By SIERRA DELOACH
Fantasy gore seems to be more and more popular as the graphics are refined and technical kinks are straightened out. They have become increasingly popular amongst the teen to young adult population, especially boys. What is it that makes them so fascinating—the repulsive graphics, the brutal deaths? And, is there something more sinister about these games’ effects on teen and young adult behavior?
Graphic designers for video games have cracked down on the nitty-gritty details in the last three years, perfecting realistic blood spatters, human-like reflexes in opposing characters, and jaw-dropping architecture. Especially now, with such a wide array of technology at our fingertips, the demand for perfection drives designers to push the limits. The violence is beginning to seem more realistic, the deaths more satisfying. Many people, parents especially, are worried that the hyper-realistic games will cause children to lash out, or even cause severe harm to other people. Even school shootings have been blamed on violent video games, but scientists disagree on this assumption.
Most scientists who have studied the matter agree that the “violent” effects of video games on any given player are short term—like heightened rudeness for maybe an hour or two—and agree that they help by keeping the violence in our imagination and off the streets. They say that even violent TV or news stories can have the same effect. Neuroscientist Daphne Bevelier’s studies found that video games, specifically first-person shooters, improve reaction time and hand/eye coordination. Results found that avid players can find small details more accurately in clutter, and differentiate shades of gray better, which could mean the difference between life and a fatal car accident when driving in dark, foggy weather. One study even suggested that playing video games can, for people who have less than perfect eyesight, retrain the player’s brain to see better after a longer period of time. And still, despite evidence of being beneficial, video games are accused of causing violence.
People like to blame video games for aggression in communities, but the truth is there is absolutely no evidence directly linking video games to physical violence. There are too many variables to consider that lead to violent acts, such as bullying in the home or at school, to correlate anything directly to a harmful occurrence. According to ProCon.org, the spikes of youth hostility have not coincided with the increase of violent video games either. The amount of youth offenders dropped by 49.3% between 1994 and 2008, whereas video game sales have doubled since 1996. And, according the studies of Dr. Michael Ward’s, an economics professor at the University of Texas, the times when video game sales are highest are actually when juvenile crime rates are lowest.
The evidence that violent video games are beneficial, and aren’t causing all the violence they’ve been accused of, has been drowned out by reproachful and hateful remarks. The war on video games has gone so far in some states that it is illegal to sell video games rated mature or higher to anyone under 18, despite the court ruling that it’s a violation of free speech, much like the cases in California in 2011.
With fingers itching to play that new Call of Duty or Battlefield, new worries of teen and young adult violence has surfaced. But isn’t it better for violence to stay in our heads or on a screen instead of on the streets? And, with so many benefits to be gained from that new Bioshock, why not spend a little time sharpening your senses and slaughtering a few hundred rebels? Violent video games have not desensitized us to real-life brutality—if anything, they’ve become a healthy release of stress, and many online games promote cooperation with large numbers of players on your own or the opposing teams. So enjoy that new copy of Grand Theft Auto 5 you’re itching to play, and all of its guilt free pleasure.