It is hard to disagree that video games have moved to another, more advanced level with the development of sophisticated interactive narrativity, modern technologies, high-definition graphics, and increased real-life simulation possibilities. By exquisitely engaging players of all ages, computer games are now played worldwide. As noticed by Goodson and Turner (2021), “it is estimated that there were approximately 2.69 billion active video game players globally in 2020,” and this number continued to grow (p. 3). In turn, some ordinary people, mostly parents and various experts, are concerned about the adverse effects of video gaming, especially violent computer games. The latter includes games incorporating violence elements like fighting, shooting, killing, and other markers of aggressive behavior.
Nowadays, people cannot agree whether the benefits of playing violent computer games outweigh the disadvantages and adverse effects. Since “independent meta-analyses on the same topic can sometimes yield seemingly conflicting results” (Mathur & VanderWeele, 2019, p. 705), there are also gaps in the literature about fighting videos, there is still a debate regarding whether children should be allowed to play such games. Some people state that constant consumption of computer games with elements of violence increases kids’ and adolescents’ aggression and alters their perception of social information. Additionally, they believe that these games can play a significant role in the development of symptoms of depression. At the same time, other research shows that the benefits of fighting video games include a release of aggressive feelings and positive impacts on a player’s mood, as well as the development of moral compasses. Another advantage is the promotion of social skills learning. Therefore, although some children and teenagers may face adverse consequences of playing violent computer games, it is still essential to consider the advantages and allow kids to explore this kind of expression of emotions through playing.
Negative Effects of Fighting Video Games
Altered Perceptions of Aggression and Fighting
Most parents are concerned with the amount of time their children spend playing video games, especially violent ones. It is fair to notice that their fears are not unfounded: indeed, there are many factors that prove the negative influence of fighting computer games on kids’ brains and psyches. One of the main causes for concern is the proven ability of violent video games to alter the ways children and adults process social information and perceive aggression (Denson et al., 2020). Generally, one of the findings that result from experiments suggests that such games “impaired anger recognition, increased players’ self-perceived fighting ability, and reduced perceptions of the target men’s toughness” (Denson et al., 2020, p. 1). Consequently, people who often play video games that incorporate elements of violence tend to perceive other persons differently, overestimate their own physical strength and have raised levels of aggression. What is more, as noticed by Mathur and VanderWeele (2019), increased consumption of fighting video games may lead to an altered perception of fighting itself. Generally, it also depends on gender and personal characteristics, but fights and aggressive behavior become more attractive to players.
Increased Symptoms of Depression
Further, there are many other negative ways in which violent computer games may impact people. For example, it is believed that there is a strong correlation between such video games and decreased mental health. While there is still a gap in literature addressing this topic and not all negative effects on children’s mental conditions are studied, it is already possible to state that “there is an association between daily exposure to violent video games and number of depressive symptoms among preadolescent youth” (Tortolero et al., 2014, p. 609). This issue has been of researchers’, parents’, and governments’ concern for many years, and this correlation is suggested particularly because there is a strong connection between children’s mental diseases and exposure to violence in real life. Consequently, it may also be that fighting video games have the same effect on kids and adolescents as aggression has in real life. Overall, Tortolero et al. (2014) state that “compared with playing low-violence video games for <2 hours per day, playing high-violence video games for ≥2 hours per day was significantly associated with a higher number of depressive symptoms” (p. 614). This association is consistent across all racial groups and both males and females.
Benefits of Fighting Video Games
Ethical Way of Releasing Emotions (Catharsis)
It is possible to suggest that almost all people are acquainted with the concept of catharsis: some may know about it from ancient Greek tragedy, and some can even themselves note at what moments they experience catharsis. Overall, this concept is about a bright deliverance and purification of emotions through experienced feelings caused not by real events but by any form of art. Consequently, video games can be considered a type of art and may also cause this emotional release. Indeed, as noticed by Kersten and Greitemeyer (2022), many violent game players believe in their cathartic effects. Children and teenagers report that their mood becomes significantly better after playing, and they generally experience positive emotions. Indeed, many young kids experience aggression in real life because of their school dramas, misunderstandings with parents, low classroom performance, and other factors. Generally, it is impossible to release their aggression in real life, and playing violent computer games, not for a long period of time, allows such teenagers to release their negative emotions without any consequences for other people.
