Almost since the first video games came into being it has been commonly reported by the news media that games are a cause for violence in youths, unfortunately this means the good that even some of the most violent games have done is often overlooked. In a study by UNESCO it was found that violent media (in this case television programs and movies) causes a rise in aggression in children, though this was significantly more pronounced in children already living in a violent environment. In this study Groebel noted that;
“…children’s world views are obviously influenced by actual as well as media experiences. Nearly one third of the aggression-environment group believe that most people in the world are evil as compared to a fifth in the low aggression group.”
It seems that this data is shows children in higher aggression environments are more susceptible to reproducing what they experience in violent media, the report suggests that parental supervision is a major factor and serves to reduce the negative outcomes of consuming violent media. The main concern is whether the child is able to separate the media they are consuming from reality.
This is all very early on, a child is usually only able to grasp surface level concepts from the media they consume, once a person grows into their teens and later adulthood they begin to evaluate deeper meaning inherent in media and this can lead to very positive results. As mentioned in my last post, when represented sophisticated way media, especially games can lead to greater understanding of experiences different from one’s own. In this case I refer to Nico W’s article again, she makes the point that Borderlands, a game that capitalises on the gruesome deaths of hordes of human and less than human enemies, manages some of the most interesting and complex characters, allowing the player to experience hitherto fore unexplored experiences.
“Even before I considered myself as anything other than straight I appreciated Borderlands’ representation from a purely narrative perspective. Not only did it offer interesting complexities to its characters, but it also played into the world building of the games’ universe”
In her case, Nico was able to discover her own sexuality through the character Maya by realising that she resonated with the character, prompting her to research more outside of the game.
Not only can games media provide insights into others experiences but is can sometimes shed light on more personal ones. In his article regarding Bioshock Infinite and PTSD related trauma, MacLeod explains how during his traversal through the story of Booker he recognised himself in the character allowing him to finally make the first steps in his own recovery.
“As I played through the end of Infinite and the game made its strange sense of Booker’s story, I understood what I had been doing to myself more clearly than any website or pastel-covered self-help book had been able to point out. I saw how I’d let my past define me, how I constantly ran it over in my mind, refusing to try a new door, a new way, refusing to let anything else in.”
Once again, we see an inherently violent game providing a sort of enlightenment for the player, while admittedly both these examples are those of adults, this doesn’t negate the potential good that games can do.
As with anything I feel it’s a matter of moderation and common sense when consuming media. It’s up to parents to monitor the media their children are consuming at a young age, and educating them as to how to consume this media, if done right this can lead to much deeper and more thought provoking experiences later on, even in a first person shooter.
Groebel, J 1998, ‘The UNESCO Global Study on Media Violence’, Children and Media Violence, pp. 175-194, < http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED438893.pdf#page=176 >.
MacLeod, R 2015, ‘Breaking the Circle: Exploring Trauma in Bioshock Infinite’, The Ontological Geek, < http://ontologicalgeek.com/breaking-the-circle-exploring-trauma-in-bioshock-infinite/ >.
Nico W, 2015, ‘Borderlands & Asexual Representation: How I Discovered my Sexuality While Playing a First-Person Shooter’, The Mary Sue, < http://www.themarysue.com/borderlands-and-asexual-representation/ >.