison.
- In September 2007, a Chinese man in Guangzhou, China, died after playing Internet video games for three consecutive days in an Internet cafe.
- In September 2007 in Ohio, 16-year-old Daniel Petric snuck out of his bedroom window to purchase the game Halo 3 against the orders of his father, a minister at New Life Assembly of God in Wellington, Ohio, U.S. His parents eventually banned him from the game after he spent up to 18 hours a day with it, and secured it in a lockbox in a closet where the father also kept a 9mm handgun, according to prosecutors. In October 2007, Daniel used his father's key to open the lockbox and remove the gun and the game. He then entered the living room of his house and shot both of them in the head, killing his mother and wounding his father. Petric is sentenced to life in prison without parole, which was later commuted to 23 years in imprisonment. Defense attorneys argued that Petric was influenced by video game addiction, the court dismissed these claims. The judge, James Burge commented that while he thought there was ample evidence the boy knew what he was doing, Burge thought the game had affected him like a drug, saying "I firmly believe that Daniel Petric had no idea at the time he hatched this plot that if he killed his parents they would be dead forever."
- In December 2007, 17-year-old Lamar Roberts and 16-year-old Heather Trujillo were accused of beating a seven-year-old girl to death. They are said to have been imitating the moves taken from the game Mortal Kombat.
- In December 2007, a Russian man was beaten to death over an argument in the MMORPG Lineage II. The man was killed when his guild and a rival one challenged each other to a real-life brawl.
- False reports initially claimed that Seung-Hui Cho, the killer in the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre was an avid Counter-Strike player. However, police reports said that roommates of Cho had never seen him play any video games. Despite these discoveries, activist Jack Thompson continued to argue that video games were to blame.
- In June 2008, four teens allegedly obsessed with Grand Theft Auto IV went on a crime spree after being in New Hyde Park, New York. They first robbed a man, knocking his teeth out and then they stopped a woman driving a black BMW and stole her car and her cigarettes.
- On August 2, 2008, Polwat Chinno, a 19-year-old Thai teenager, stabbed a Bangkok taxi driver to death during an attempt to steal the driver's cab in order to obtain money to buy a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV. A police official said that the teen was trying to copy a similar act in the game. As a consequence, officials ordered the banning of the game itself and later the series, which led its distributor, New Era Interactive Media, to withdraw it, including the aforementioned, then-upcoming installment, from shops across Thailand.
- On October 13, 2008, the disappearance of Brandon Crisp and his subsequent death involving, according to his parents, obsessive playing of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare has been referenced in discussions about video game obsession and spawned a report aired by CBC's the fifth estate on video game addiction and Brandon's story titled "Top Gun", subtitled "When a video gaming obsession turns to addiction and tragedy".
- In April 2009, a man was charged with murder after shooting a friend during a quarrel over a video game.
- In January 2010, 9-year-old Anthony Maldonado was stabbed by relative Alejandro Morales after an argument regarding Maldonado's recently purchased copy of Tony Hawk: Ride and PlayStation 3 console.
- In January 2010, Gary Alcock punched, slapped and pinched his partner's 15-month-old daughter in the three weeks leading up to her death before he delivered a fatal blow to the stomach which tore her internal organs because she interrupted him playing his Xbox. She died from internal bleeding after suffering 35 separate injuries including multiple bruises, rib fractures and brain damage, which were comparable to injuries suffered in a car crash. Alcock was jailed for life and must serve at least 21 years.
- In May 2010, French gamer Julien Barreaux located and stabbed a fellow player who had stabbed Barreaux in the game Counter-Strike. The judge at his trial called him "a menace to society."
- On November 29, 2010 in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 16-year-old boy Kendall Anderson bludgeoned his mother to death in her sleep with a claw hammer after she took away his PlayStation.
