The Digital Journalism Blog

Video game violence and its possible effects

Posted in Uncategorized by com360bu on May 6, 2011

As video games are becoming more and more realistic, they are becoming more and more violent. Which raises the questions that has been an issue since violent video games first hit the market: Do violent video games increase violent behavior in the people that play them, particularly young people? Do they have any effect at all?

by Shane Luttrell


Video game violence and its possible effects

By Shane Luttrell

Remember when video games were simply two long stick-like figures and a tiny square “ball” that went back in forth? Or how about a round yellow “man” working his way around a maze while trying to avoid four “ghosts?” Maybe a little red guy with a mustache who ate mushrooms and jumped on turtles? Ah, such good memories.

Gone are the days of Pong, Pac-Man, Mario, and Donkey Kong. The new generation of video games has arrived and they have a license to kill.

Although violent video games have been around since the Super Nintendo days, it seems now more than ever, borderline sadistic games are being put on the market. Grant Theft Auto, Resident Evil, Manhunt, Condemned, Gears of War, Call of Duty, Mortal Kombat, Silent Hill, and Dead Space are just a few of literally hundreds of games that promote violence.

Which begs the question: Does violence in video games actually increase violent behavior in the people that play them, particularly children and adolescents?

Among those who say “no” is Henry Jenkins, MIT professor. In an article Jenkins wrote to, he explains that while there has been extensive research done on media effects, there is no direct correlation between violent video games and an increase in violent behavior.

“If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor – when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences — which can contribute to anti-social behavior,” he said in the article. “But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.”

Case studies have shown that those who play violent video games are less sensitive to real-life violence, but that doesn’t necessarily increase violent behavior. Those same results have come up in television violence as well. The similarities between the two are stunning.

Both TV and video games have been blamed for violent crimes. In the case of the Columbine shootings, the culprits (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) were avid Doom players. Harris even modified the game to his liking. After the shootings, reports blamed Doom for their violent behavior while also placing some of the blame on the movie “The Matrix” as they wore trench coats during their tirade, similar to what the characters in the movie wore. So who’s to blame? The game? The movie? Or were they just naturally prone to violent behavior?

In June of 2003, teen brothers Joshua and William Buckner opened fire with a rifle across a highway in Tennessee killing one man and wounding one woman. They told authorities that they had been inspired by Grant Theft Auto III. However, since both of them were under the age of 18 and the game had an M-rating, neither of them should have been playing it. So is it the game’s fault for giving them the idea? Or is it the parent’s fault for letting their children play an M-rated game even though they were under the age of 18?

Just this past month, on April 9, 2011, 24-year-old Tristan van der Vlis of the Netherlands fired over 100 bullets in a shopping mall with a semi-automatic rifle and handgun, simulating the controversial “No Russian” mission in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. He killed six people and wounded 17 others before taking his own life. It’s worth noting that the game gives fair warning of the graphic detail of the mission, along with the option of skipping it altogether or playing it without having to fire on civilians without any penalty. Once again, did the game give him the idea? Should the creators be punished even though they give fair warning in-game along with the option of skipping the level?

Video game makers argue that games are a works of art, much like movies, and therefore should be protected under the First Amendment. They make a good point considering the field of graphic design now enables works of art to be made using computers.

Other critics claim that it is the parents’ responsibility to monitor what games their children play just as they would monitor what they watch on TV. Certainly a parent wouldn’t let their child watch a pornographic movie so why let them play a game that allows them to engage in sexual behavior?

It’s not as if video games have no form of regulation. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) puts a rating on the cover of every videogame that hits the market. The ratings are as follows: Early Childhood (EC), Everyone (E), E10 (Everyone ages 10 and up), T (Teen: ages 13 and up), M (Mature: ages 17 and up), and AO (Adults Only: ages 18 and up). To go along with the label, it has descriptors on the cover as well ranging from “Comic Mischief” to “Sexual Violence” to “Blood and Gore” to “Drug Reference.”

Despite the ESRB ratings, it seems as if the general theme from parents is that “it’s just a game.” They pay less attention to video games than they do movies or music, even though video games allow the player to engage in violent and sexual activities were movies and music just expose them to it.

The truth is no one has any idea if video games increase violent behavior in young people. Certainly one would think so considering all the cases of violence that had been “inspired” by video games. But regardless of the inspiration, shouldn’t the parents be able to control their children? Shouldn’t the young child or adolescent be aware that random violence is wrong? The beauty of video games is that there are no consequences, it’s not real. If you die, you simply re-spawn and try again. It’s about time that people realize that re-spawning doesn’t apply to the real world.


