Maria Alejandra Urroz Gaitan
Topic: What Effect Does Playing Violent Video Games Has on Teen’s Behavior
“No other sector has experienced the same explosive growth as the computer and video game industry. Our creative publishers and talented workforce continue to accelerate advancement and pioneer new products that push boundaries and unlock entertainment experiences. These innovations in turn drive enhanced player connectivity, fuel demand for products, and encourage the progression of an expanding and diversified consumer base.” (Gallagher, Michael D.; President and CEO, Entertainment Software association)
One of the major problems society is facing today is the addiction kids are developing towards electronic devices such as television, computer and video games. Parents complain about their kids getting distracted with those machines, start thinking it’s only their son or daughter, and later realize it’s something that most people at school does. Some see it as normal and now it’s common. Violent video games can lead to, from small changes in behavior to in the worst of all cases, killing someone. How are teenagers reacting to playing video games, and does it affect their behavior even if there’s not an addiction developed. Violent video games can’t be that bad, right? Video games have also proven to have health benefits, and psychological benefits. But what are video games? According to the Oxford Dictionary they are: “(N.) a game played by electronically manipulating images produced by a computer program on a monitor or other display”.
The engaging aspect of video games is that they allow the player to become whatever he wants to be. The player is able to become their fantasy, and to experience a life he doesn’t have. The video games allow the player become what they are not, this also makes them feel powerful. People are able to express who they truly are; meaning they are free to do anything they please, even if it’s not considered correct. “Hard fun is, of course, the idea that we take pleasure in accomplishing something difficult: the joy in meeting and mastering a challenge. As a result, when someone is doing something that is hard fun, moment by moment it looks more like “work” than “fun,” but the net effect is pleasurable overall.”(Williamson Shaffer, David). The harder the video game is the more interesting it turns out to be for the public, the greater demand it has. People like what challenges them, what makes them think outside their comfort zone and look for brighter ideas that they portray through their reactions and solutions to the situations they face.
Are there reasons to start playing video games? Teenagers are the ones who tend to play video games in extended periods of time due to their feeling of lacking control of situations in their lives, so they use video games as a way of controlling what will happen. This essay focuses on violent video games, because those are most teen’s preferences. Playing violent video games have shown to have more and faster influence on its players than educative video games have; they have turned out to be more engaging. The former have shown to have both, good and bad, effects; external situations are what define as to whether teens reflect either effect. The violence in video games can be categorized in different aspects, as to whether the characters are representing people or are fantasy characters, violent video games also have different context in the plot of the video games. There are violent video games which present a justified type of violence, or if it’s killing just for pleasure. What is the story based in how does it begins and ends; some video games have no context of that at all and merely show a story, only reckless killings. Through the essay external factors which affect the reaction teens have to those games.
How Video Games Begin:
Teens are generally introduced to the violent video games by their friends; they consider it the cool thing, since the media has promoted the game as such. Then they constantly play when they are bored, or with friends. Generally they tend to choose to play violent video games because they are a way for a teen to have control over something, which is what teens are mostly looking forward. They are also looking for a distraction, or an activity so that they can have fun. They start playing violent video games, not because they are looking forward to becoming serial killers, but because they are appealing a way by which they feel they can release their anger without actually being violent; because they can be stressed because of different reasons such as school, or a discussion with their parents and getting to do something where they are the ones that control the actions, relaxes them.
Teens begin playing video games as hobbies, which then become habits and in no time they become addiction. What differentiates hobbies with habits is that hobbies might be performed eventually but habits are constant making them harder to change. Habits are behavioral patterns developed by repeating the action constantly, so that eventually the brain does it automatically. Habits can be controlled or modified, they tend to become addictions when the person begins feeling the necessity of performing the action but addiction requires professional help and motivation for a change.
Playing video games has become an addiction in many cases. ‘Addiction’ comes from the action of being addicted to something; which is being physically and mentally dependent on a substance or behavior. Addictions affect interactions within the structures of the brain, such as the anterior cingulate cortex, amygdala, and accumbens, such that a person’s motivation switches to those addictive behaviors; it also affects interactions and neurotransmissions between the cortical and hippocampal circuits which are the sides of the brain in which the rewards are stored, and the person begins to constantly perform actions that were normally a reward. In this case video games are played for many hours on a daily bases, instead of being played for fun becomes the main activity in the person’s routine.
