Can Video Games Make You Violent?

The controversy over video games and violence has always divided opinion into two different categories: 1) Violent video games increase the players exposure to violent thoughts and, therefore, increase the players tendencies towards violent thinking that, eventually, leads to violent action; or 2) violent video games give the individual an opportunity to sublimate his or her aggressive instincts in a socially acceptable way.

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Both these views have their valid points; however, a third view, one less frequently taken, is possible. This third view takes objective facts about video games and violence and makes a logical conclusion based on the facts.

The first point of view is, at least in theory, well-founded in psychology. It is common knowledge to anyone that increased input of a particular type of stimulus increases thought patterns concerning that stimulus.

Less part of common sense but, nonetheless, just as truthful, is the fact that the nature of an individual’s thought patterns determines the nature of that individual’s actions. No one does anything without having somehow justifying the action with thought, regardless of whether that thought is conscious of unconscious.

Thus, it is reasonable to assume that an increase in violent stimuli (i.e., in this case, violent video games), will increase violent thought patterns, and these violent thought patterns can be expected to engender action similar to the nature of the thought patterns.

But are these points really valid? Do either of them have a basis in factual reality? According to Henry Jenkins, a professor at MIT, there is evidence to suggest that video games do not, in fact, encourage violence. However, whether or not they function as a means of reducing aggressive drives is to be determined.

Video Games And Violence

In an article written for PBS, Jenkins cites the Surgeon General and U.S. Crime Statistics to support his conclusion. While, Jenkins writes, it’s true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players the overwhelming majority of kids who play do NOT commit antisocial acts.

While, on one hand, it is a relief to know that we are not condemning our children to juvenile delinquency by allowing them to play video games, it is also important to remember that continued research of the subject will, perhaps, yield different results, and, if that is the case, we will have to be ready to change our views on video games and violence.