Part IV: Violent Behavior Is The Solution To Problems: The Video Game Tells Me So.
"The interactive quality, the intensity of the violence, the physiological reactions, all serve to connect the player’s feelings of exhilaration and accomplishment directly to the violent images of video games. And “good” feelings keep the player wanting to play more."
– Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetankids get hooked, it’s difficult to unhook them.
According to Jane Healey, in her classic book Endangered Minds,here are the elements that make video games addictive:
- The player experiences feelings of mastery and control. The essense of power the child or teen feels in his or her life, the more this element may become important as an addictive factor.
- The level of play is exactly calibrated to the player’s ability level. Rather than coping with the challenging problems in the real world, young people are easily drawn into following the more made-to-order sequence in video games.
- The player receives immediate and continual reinforcement, which makes the games particularly addictive.
- The player can escape life and be immersed in a constructed reality that seems to be totally in his/her control.
Watch the Halo 3 commercial above to see all four points exemplified.
As children and youth are playing these games for ten or more hours a week, they are not solving and negotiating conflicts with their peers, and they are missing priceless opportunities to gain needed cooperative learning and social skills. Instead, the world constructed for them by video game manufacturers come to determine their ability levels for successful negotiation with people in the real world. The more they become inept at dealing effectively with real-world people and situations, the more likely it is that they will lose themselves in the video games, particularly violent ones that ensure feelings of control, mastery and exhilaration. And as the real world of slowness and struggle, decisions and demands becomes less appealing, children’s psychological and physiological systems become more affected by violent video games.
Dr. Donad Shifrin, a pediatirican and the American Academy of Pediatrics representative on the Naional Televisison Violence Study, describes what he sees when children and teens play video games. “When youngsters get into video games the object is excitement. The child then builds a tolerance for that level of excitement. Now the child mimics drug seeking behavior…initially there’s experimentation, behavior to seek the drug FOR INCREASING LEVELS OF EXCITEMENT, and then there is habituation, when more and more of the drug is ACTUALLY NECESSARY for these feelings of excitement. There is no need to have a video game system in the house, especially for young children. There is no middle ground for me on this. I view it as a black-and-white issue like helmets for bike safety. If parents want, rent a video game for a day and then return it. Everyone goes to Disneyland for a day. NO one goes there DAILY.”
Are children and teens who regularly play violent video games in a permanent state of arousal? Are we conditioning them to live in this state? The effect of violent video games on young adults’ arousal levels, hostile feelings, and aggressive thoughts have been measured. Results indicated that college students who had played a violent virtual reality game had a higher heart rate, reported more dizziness and nausea, and exhibited more aggressive thoughts in a post-test than those who had played a nonviolent game.
- Sandra L. Calvert and Siu-Lan Tan, Impact of virtual reality on young adults's physiological arousal and aggressive thoughts: Interaction versus observation, Journal of Applied Development Psychology
Another study examined differences in cardiovascular reactions and hostility following nonviolent play and violent video game play. Subjects playing the video games scored higher than those who were playing billiards.
- Mary E. Ballard and J. Rose Wiest, "Mortal Kombat: The Effects of Violent Technology on Males' Hostility and Cardiovascular Responding,"
These two early studies indicate what is proved over and over again, adults, with fully developed brains and central nervous systems, can be impacted negatively by violent video games. What about children and teens whose brains and response mechanisms are in the process of development? They are much more vulnerable to physiological arousal and conditioning effects.
A real concern is for children and teens is what the devices teach them physically. The mechanical, interactive quality of a “First Person Shooter” game (Doom is a good example.) makes it so much more dangerous to society than images on a television screen, however violent. Why? It is a game. Certain types of these “games” are actually killing simulators, and they teach our kids to kill, much the same way the astronauts on Apollo 11 learned how to fly to the moon without ever leaving the ground. Believe it or not, simulators can be that good. Consider the following.
There are three things you need in order to shoot and kill effectively and efficiently. From a soldier in Irac to an eleven-year-old in Jonesboro, anyone who does not have all three will essentially fail in any endeavor to kill. First, you need a gun. Next you need the skill to hit a target with that gun. And finally you need the will to use that gun. The gun, the skill and the will. Of these three factors, the military knows that the killing simulators take care of two out of three by nurturing both the skill and the will to kill a fellow human being.