- On April 9, 2011 in Alphen Aan Den Rijn, The Netherlands, 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis opened fire in a shopping mall, releasing more than a hundred bullets with a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun, killing 6 people and wounding 17 others, after which he also killed himself. A fair amount of attention was given to the fact that Van Der Vlis had been playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and to the alleged similarities between the events in Alphen a/d Rijn and the controversial "No Russian" mission in the game, where the player can choose to (or choose not to) partake in the killing of a large group of innocent people inside an airport terminal.
- On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik perpetrated the 2011 Norway Attacks, detonating a car bomb in the executive government quarter, and then travelled to a summer camp for teenagers, where he proceeded to stalk and kill a large number of people. 77 people were killed in the attacks, a majority of them being teenagers who were at the summer camp. Hundreds were injured by the car bomb explosion. Anders himself admitted in court that he had deliberately used the 2009 video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 to train for the attacks, specifically by practicing his aim using a "holographic aiming device". He stated in his manifest that he had been planning the attacks since 2002.
- After the December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, initial media reports mis-identified the shooter as Ryan Lanza, the brother of the true perpetrator. After discovering that Ryan had liked Mass Effect on Facebook, an Internet mob immediately attacked the game's Facebook page, labelling the developers "child killers". Once it was discovered that it was his brother, Adam, who had carried out the massacre, initial news stories claimed a link to two video games, Starcraft and Dance Dance Revolution, neither of which are on the more violent end of the spectrum. After a UK tabloid claimed that Lanza had a Call of Duty obsession, this was widely repeated across the Internet. Subsequently, a small town near Sandy Hook organized the collection and burning of video games in exchange for a gift certificate. A report by CBS claimed that anonymous law enforcement sources suggested a link to video games, which was later dismissed by the Connecticut police, saying that it was "all speculation", however the incident prompted a wave of legislative and bureaucratic efforts against violent video games in the following months, including a meeting between U.S. vice president Joe Biden and representatives from the video game industry on the topic of video game violence. The official investigation report, released November 25, 2013, discussed video games only briefly in the 48-page report and did not suggest they contributed to Lanza's motive. The report revealed that Lanza played a variety of video games, although he was most fond of non-violent video games such as Dance, Dance Revolution and Super Mario Brothers. The report particularly focused on Dance, Dance Revolution which he played regularly, for hours, with an associate.
- During the May, 2013 trial of Christopher Harris, an Illinois man accused of murdering a family of 5, the issue of video game violence was raised by the defense. The defense claimed that the family was, in fact murdered by the 14-year-old son and Harris walked in on the mass murder in progress and had to defend himself, killing only the teen in the process. The defense called a research psychologist who testified that the teen's exposure to violent video games, along with an alleged history of social, school and family problems, made him at risk for aggression. However, during cross-examination, the psychologist acknowledge having no clinical license, not having conducted a proper psychological evaluation or psychological autopsy and that research evidence couldn't link video games to violent crimes. The psychologist also asserted that even games such as Pac Man could possibly be considered violent video games. Harris' brother testified against him and forensic evidence linked Harris to the homicides. Also suggesting that self-defense was unlikely, the teen had been hit over 50 times with a tire iron. In referring to the psychologist's testimony, one assistant attorney general was hear to remark "The most offensive testimony I’ve ever heard in my life, I think." The jury did not accept the defense's argument and Harris was convicted of all 5 murders.
- On Wednesday March 24, 2012, 14 year-old Noah Crooks was accused of shooting his, 32 year-old mother; Gretchen Crooks with a .22 Caliber Rifle after a failed attempt to rape her. Noah was charged with first-degree murder and assault. During the dispatch call to 911 shortly following the murder, Crooks revealed that Gretchen Crooks had taken away his 'Call Of Duty' video game because his grades got bad and that is why he snapped. According to dispatch, Noah Crooks did not seem emotional even though he had murdered his mother a couple of hours earlier.
Theories of video game effects
Several theoretical approaches have been applied to potential video game violence effects (or lack thereof). These models compete, attempting to explain how video games may or may not have effects on players.
