The Effect of Video Games on Children

Violence plays a major role in popular video games and movies. It encourages adolescents to mimic the violence displayed and portrayed on the screen, and it may have plays a major part in influencing violence and aggression on teenagers. Research has shown that playing violent video games such as Mortal Kombat, Doom, or 3D can increase a person’s aggressive thoughts and behavior in both a laboratory venue and in real-world situations. In addition, playing violent video games may be more detrimental than viewing violent television shows or movies because they are especially enthralling, interactive, and necessitate the player to associate on a personal level with the violent character of the game. As video games are progressively becoming more ferocious and explicit as well as more prevalent, additional research is needed regarding the effects on the impressionable minds of those that play them and illuminate to parents the risks associated with these games.

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Typical characteristics of the video game crowd include boys and single men, often into their 30s or greater, who find the world of the video game intriguing. Johnny wants the war game. Sally isn’t as interested, but why? The answer, it has been suggested, is both biological and sociological in nature. While acknowledging that behavior differences between boys and girls are inherited to an extent, this discussion explores the societal reasons that Johnny is expected to be the aggressor and Sally the submissive one. This circumstance leads to unfavorable consequences for women. Not surprisingly, boys usually prefer games that involve fighting, sports, gun-play, strategy, fantasy, simulations and adventure to a greater extent that do girls. Females prefer more conventional computer games, board, card, arcade, puzzle and trivia games for example. “Girls perform better on verbal tasks and pattern-matching, which may explain why quiz-trivia or puzzle games such as Tetris are favored by females. Older girls tend to prefer educational games while younger girls seek more entertainment-oriented content” (Chunhui Chu, et al. 2004).

Boys are more prone to violence and therefore more likely to choose a video game containing violence. About half of the boys questioned in a study identified their favorite game as one that involved high amounts of violence. Less than one-fifth of girls’ first choice for a video game was one that involved high levels of violence. Many studies have demonstrated that violent video games begat violent behaviors. The propensity of boys to violence as compared to girls is exacerbated by their seemingly inherent need to play violent games. “Boys are generally at greater risk for aggressive behaviors, and they compound that risk by playing more violent games for greater amounts of time than girls play” (Gentile, et al. 2004).

The messages of video games mirror the message that society imparts to girls, men are the protectors while women are compassionate and submissive. Of the more than a thousand video games reviewed in a study, the number of male characters appearing in games outnumbered female by more than four-to-one. Of the characters that can be controlled by the player, almost 90 percent were male. Female characters are often bystanders or simply used as props in games. Nearly three-quarters of male characters fit the role of competitor while about a third of female characters were used in this role. Male characters are more likely to use physical aggression while females are likely to be verbally aggressive. Female characters are more likely to share or be helpful in some way and more than six times more likely to scream when in trouble. They are hyper-sexualized while male characters are portrayed as overly masculine. Stereotyping in video games not only reflects but accentuates society’s view of women’s role. This reinforces what girls have been taught and observed during their formative years and confirms the feminist theory. “Although sexy female characters are created to appeal to males, they can send harmful messages to both males and female players. Just as young girls may interpret highly sexualized characters as symbols of the ‘ideal woman,’ so too may many young boys” (Glaubke, et al, 2001). The stereotypical gender roles that video games impart or reinforce to girls could negatively influence their self-esteem and shape their perceptions of value and standing in society. These games could also have an effect on boys’ expectations of girls both in physical and social terms.

Playing violent video games, in the short term, appears to affect hostility by prompting aggressive thoughts. Long-term effects are liable to be longer lasting as well because the player is trained then practices aggressive acts that become progressively easier to access on a sub-conscious level for use when confronted by future aggravating circumstances. Repeated exposure to violent video games has been shown to, in effect, alter the player’s basic personality structure. The resulting changes in everyday social relations may lead to steady escalation in aggressive actions. The interactive learning environment the video game presents suggests its influence is more powerful than the more broadly studied movie and television media. With enhanced realism and the growing trend to include increasing amounts of graphic violence in video games, those that play (and those that buy) violent video games should be alerted to the possible consequences.

Works Cited

  1. Chunhui Chu, Kaitlan; Heeter, Carrie; Egidio, Rhonda; Mishra, Punya. (May 2004). “Girls and Games Literature Review.” Michigan State University Mind Games Collaboratory. 2008.
  2. Gentile, Douglas A.; Lynch, Paul J.; Linder, Jennifer Ruh; Walsh, David A. (2004). “The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Hostility, Aggressive Behaviors, and School Performance.” National Institute on Media and the Family. 2008
  3. Glaubke, Christina R.; Miller, Patti; Parker, MacCrae A.; Espejo, Eileen. (2001). “Fair Play? Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games” Oakland, CA: Children Now. Web.
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