Column: Video games don’t lead to aggressive personalities

In a day and age where the media constantly portrays violent crime, are video games to blame for these violent acts? No, they are not, and neither are books or movies.

Joshua Waitsman is a junior English and sociology major at MU. He is an opinion columnist who writes about sports and other miscellaneous topics for The Maneater.

Video games don’t lead to violent crimes. Sure, there are many who believe there are connections between video games and aggressive behavior. There are even several studies that demonstrate this connection.

The video game industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and one of the largest and most prevalent forms of media in the U.S. Video games make $30.4 billion per year in the U.S alone, as well as employing over 220,000 people.

Even though more video games are bought each year, violent crime has been steadily dropping. In 1993, there were over 700 reported cases of violent crimes per 100 thousand people according to statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When this is compared to only about 380 cases per 100 thousand in 2017 it becomes clear that despite the growing popularity of video games, crime has been lowering.

A perceived rise in crime is one of the reasons that people think there is a link between video games and violent crime.

One explanation as to why many people believe that crime is increasing is the media’s constant focus on violent crimes. A psychological term known as “The Backfire Effect” can help explain the link between the media’s portrayal of crime, and the idea that video games make people more violent. This term explains that whenever information has become standard in a person's life, they will hold onto it even when presented with correct, new information. This has been a major contribution as to why some think video games make people more violent. Violence is shown on a regular basis and because of this something has to be blamed for it. In many cases, it is video games.

If video games make people violent then movies and books could as well, but this is not the case. Many books read by American students are filled with violent acts. “Lord of the Flies” depicts children waging war against each other, and “Of Mice and Men” ends with with main character killing his best friend, but still these books are taught to almost every high school student. If books don’t cause someone to commit violent crimes, then it stands to reason that video games shouldn't either.

Just like with video games, there have been studies that have examined the link between violent movies and real life violent crime. A study done by PLOS One scanned people's brain waves while they were viewing violent movie scenes. It proved that only those who already had violent tendencies showed any additional response to the violent scenes they were watching.

Christopher Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson University, wrote an article in which he said, “I can state that there is no evidence to support these claims that violent media and real-world violence are connected.”

Video games and movies are both forms of media, so if movies only affect those who are violent anyway than it should be safe to say the same for video games.

While it is possible that video games do, in fact, make people more violent, the reality is that they probably have little to no effect in creating violent crimes. Many news outlets claim that video games cause violent crime, but as access to the media becomes more widespread and easier to attain, many people are witnessing violence on a day-to-day basis.

When this violence looks similar to the violence in many video games, especially games like “Grand Theft Auto,” it’s easy to see why people might think that video games are bad. However, violence is at one of its lowest points in American history, and video games are played more now than ever before.

Do video games cause violent behavior? No, they don’t, in fact they may even reduce it.

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