Video game controversies
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Video game controversies are debates about video game content and the potential for that content to negatively impact player attitude and behavior. Since the early 1980s, advocates of video games have emphasized their use as an expressive medium and argued for their protection under laws of freedom of speech. Detractors argue that video games are harmful and therefore subject to legislative oversight and restrictions. The effect of video games, particularly whether they cause harm, is the subject of scientific study. Results of investigations into links between video games and addiction, aggression, violence, social development, and a variety of stereotyping and sexual morality issues are inconsistent.
- 1 Background
- 2 Censorship
- 3 Research methods
- 4 Video games and violent crime
- 5 Responses to violent video games in US
- 6 Biology and physiology
- 7 Sexual themes
- 8 Portrayal of gender
- 9 LGBT characters
- 10 Portrayal of race
- 11 Addiction
- 12 Digital rights management
- 13 US publicized incidents
- 14 Non-US incidents
- 15 Theories of video game effects
- 16 Regulation of video games
- 17 Parental controls
- 18 Positive effects of video games
- 19 See also
- 20 References
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 was 37 in 2009 and 30 in 2013. A survey of 1,102 children between 12 and 17 years of age found that ninety-seven percent are video game players who have played in the last day and seventy-five percent of parents checked the censor's rating on a video game before allowing their child to purchase it. Of these children, fourteen percent of girls and fifty percent of boys favored games with an "M" (mature) or "AO" (adult-only) rating. Thirty-two percent of American adults play video games and to 2007, the number was increasing.
Since the late 1990s, there have been highly publicized incidents, where it has been suggested that acts of great violence have occurred because the perpetrators have played violent video games. Some research finds violent video game use correlates with a temporary increase in aggression and decrease in prosocial behavior (caring about the welfare and rights of others) but these results are not reproduced. Others theorise positive effects including prosocial behavior in some contexts and argue that the video game industry has served as a scapegoat for more generalised problems affecting some societies.
In response to public concern about video games, governments have enacted, or have tried to enact, legislation that regulates distribution of video games such as censorship based on content rating systems or banning.
Researchers study five elements of the effects of video games on players: measures of the health and educational achievements of the player as a function of the amount of game play; the behaviour or perceptions of players as a function of the level of violence in the game; the context of the game play in terms of group dynamics; the structure of the game as it affects visual attention or three dimensional constructional skills of the players; and the mechanics of the game as they affect hand-eye coordination.
In 2011, von Salisch found in a longitudinal study of youth in Germany, that aggressive children tend to select more violent video games. This study found no evidence that violent games are psychologically harmful to minors. The author speculated that other studies may have been affected by "single responder bias" due to self-reporting of aggression rather than reporting by parents or teachers.
Video games and violent crime
A common theory is that playing violent video games increases aggression in young people. Some studies support this notion. Other studies find no link.
- "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 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.
Responses to violent video games in US
David Grossman, a former West Point psychology professor and lieutenant commander, wrote books about violence in the media including: On Killing (1996) and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill (1999). He described first-person shooter games as murder simulators. He argued that video game publishers unethically train children in the use of weapons and harden them emotionally to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game.
- "[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."  In 2005, Anderson was criticised in court for failing to give balanced expert evidence.
In 2004, the American Psychological Association (APA) stated,
- "Psychological research confirms that violent video games can increase children's aggression, but that parents moderate the negative effects."
The APA revised position of 2010 read,
- "Bad effects depend on certain personality traits; games can offer learning opportunities for others".
In 2007, Sherry asked:
- "Why do some researchers, for example, Gentile and Anderson, continue to argue that video games are dangerous despite evidence to the contrary?"
In 2008, in Grand theft childhood: the surprising truth about violent video games and what parents can do., Kutner and Olsen refuted claims that violent video games cause an increase in violent behavior in children. They report there is a scientifically non-significant trend showing that adolescents who do not play video games at all are most at risk for violent behavior and video game play is part of an adolescent boy's normal social setting. However, the authors did not completely deny the negative influences of violent (M-rated) video games on pre-teens and teenagers: Kutner and Olson suggested the views of alarmists and those of representatives of the video game industry are often supported by flawed or misconstrued studies and that the factors leading to violence in children and adolescents were more subtle than whether or not they played violent video games.
In 2010, Anderson's group published a meta-analysis examining 130 international studies with over 130,000 participants. He reported that exposure to violent video games caused both short term and long term aggression in players and decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.
In the same year, Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communications at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, concluded:
- "Taken together...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."  He and others criticized Anderson's study for methodological flaws including failure to abide by quantifiable measurements of aggression and for failing to engage dissenting studies leading to a sampling bias. He also commented, in relation to children with mental health problems,
- "We can't find any evidence that those kids are affected either."
