"The Happy Killer"
Imagine watching a child play a video game. How thrilling it is to see their response and excitement. Their little faces as they light up passing each new obstacle, and there’s even excitement when they make a mistake and have to start all over again. Now imagine what’s going on inside of their brains. If it’s a shooting game, we may think wow, skill, accuracy, technique. If it’s a fighting game, we may muddle over their quick response and how quickly they see patterns and are able to counteract. We may even think it’s cute, that they try to emulate the little karate moves, and laugh as they fall trying to get their little legs in the air. But what is it that we don’t see? Scientists and psychologists alike have studied brain response during video game play and the results are life altering. Studies have linked violence to video games by providing medical research, proving an increase in video game sales paired with an increase in youth violence, and mass murder case studies which link murderers with excessive video game play.
Firstly, Studies have linked violence to video games by providing medical research. John Murray, professor of developmental psychology at Kansas State University, Manhattan, explains how the Amygdala, the part of the brain that recognizes threat and prepares the body for “fight or flight” becomes desensitized when overwhelmed with the constant violence found in video games(USA Today, 2006). In another study, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) was conducted and studies concluded that violence in some violent video games caused an increase in emotions and arousal. It also showed a decrease in both concentration and self control (Science Daily, 2006). And finally, an analysis done by the Surgeon General has shown “that violent video game effects are greater than the effect of second hand tobacco smoke on lung cancer, the effect of lead exposure to I.Q. scores in children, and calcium intake on bone mass” (Psychological Science Agenda). Other studies have been conducted and all conclude that there is definitely a link between video game violence and its affect on the brain and reactions of both children and young adults (Science Daily, 2005).
Secondly, as video game sales increase, so does youth violence. The CCJS (Canadian Center for Justice Statistics collects data nationwide and uses it to compile statistic reports on youth crime. The data results include crimes of youth age 12- 17, who have been officially charged. Statistics show that the amount of “youth crimes have increased 12% in ten years and 30% since 1991” (The Daily, 2008). In the same constantly increasing way, the video game industry has gone from millions to billions of dollars a year over the last few years largely because of the sale of violent video games. Of the top ten best selling games today, five contain violence, and these are the most popular with the younger demographic (Tanner, N., 2008).
Lastly, some case studies of mass murders have been attributed to the murderer playing countless hours of video games. Eighteen year old Devin Moore of Fayette, Alabama had been playing the game Grand Theft Auto continuously before being arrested and killing two police officers and one dispatcher, shooting them all at least once in the head and then stealing a police vehicle, just like on the game (Leung, R., 2005). Grand theft auto is number seven (7) and ten (10) on the top ten list of bestselling video games of all times (Gunslot, 2007). Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold also known as the Columbine killers are another case study where psychologists say video game violence and its affect on the human psyche may have been a factor. The teenagers attended the high school and were not popular with their peers. The two became friends and avid players of the game Doom. Doom was licensed by the US Military and is known as the original of first person shooter games. Used as a training simulation game by the US Marine Corps, Doom was not only released to the Armed Forces but also to the public. (website, 2009). These are excerpts taken from the diary of one of the Columbine Killers, “Doom is such a big part of my life and no one I know can recreate environments in Doom as good as me. I know almost anything there is to know about that game, so I believe that separates me from the rest of the world… Doom is so burned into my head my thoughts usually have something to do with the game…” He also stated, “…everyone should be put to a test, an Ultimate Doom test… “Put them in a Doom world, no authority, no refuge, no BS copout excuses. If you can’t figure out the area of a triangle… you die (Live Journal, 2006)! The teenagers killed a total of 12 students and a teacher, injuring 21 others and then killing themselves, to bring an end to this horrific act. This shooting made April 20, 1999, one day that the world will never forget (Daily News, 2009). There are at lease twelve (12) other case studies linking violence in video games, to youth violent acts.
Medical research, simultaneously the rise in video game sales and the rise in youth violent crimes, and over a dozen mass murder case studies where the murderer is an avid video game player, all collaborate the facts that video game violence can definitely be a contributor to violent behavior in youth. We, as a society, may be able to control what we see, but what about what we don’t see. Viewing violence of any sort should discuss and be appalling to us, but we take in tons of it and unknowingly become desensitized to it. It may be said, that we would not applaud violence performed in our faces that we would flee or get help, but what about the children. The children who now in school run to a fight instead of away; or instead of calling an adult, they bring out cell phones and record it, so that they may later upload it on YouTube to laugh at over and over again. Now when we take the time to imagine that little one playing that video game, and you see those cute little feet reaching high as they can in the air, with the sole purpose of emulating the same violence that they see portrayed on the screen, is it really that cute?