For example the Catalyst Model of aggression comes from a diathesis-stress perspective, implying that aggression is due to a combination of genetic risk and environmental strain. The Catalyst Model suggests that stress, coupled with antisocial personalities is most salient in leading to aggressive behaviour. The Catalyst Model does allow that proximal influences such as family or peers may influence aggressiveness. However the Catalyst Model specifically states that media influences are too weak and distant to have much influence.
The General Aggression Model (GAM) models video games as having an influence on people, proposing that a participant's thoughts, feelings and physical arousal can be affected by simulated violence. The GAM asserts believes this creates an effect on an individual's interpretation of an aggressive or violent act.
The GAM claims that video games have both short- and long-term effects. In the short-term the aggressive cognitions, affects and arousal are posited to increase while long-term effects are asserted to be possible, but not yet accurately determined. Anderson and Bushman claim violent video games promote violent behavior, attitudes and beliefs by desensitizing an individual to aggression.
Regulation of video games
In response to concerns about video games, governments around the globe have enacted or attempted to enact legislation regulating, prohibiting, or outright banning video games. Similarly, support for video game and media regulation has been linked to moral panic. To that end, different video game content rating systems have been introduced across the globe.
Psychology professor Chris Ferguson discusses in an interview how these myths are perpetuated. When asked to describe the nature of how negative propaganda is spread by activist against video games, Ferguson explained that many respected academics and elected officials develop apprehension towards the media in question and formulate disproportionate accusations of harm. Those claims are out in the public when expert evidence proves them to be invalid, making it difficult to withdraw from such allegations. Possible motivations for why activist claims are not retracted are "...there are certain financial incentives and political incentives. It’s hard to get grant money arguing that something *isn’t* a problem...and some scholars take money from anti-media lobbying groups. Politically scholars to support a government mandated censorship regimen naturally intend to be in charge of that regimen themselves". Ferguson adds that present research on violence in video games confirms no valid link, "The best studies now coming out — those which take care to use well-validated clinical outcome measures and which carefully control for other important risk factors — provide no support for the belief that VVG contributes to youth violence".
Voluntary rating systems adopted by the video game industry, such as the ESRB rating system in the United States and Canada (established in 1994), as well as the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating system in Europe (established in 2003), that are aimed at informing parents about the types of games their children are playing (or are asking to play). Certain game publishers’ decision to have controversial games rated seems to show that they are not targeted at young children. They are rated by the ESRB as "Mature" (M) or "Adults Only" (AO) in the US, or given British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings of 15 or 18 in the UK. The packaging notes that these games should not be sold to children. In the US, ESRB ratings are not legally binding, but many retailers take it upon themselves to refuse the sale of these games to minors. In the United Kingdom (UK), the BBFC ratings are backed up by law, so it is actually illegal to sell the game to anyone under the indicated age, and many UK retailers go beyond that and also enforce the PEGI ratings, which are not backed up by law. No video game console manufacturer has yet to allow any game to be published in North America with the harshest ESRB rating, "Adults Only", signaling that the game is only appropriate for ages 18 years and up. Additionally, no major retailers are willing to set aside shelf space for AO-rated games. Although Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was given a rating of AO after widespread surfacing of an add-on originally deleted from the game, "Hot Coffee," in which the player controls a fully clothed sexual encounter. It was later fully removed and the game retained the M rating. GTA San Andreas is the best selling game to ever receive the AO rating.
The sales of M- and AO-rated games to minors has been an issue of much concern to parent groups and public officials, and bills have been submitted to government agencies, including the Video Games Ratings Enforcement Act introduced to the US House of Representatives in both the 109th Congress and 110th Congress. The proposed legislation would require an ID check for M- and AO-rated game purchases. The bill was not passed into law and other proposed bills were stopped because of First Amendment violations.
Although no law mandates ID checking for games with adult content, a 2008 secret shopper survey done by the Federal Trade Commission shows that video game retailers have voluntarily increased ID verification for M- and AO-rated games, and sales of those games to underage potential buyers have been reduced from 83% in 2000 to only 20% in 2008.