Promotion of Social Skills
It is well-known that playing is one of the most effective teaching methods. Many children learn through playing from the first months of life, and being involved in various games allows them to gain necessary skills, especially social ones. The same may be said about computer games, including those that incorporate elements of violence. According to Bowen (2014), such games “actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception,” and “this is particularly true for shooter video games” (para. 4). Players gain an ability to think about objects in three dimensions, and this interesting and beneficial factor has not been identified in other types of computer games. Consequently, precisely fighting and shooting video games can significantly enhance players’ thinking skills. What is more, problem-solving skills can also be improved by the consumption of these games, and studies show that many children playing violent games manage to make their classroom performance better (Bowen, 2014). In addition, players learn to communicate, be more creative, make quick decisions, and engage in more challenging tasks.
Development of Moral Compasses
Another reason to find playing fighting and shooting video games beneficial is that they often emphasize the good and judge the bad. It is fair to notice that the majority of these games have plots that uniformly repeat the basic human ideas about right, wrong, bad, and good and concentrate on punishing or eliminating evil in any form. Ward (2020) notices that children follow the patterns in these computer games, fight evil, and see how good is often rewarded. Consequently, they can develop their inner compasses and learn to distinguish between moral and immoral.
To draw a conclusion, one may say that the debate about moral and immoral, as well as harmful and beneficial aspects of allowing children to play violent video games, will probably never end. Some people will continue stating that computer games that involve elements of violence alter kids’ and teenagers’ perceptions of fighting and aggression and also has adverse effects on the brain and mental health, causing symptoms of depression. At the same time, other persons will insist on the positive effects of playing violent computer games, including an ethical way of releasing emotions, promoting social skills, and developing moral compasses. Considering these two opinions, it is essential to notice that finding common ground is possible and not difficult.
Overall, people need to remember that fighting and shooting computer games cannot have strong negative impacts on those children who are not susceptible to them initially. In other words, those teenagers who already have anger issues, a predisposition to mental disorders, or other problems are more likely to face the adverse effects of violent games (Goodson & Turner, 2021). Therefore, to find a common solution, it is recommended that parents to be aware of the needs and characteristics of their own children, monitor the time they spend on video games, and control the level of violence in these fighting games.
Bowen, L. (2014). Video game play may provide learning, health, and social benefits, review finds. Monitor on Psychology, 45(2).
Denson, T. F., Dixson, B. J., Tibubos, A. N., Zhang, E., Harmon-Jones, E., & Kasumovic, M. M. (2020). Violent video game play, gender, and trait aggression influence subjective fighting ability, perceptions of men’s toughness, and facial anger recognition. Computers in Human Behavior, 104, 106175, 1-39.
Goodson, S., & Turner, K. J. (2021). Effects of violent video games: 50 years on, where are we now? Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 24(1), 3-4.
Greitemeyer, T. (2022). The dark and bright side of video game consumption: Effects of violent and prosocial video games. Current Opinion in Psychology, 101326.
Kersten, R., & Greitemeyer, T. (2022). Why do habitual violent video game players believe in the cathartic effects of violent video games? A misinterpretation of mood improvement as a reduction in aggressive feelings. Aggressive Behavior, 48(2), 219-231.
Mathur, M. B., & VanderWeele, T. J. (2019). Finding common ground in meta-analysis “wars” on violent video games. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 14(4), 705-708.
Tortolero, S. R., Peskin, M. F., Baumler, E. R., Cuccaro, P. M., Elliott, M. N., Davies, S. L., Lewis, T. H., Banspach, S. W., Kanouse, D. E., & Schuster, M. A. (2014). Daily violent video game playing and depression in preadolescent youth. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 17(9), 609–615. Web.
Ward, M. R. (2020). Adolescent video game playing and fighting over the long‐term. Contemporary Economic Policy, 38(3), 460-473.