Students share their opinion on violence in video games and what the effect (if any) is on the people who play them, particularly young children and early teenagers.


A brief history of some of the most popular violent video games and the year they were released. Each game when scrolled over would have a brief overview of the game and when clicked would send the viewer to a video of actual gameplay.

Game descriptions/gameplay links

DUKE NUKEM: Duke Nukem was especially criticized because of other aspects besides it’s excessive violence. Themes such as graphic violence, drug use, pornography, and sexuality gave reasonable cause for concern from parents whose children were wishing to play the game (which mostly started around the release of Duke Nukem 2). However, the taboo topics in the game also contributed to the game’s popularity making it one of the most popular videogames of all time.

Gameplay link (Duke Nukem 2):

Gameplay link (new):

MORTAL KOMBAT: After it’s release in 1992, Mortal Kombat was met with skepticism from parents and public officials due to it’s excessive violence and bloody content. The game features an assortment of fighters who fight one-on-one with one another. At the end of each fight, the winner is given a chance to perform a “fatality” which is an extremely brutal execution of the opponent. This game was crucial to the development of the ESRB, which gives rating to each game to hit the market so consumers know the content before they buy it.

Gameplay link (original):

Gameplay link (new):

DOOM: Doom is credited to be the first real first-person shooter game with online multiplayer options. It was also the first game that was widely modified, sparking the “modding” generation. However, due to its “realistic” nature and ultra-violent gameplay, it was widely criticized. The amount of blood and gore in the game was considered repulsive by many at the time. Doom also was blamed for “inspiring” Columbine shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold for their actions.


RESIDENT EVIL: Resident Evil was a best-seller in 1996 after it’s release. The game is excessively violent and graphic, but it wasn’t met with the same criticism as some of the other titles because the player was shooting zombies instead of “real” people. Still, the game was a pioneer for the “zombie apocalypse” genre which has spread like wildfire, creating tons of other zombie-shooting games with as much blood and disgusting content as possible.

Gameplay link:

FALLOUT: Fallout is another post-apocalypse type game that was met with praise from gamers across the globe. However, like most other titles in the genre, the game features extremely violent and bloody scenes which the player causes in his quest to complete the game’s story.

Gameplay link (original):

Gameplay link (new):

GRAND THEFT AUTO III: Although Grand Theft Auto had made two previous games both for the PlayStation 1 console, Grand Theft Auto III was under scrutiny because unlike the previous two installments in the series, this game was in 3D making it more realistic in terms of violence. The player was given the ability to free roam across the city, running people over in cars, shooting civilians, killing police officers, picking up prostitutes, and more not-so-wholesome themes. The main objective in the game is to work for the mafia doing their dirty work and killing people as they so chose. Did I mention that almost everyone in the game including innocent bystanders use foul language as well?


MANHUNT: Manhunt is another game that was rejected by parents across America. In order to advance through the game, the player must kill people in the way they are told by the narrator. The plot is such that if you do not, he will kill you, ending your chances of beating the game. The more brutal the kill, the better. The game was said to have contributed to a murder in 2004 in which one teen lured another into a park and stabbed him repeatedly with a knife. It was later dismissed by the police, but the game remains banned in some countries.

Gameplay (original):

187 RIDE OR DIE: 187 Ride or Die is set in one of the worst areas of South Central, where the player must complete drive-by shootings against rival gangs to advance in the game. Unlike the other games on this list, 187 Ride or Die is based on a real area where real crimes like the ones committed in the game happen very frequently. This caused concern from critics who believe the game promotes gang violence and behavior.


CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is one of (if not the most) popular games of all time. The game is set in the Middle East where the players are Army soldiers against terrorist groups. Although there isn’t much bloodshed compared to other games, the real-life comparison makes critics upset. Simulating an on-going war usually isn’t met with praise from many government officials, but lucky for the creators it was met with extremely high praise in record-setting amounts of money earned on the day of it’s release in 2009.



3 Responses to 'Video game violence and its possible effects'

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  1. joel ross said,

    you can blame doom for Columbine just as soon as you can blame Mario for shroom addicts. your right that parents should watch what there kids play but kids understand killing is wrong, if there killing people after playing a video game there is some thing wrong with them mentaly. its not a video games fault for putting the idea in there head its there fault for not understanding that in video games you can do whatever you want.

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