In April 2011, the Federal Trade Commission undercover shopper survey found that video game retailers continue to enforce the ratings by allowing only 13% of underage teenage shoppers to buy M-rated video games, a statistically significant improvement from the 20% purchase rate in 2009. By contrast, underage shoppers purchased R-rated movies 38% of the time, and unrated movies 47% of the time.
On January 7, 2009, Representative Joe Baca of California’s 43rd District introduced H.R. 231, the Video Game Health Labelling Act. This bill called for labels to be placed in a "clear and conspicuous location on the packaging" which states "WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behaviour." The proposed legislation mandated that all video games with an ESRB rating of T (Teen) or higher be subjected to the compulsory labelling. The press release accompanying the introduction of the bill referred to scientific studies from the Pediatrics Journal, Indiana University, University of Missouri and Michigan State University which pointed to a "neurological link between playing violent video games and aggressive behaviour in children and teenagers." The proposed legislation was referred on to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. On January 24, 2011; Rep. Joe Baca reintroduced the Video Game Health Labelling Act as H.R. 400 of the 112th Congress. The bill was once again passed onto the Subcommittee.
On June 27, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, cited video games as protected speech under the First Amendment. The case centered on a California law that sought to restrict sales of violent video games to minors. The video game industry, led by the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association, successfully obtained an injunction on the bill, believing that definition of violence defined by the California law was too vague and would not treat video games as protected speech. This opinion was upheld in lower courts, and supported by the Supreme Court's decision. In the decision, the Court determined that there was no direct link between violent video games and their influence on children, in as much as compared to other types of media like television and pictures, and that they could not create a new class of restricted speech that is not applied to other forms of media.
On April 3, 2013, California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein spoke in San Francisco to a group of 500 constituents about gun violence. In her talk she brought the game industry to task saying video games have "a very negative role for young people, and the industry ought to take note of that." In the talk she also said Congress might have to step in if the video games industry did not cease to glorify guns.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Entertainment Software Rating Board(ESRB) parents believe that parental controls on gaming consoles are useful. The percentile of parents that do place times limits are shown: 79% of parents place time limits on video game playing. 78% of parents place time limits on internet usage. 72% place time limits on television viewing. 69% place time limits on movie viewing. Through the development of gaming consoles, parents are able to control how much gaming time their child plays by simply preseting the gaming console to the number they want. As shown here are the numbers of the presets and their description on a Playstation 3 gaming console: 2- EC (Early Childhood 3+), 3- E (Everyone 6+), 4- E10 (Everyone 10+), 5- T (Teen 13+), 9- M (Mature 17+), and 10- AO (Adults Only 18+). According to the ESA, the lower the number, the tighter the restrictions. Setting restrictions at one of these numbers will prevent games rated above that level from being played on the system.
Positive effects of video games
Violent and non-violent video games may become the future of how people teach and learn as a society. Unlike other media available today, video games have the ability to gain the full attention of the player by immersing them in a virtual world. In these virtual environments players must learn new techniques and concepts in order to advance to the next level, or just stay alive. These environments can be created to teach firefighting skills or help soldiers learn proper combat techniques. If there is something a person would like to teach, a video game can be created to help its intended audience learn that something. The potential of video games as a learning and teaching device is slowly being recognized by today's researchers. Violent and non-violent video games may become the unlikely champion of education.
Numerous researchers have proposed potential positive effects of video games on aspects of social and cognitive development and psychological well-being. It has been shown that action video game players have better hand-eye coordination and visuo-motor skills, such as their resistance to distraction, their sensitivity to information in the peripheral vision and their ability to count briefly presented objects, than non-players. With the development of the PlayStation Move, Kinect and Wii, video games can also help develop motor skills through full body movement. Video games also develop the individual's intelligence, and in social games develop the social capabilities of the individual.
