Essay: Do violent video games increase aggression in the people who play them?

Do violent video games increase aggression in the people who play them? Are video games responsible for shooting and other forms of violence? Violent video games have come up in debates lately for allegedly damaging the mental states of children. People claim that children who are exposed to violent video games show more aggressive behavior. People blame video games for all the wrongs reasons when really there is no correlation between violent video games and aggression in the children who play them. Other people state that video games help the mind in children and adults grow. Video games do help others because it gives people a more social status, it helps control emotions, and helps motivate children to play and learn at the same time.
A main argument used by opponents in video gaming is it causes kids and adults with mental illnesses such as depression to act out in rage and do something they might not want to do. The video games aren’t made to teach a kid how to become a murderer, but help kids have fun with their free time. ‘Depression happens in our young youth and only one out of every five depressed teens seek help from others. So researchers over in New Zealand created a video game called SPARX to help teens with therapy sessions without the sitting down and talking to someone face to face’ (Szalavitz 1). The acronym in SPARX stands for “smart, positive, active, and x-factor thoughts,” designed to fight depression.
The gameplay is an interactive fantasy in which people create their hero who restores balance to the virtual land by destroying gloomy and negative thoughts, or GNATS for short. Szalavitz says, “SPARX seeks to educate the depressed person that this kind of thinking is not accurate or true. When people with depression stop buying into ideas like “Everyone hates me” or “I’m a loser” and can recognize that these “GNATs” are not statements of fact about reality, but simply thoughts twisted by depression, it can stop the cycle of rumination that sustains the disease’ (Szalavitz 1). The game progresses through seven levels of depression facts and how to cure them. Researchers see this plan as a good one because the child or adult is focused on the game and destroying these negative thoughts, keeping their minds off of depression themselves.
Others argue that playing video games only worsens depression in children and adults. Researcher Dr. Douglas Gentile of Iowa State University and a handful of other researchers performed a study a few years back called Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths. For the study, all the researchers looked a gaming habits of children in Singapore over two years to see if gaming had any impact on the childrens lives and their mental health. After the two years of studying, they found a definite correlation between heavy gaming and symptoms found in depression. Dr. Douglas says, “”I was expecting to find that the depression led to gaming,” Gentile told me. “But we found the opposite in that study. The depression seemed to follow the gaming. As kids became addicted’if you want to use that word’then their depression seemed to get worse. And, as they stopped being addicted, the depression seemed to lift.” (Owen 1) Dr. Douglas states that when a person is diagnosed with a mental disorder, they often get more, such as depression can lead into social anxiety and phobias. He says that as children get more depressed they retreat to video games to escape it, which doesn’t help, only causing them to become more depressed, which in turn again causes children to play more video games.
Video games always have different effects on people but what about increase our brain power through video gaming? Back in August, British researchers found that certain video games, particularly strategic games such as Starcraft, can increase one’s “brain flexibility.” The study of this was conducted at the Queen Mary University of London and University College London. Researchers had psychological tests conducted before and after seventy-two volunteers played Starcraft for forty hours over eight weeks. After those eight weeks, the researchers experienced gains in their performance on psychological tests, completing flexibility tests with great speed and accuracy. ‘We need to understand now what exactly about these games is leading to these changes, and whether these cognitive boosts are permanent or if they dwindle over time,’ study researcher Brian Glass said back in August. “Once we have that understanding, it could become possible to develop clinical interventions for symptoms related to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or traumatic brain injuries, for example”(Guarini,1). In short, video games can lead to a change in human development of mental illnesses that therapists might not ever understand.
Others might not agree with brain power from gaming, but that gaming makes kids less intelligent. A study at the University of Psychological Science examined families who had boys between the age of six and nine who didn’t own a video game system. All the children completed intelligence tests as well as reading and writing assessments while the parents and teachers filled out questionnaires relating to their behavior at school and at home. Half of the families received a video game system for their children while the other half didn’t get one until after the experiment. Over four months, the parents from both sides recorded their children’s activities from the end of school until bedtime. At the end of the experiment, both teachers, parents, and children completed the same tests they had taken four months back which resulted in children that had consoles spent more time gaming and less time reading and writing for school. “Although there were no differences in parent-reported behavioral problems between the two groups of kids, the boys who received the video-game system immediately had greater teacher-reported learning problems. Further analysis revealed that the time spent playing video games may link the relationship between owning a video-game system and reading and writing scores.” (Staff,1) The researcher state that children behavior at home and school may not change, but their academic skills do according to how much they play rather than study.
With gaming, what about social status? Video gaming helps kids learn how to be more social because when playing online, we use cooperation with others to get the job done and even just talking with friends is being social. “In game play featuring novices and experts, the advanced players often assist the newcomers, who sometimes do not even request this help or advice. Video games also promote sharing (taking turns), helping (strategy to accomplish the game’s goals), and encouragement of fellow players, especially when they are friends” (Lee,1). Professor Lee states that video gaming encourages us to be social with others when working together through missions or even just talking to them when having fun. Jennifer Fink, writer for the Community Table, talks about socialization which mention her three sons aged ten, ten, and seven gathered to play minecraft in the living room. Each one had a screen in front of them and Fink could only think, “Walking through the room, you might quickly conclude that the boys were a) missing out on a perfectly sunny day and b) totally missing the point of a play date. But listen: Boy #1: “Right now, I’m lighting up my mine for you.” Boy #2: “Where are you?” Boy #3: “I see you.” Boy #1: “Guys, I’m here. Don’t kill me!” They went back and forth like that, negotiating their moves, sharing their resources and, yes, working together cooperatively the whole time they played.” (Fink,1) No matter the age, we’ll still use communication when gaming to get the job done and help others around us.
In the end, we should support video gaming and all it does to help the young minds grow. Our brain power will increase in academics with greater speed and accuracy. Kids and adults with mental illnesses such as depression can use gaming as a way to relieve the pain because their minds on the game and not their sadness. Socialization is a big thing in our life and gaming only helps increase our ability to work with others and always complete our objectives with friends. Video gaming will change the way people learn and hopefully in the future, other people will see that too.

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