Operant condition is a very powerful procedure of stimulus-response training, which gives a person the skill to act under stressful conditions. A benign example is the use of flight simulators to train pilots. When a real situation occurs in the air the pilot’s scared out of his wits, but he does the right thing. Why? Because he’s been conditioned to respond in a particular way to this crisis situation. He reacts from a conditioned response rather than making a cerebral decision. Thinking too much in these types of situations may mean that you will be dead before you do something effective.
Today’s soldiers learn to fire realistic, man-shaped silhouettes that pop up in their field of vision. This “simulated" human being is the conditioning stimulus. These devices are used extensively, and the scientific data on their effectiveness is exhaustive. Now these simulators are in our homes - in the form of violent video games. If you don’t believe me, you should know that one of the most effective and widely used simulators developed by the United States Army, MACS (Multipurpose Arcade Combat Simulator), is nothing more than a modified Super Nintendo game.
Here are four of the hottest online games you should take a look at: Call of Duty (realistic), Battlefield (realistic), Halo 2 and 3 (Sci-Fi), and Gears of War (Sci-Fi). If you ask around there is little doubt that you could find a teen to take you on a tour. These games are played in teams and players are often eleven or twelve year-olds playing with twenty year-olds and older men from around the world.
Violent video games have become attached to masculinity. There are now "cyber sport" video game tournaments viewed by millions. How macho are you? How good are you at gaming? A boy in his teens now feels he must play to establish himself. The marketers of video games are following these generations right into manhood. You now must have a “Man Cave.” Fox 50, 96 Rocks commercial for their Man Cave Contest proclaims, "You could win the ultimate “Man Cave,” big screen, big sound, big seats and big gaming."
Watch the "Man Cave" video clip above.
As a culture we are assuring the increase of violence in our society. Violent behavior is being nurtured. Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman and Gloria Degaetan attest that, due to overexposure to gratuitous imagery, our children undergo a systematic conditioned reflex to act out violently without remorse.
We are raising generations of children who learn at a very early age to associate horrific violence with pleasure and excitement – a dangerous association for a civilized society.
The point is, these games are indeed affecting our children and we can’t hide behind the myriad other excuses when kids “go off”. Because when they do, they do so in all the ways these games train them - to kill every living person in front of them until they run out bullets or run out of targets.
Video Game trained: Michael Carneal, the fourteen-year-old boy who walked into a Paducah school and opened fire on a prayer group meeting that was breaking up, never moved his feet during his rampage. He never fired far to the right or left, never far up or down. He simply fired once at everything that popped up on his “screen”. It is not natural to fire once at each target. The normal, almost universal, response is to fire at a target until it drops and then move on to the next target. This is the defensive reaction that will save our lives, the human instinctual reaction – eliminates the threat quickly. Not to shoot once and then go on to another target before the first threat has been eliminated. But most video games teach you to fire at each target only once, hitting as many targets as you can as fast as you can in order to rack up a high score. And many video games give bonus effects… for head shots. It’s awful to note that Michael Carneal’s eight shots were eight hits, all head and upper torso, three dead and one paralyzed. And this from a kid who, prior to stealing that gun, had never shot a real handgun in his life!
So with all the evidence to suggest that these games are addictive and dangerous – that they’re modeled after military killing simulators, that they are super violent and graphic, that the user is rewarded for killing, and that kids are playing with these games way too often and for too long – it is particularly egregious that they are being marketed to kids, and marketed in ways to highlight all that is bad for them. What kind a of a message does this send? As we ourselves tolerate these games and even label them fun, we are also telling our children that slower-paced, less emotionally arousing screen fare is boring. Arouse instead of examine; splatter instead of study – this is what we’re telling them. And they are listening.
Pass this memo on. With understanding comes change.
Yours for child safety,
Yello Dyno Founder
P.S. I will provide updates about this topic in my Yello Dyno blog, Around Jan's Kitchen Table, and I encourage all of you to continue sharing information and commentary on this and other important topics about the safety of our children. Bookmark Yello Dyno's web page SEX OFFENDERS - we will keep it up to date with articles, laws and links on this topic.
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