Another way in which the usage of video games might provide a benefit is in the relief of stress. There is a study being conducted by Dr.Cheryl Olson and her team at Massachusetts General Hospital’s (MGH) Center for Mental Health and Media and Harvard to prove that violent games help students deal with stress and aggression. She has found that over 49% of boys and 25% of girls use violent games such as Grand Theft Auto IV as an outlet for their anger. Dr. Olson has come to the conclusion that violent games affect students positively and not negatively because crime rates are decreasing while the popularity of M-rated video games has increased. She suggests that instead of stopping children from playing M-rated games completely, parents should just monitor how much time their children spend playing games. Parents should take responsibility.
Dr. Olson also wrote a review in 2010 for the Review of General Psychology, on the topic of what motivates children to play video games and what role video games play in normal child development. The studies suggest that video games can have social benefits for children; for example, video games can provide a topic of discussion and something over which children can bond, and can help children make friends. Playing video games can increase a child’s self-esteem when they are struggling in one aspect of their life, but are able to do something correctly in a video game. Children can also learn to take on leadership roles within a multi-player online game.
Several studies have explored the possible benefits of multiplayer video games in a family setting. The most recent study found that girls 11-16 who played video games with their parents had better mental health and less aggressive behavior, with a stronger connection if they played age-appropriate games.
Many studies have been done on gaming and its integration into the classroom in order to support the educator. "The use of gaming has the ability to actively involve students in learning." On-line gaming is especially important in helping students build collaborative skills while completing given tasks. Playing video games outside of the school is a way to develop useful skills for the classroom and the rest of the social world for that matter. It's quite common for games to use puzzles, mazes, and recalling past events in the game to progress. It will also show the child that sometimes choices may be hard to make when trying to get something done. It has a person evaluate consequences and benefits from a choice, and also decide to confront or avoid a problem based on their individual skill set. Video games can be very advantageous to the mind and in a sense that they help improve dexterity, computer literacy, and other mental skills that can be very beneficial. Video games also improve fact recall processes in the brain and improve problem solving skills.
Video games teach an individual to not be burdened by defeat. Players learn that the information gained though failing allows for a better chance at future success. The readiness to learn from failure puts game players at a particular advantage in the business world as creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. When people plan future endeavors based only on past success, the risks that they are prepared to take are limited to those that have previously yielded positive results. Video games offer a safe place to make critical decisions with weighty consequences, evaluate the outcome, and attempt alternate methods. "A kid in the classroom has to worry about looking like an idiot. In a game, they're raising their hand all the time, and true learning comes from failing".
To date, video game training appears to be one of the more interesting and promising means to improve perceptual, attentional, and cognitive abilities. One of its promises is that, compared to traditional training, it can be engaging and entertaining. This has led some companies to begin to market video games for the specific purpose of improving cognition. For example, Nintendo advertises "Big Brain Academy" as a game that "trains your brain with a course load of mind-bending activities across five categories: think, memorize, analyze, compute, and identify".
It enables players to explore various aspects of their identity in a virtual world.
Journalist and author, David Sheff, believes that many skills can be learned from the gaming experience, it builds practical and intellectual skills, "by playing video games children gain problem solving abilities, perseverance, pattern recognition, hypothesis testing, estimating skills, inductive skills, resources management, logistics mapping, memory, quick thinking and reasonable judgments".
Many authors disagree with the notion that suggests that the media can cause violence, they propose media cannot cause violence because humans have the ability to recognize what is wrong, and what is right. They suggest people are not going to mistake fiction for reality. Some people who criticize the proposed negative effects based their research are Terry Flew, Sal Humphreys, Martin Barker and Jonathan Freedman.
J.C. Herz argued that many so-called negative effects of video games, such as aggression and lack of pro-social behavior, are both necessary and useful traits to have in a capitalistic society. Specifically, Herz argued that many academic researchers have an anti-capitalist bias, and thus failed to notice the benefits of such traits.
Some authors also suggest that video games have many healthy and positive aspects, for example they can be a safe outlet for aggression and frustration.
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