In that same year, records held by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and Office of Justice Programs indicated US arrests for violent crime had decreased since the early 1990s in both children and adults. This decrease occurred despite increasing sales of violent video games and increases in graphically violent content in those games.
Henry Jenkins said,
- "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."
Biology and physiology
Conditions such as antisocial personality disorder, may determine those who are at most risk of carrying out violent acts after playing video games. That is, those people predisposed to violent behavior may be at greater risk of being adversely affected by the playing of violent video games than others. Other biological theories of aggression and violence have specifically excluded video game and other media effects because the evidence for such effects is considered weak and the impact too distant. One such theory that excluded video game playing is the catalyst model proposed by Ferguson and Beaver
Tolerance of sexual themes and content in video game content varies between nations. Controversy over sexual themes has occurred in the US. For instance, 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 sexual intercourse 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 on 20 July 2005to "adults only". Furthermore, the game was withdrawn from sale in many stores. Rockstar Games posted a loss of $28.8 million in that financial quarter. This event was dubbed the Hot Coffee mod controversy.
The game, RapeLay, a Japanese eroge (see below) with a storyline centering around the player's character stalking and raping a mother and her two daughters also caused controversy. Campaigns against the sale of the game resulted in its being banned in many countries. RapeLay's publisher, which intended the game only to be available in Japan, withdrew it from distribution.
Portrayal of gender
Violent video games may have the effect of reinforcing sexist stereotypes. In 1998, a study by Dietz, conducted at the University of Central Florida, found that of thirty-three games sampled, 41% did 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"), opponents ("evil or as obstacles to the goal of the game"), and trivial ("females depicted in fairly non-significant roles"). However, the study is criticized for not including a wide range of video games for study and for including old games published up to twenty years ago which do not represent current industry standards, for example, an increased presence of strong female characters.
In 2002, Kennedy considered the characteristics of the character, 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'. Dietz's findings are supported by a survey commissioned in 2003 by Children Now. The survey found 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.
In 2005, Terry Flew, academic, expressed a similar opinion: gender bias and stereotyping exists in many games. Male characters are portrayed as hard bodied, muscled men while female characters are portrayed as soft bodied, nearly naked women with large breasts, 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 and that "...different genders have different gaming."
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.
Portrayal of race
Video games may influence the learning of young players about race and urban culture. The portrayal of race in some video games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Custer's Revenge, 50 Cent: Bulletproof, Left 4 Dead 2 and Def Jam: Fight for NY has been controversial.
The 2002 game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City was criticized for promoting racist hate crime. The game takes place in 1986, in "Vice City", a fictionalized Miami. It involves a gang war between Haitian and Cuban refugees which involves the player's character. However, it is possible to play the game without excessive killing.
In Resident Evil 5, published in 2009, the player kills numerous African enemies. In response to criticism, promoters of Resident Evil 5 argued that to censor the portrayal of black antagonists was discrimination in itself.
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.
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 to protect 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. In the USA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 increased the strength of DRM. Objection to DRM caused Microsoftto change its DRM policy for Xbox One.
Always-on Digital Rights Management (DRM), also known as persistant online authentication, is a type of controversial technology relating 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. Those against Always-on DRM focus on server connection difficulties, single player offline preferences, and game playability once companies shut down a server.
US publicized incidents
Many incidents in the US, that are speculated to be related to video games, have helped fuel controversy.
Wilson v. Midway Games, Inc.
On 22 November 1997, Noah Wilson, aged 13, died when his friend, Yancy, stabbed him in the chest with a kitchen knife. Wilson's mother, alleged her son was stabbed to death because of an obsession with the Midway game Mortal Kombat; that Yancy was so obsessed with the game that he believed himself to be the character, Cyrax, who uses a finishing move which involves taking the opponent in a headlock and stabbing them in the chest. The court found "Wilson's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
Johnson and Golden
On 24 March 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, and it was determined that the two boys had often played GoldenEye 007 together and they enjoyed playing first-person shooter games.
Harris and Klebold
On 20 April 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 rumor, 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 November 2001, at the age of twenty-one, Shawn Woolley committed suicide in a state his mother claimed was an addiction to EverQuest. Woolley's mother said,
- "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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 September 2007, a Chinese man in Guangzhou, China, died after playing Internet video games for three consecutive days in an Internet cafe.
- 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.
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
While video games have been known to help the body as much as the mind, it also has brought more families together. According to a study conducted by the Entertainment Software Association, 78% of parents think that video games are a great time to bond or socialize with their child. Parents are also starting to love playing games with their kids as well. 58% of parents play with their kids monthly and 35% play with their kids weekly. Parents are also starting to see benefits of video games as well. 71% of parents believe that video games provide mental stimulation or education for their child or the family.
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