The addiction causes, behavioral, cognitive and emotional changes. Behavioral changes are the first symptom to be noticeable to others, such as excessive engagement in video games, and narrowing the actions of the day to end up playing. Cognitive changes become obvious to others when the person begins having difficulties because of the addiction, but continues blaming his problems to the addiction. Emotional changes are those such as an increase in anxiety, and increased sensitivity to stress.
A person will present certain symptoms when an addiction is being developed such as: preoccupation, time loss, lack of control, making excuses, and defensiveness. The teen starts to show preoccupation as they do daily activities, and he doesn’t enjoy the activities he is doing, he is worried about continuing playing, or thinking about new strategies to use in his game; the teen stops enjoying outdoor, family or any other type of activities, only worrying about his virtual life. Time loss happens when the person has other activities to do but chooses as a priority to continue playing video games, that also shows lack of control and lack of organization; it might be normal for it to happen once or every once in a while but when it happens repeatedly it’s a sign of an addiction. The individual also makes excuses for postponing more important activities, choosing to play video games instead. Making excuses such as those shows the full engagement the teen has with the games and the lack of interest he has with reality; so the teen is becoming less capable of managing his own time, he may be playing ten minutes more, three hours or as long as the teen is able to keep up playing the game.
“I find that many professionals simply haven’t even considered the alternative arguments. They just go with the mainstream studies, or they’re so wrapped up in their own part of the field it’s not a consideration. I work hard to try to draw comparisons to the things that they love and feel passionate about. We all have those things that are important to us, but stupid to other people. It becomes easier to discuss gaming when I draw those comparisons.” Says Dr. Steve Kuniak, he uses violent video games as a way of having a connection with his patients, since he is a player, he understands why they like video games so much. He has found out that video games have the benefit of coping and wellness. Players of video games, especially when they are young, are able to develop their own world and their own personality.
Teens also develop the habit of following instructions, and of analyzing situations better. Many psychologists also contradict the theory of teens isolating themselves from the rest of the world; instead they say that teens have the possibility to socialize more through the possibility of interacting with other players that the video games propose. They will also be able to develop coordination and agility skills.
Coordination, between hand and eye, in shooting games the character is able to run and shot at once, this requires coordinating the brain’s interpretations and reactions with the player’s movements and thoughts. Research has also shown that players can learn spatial, iconic and visual attention from the skills on video games. In the game the player needs to pay attention to the different situations and the different objects that are on a scene because they might need them later on; the player should be able to notice all those little details as well in the real world. Teens are able to make guesses and test their hypotheses about the different situations presented. They start taking more risks, through those gaining experiences, which in the psychologists’ point of view is good because the consequences they could be having in real life they are experiencing them through a video game. Experiencing the games it’s better than them taking those situations to reality; it would be dangerous to people.
Violent video games also help with team work, especially those online games in which the player is able to create alliances or teams to accomplish a mission. The player learns how to play their role in the team work and how to distribute work. They learn how working as a team can be better than working alone, how it makes things simpler. The player is also able to view situations from a different perspective; they may switch roles and experience harder jobs than theirs. They are realizing how hard accomplishing something, because there are always different obstacles that get in the way.
Video games are also a way to release stress, especially for kids who don’t practice sports. It gives them a type to deviate their attention from what could be going wrong in their lives. Video games may have a positive aspect, this also depends on the orientation teens have from parents if parents guide kids in order for them to understand that video games are not reality and that they can’t do all the things they do in video games, like killing someone, teens will react appropriately to violent types of video games because they’ll know to differentiate right from wrong; it may even help them to react to certain situations better.
The most known change in behavior is an increase in aggressiveness. “Playing video games may increase aggressive behavior because violent acts are continually repeated throughout the video game. This method of repetition has long been considered an effective teaching method in reinforcing learning patterns.” (Anderson Gentile, 2003)  This reaction may not mean that they will be provoking fights, in the weaker of the cases the teen will react harshly to situations, such as a lecture from their parents or an insult from anyone. In a stronger case the teen might react violently to strong situations he or she might be facing.
How much is enough?
Does it affect the family?
Brands which are considered the most addicting
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