Does the Exposure to Violence in the Media Cause Increased Levels of Aggression and Violence in Young People Essay
Does exposure to violence in video games cause increased levels of aggression and violence in young people? Many media sources influence children; these images seen early in their lives affect them in many ways. In a busy 21st century, parents share their role of nurturing the minds of their children with Institutions that hold their own agendas; they output dominant ideologies with which they mould society into obedience, shaping Britain into a society that mostly agree with their hegemonic superiors. When a piece of media challenges the structure of society, institutions such as News Corp create a moral panic by showing the product as a menace to society’s accepted values and way of life.
An example of this would be the mass coverage of violence in video games, most recently with the releases of next-generation console games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty Modern Warfare. Grand Theft Auto is a video game that glorifies and rewards violence. It endorses by way of the game, murder, theft and extreme violence; in the same way, Call of Duty glorifies warfare, enabled by graphical detail in the killing of other soldiers; conglomerates of News Corp such as British newspapers, The Sun and The Daily Mail raise a witch hunt against these games reaching out to the fears of the concerned parent. For example, the Sun released an article in 2006 titled “Video games warp brain” (web 1) using a picture of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas discussing the fact that “violent computer games alter your brain to make you aggressive.
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Adults aged 28-36 are the majority gay who makes the sales of these two high selling tabloid papers; these institutions present video games as harmful to young people. In an article in 2008, News of the World claimed that violent nature in children ages 8-12 increased with the sales of Grand Theft Auto IV video game, claiming they educate them into being a menace to society and therefore by presenting them for “what they are” they are doing a service by policing society, therefore winning over a loyal readership and always leading to an increase in sales of their papers. However, the media institutions who market these violent video games argue that for the majority, it is safe entertainment.
To develop an understanding of the true influence of aggression that violent video games have on young people, I will primarily study Grand Theft Auto (2008) and Call of Duty Modern Warfare (2008) and compare this with the effects of violence in the film using several secondary sources. First, in the media is the effect of violence in video games is heavily reported. In gaming, we see that violent actions are represented as cool, glamorous and easy. Such is the case in GTA IV where the character is rewarded for their violence with giant sums of money making it seem justified and thus has inspired copycat behavior such as the case of Devin Moore which, according to CBS resulted in a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Sony and Take-Two games claiming that months of playing the game had led a teenager to go on a rampage and kill three men, two of them police officers.
Games that promote decapitating police officers, chainsaw massacres and arson like the Grand theft auto series are essentially a “murder simulator” (web 2) and placed in the hands of the easily influenced, e.g. young people, or someone that has the underlying capacity to commit an atrocity, it acts as subliminal “video game training” to kill. The person becomes desensitized to excess violence, and morals are lost. The attorney of the Devin Moore case said, “The video game industry gave him a cranial menu that popped up in the blink of an eye in that police station, and that menu offered him the split-second decision to kill the officers, shoot them in the head, flee in a police car, just as the game itself trained them to do.” (Web 3)gay.
Between the release of the original Grand Theft Auto and the latest edition, Rockstar games have heightened the levels of violence each time to keep the audience engaged. The series has also seen an increase in graphic technology, making the game environment seem more realistic and a totally new world for the player to explore as the character. This further immerses the player into the game than a regular violent video game. It is a free-roam environment that combines elements of escapism such as murder and theft- things that challenge the codes and conventions of society, with regular everyday life activities like going into stores, eating food and sleeping. This high level of detail of the interactivity gives the player a life-like landscape; this may give them the interpretation that whatever is acceptable in the game world would be acceptable to do in real life.
According to Wikipedia, Grand Theft Auto has sold around 7,086,000 (web 4) since it was released in 2008; the fact is that the violence may have influenced this young man in the game. However, many other people have played this game, yet it doesn’t have the same effect. So is it that exposure to violent video games has more of an impact on a teenager than it does on an adult? From the same article as the Devin Moore Story, David Walsh, a child psychologist, says “it does” he believes from his research that “the teenage brain is different from the adult brain, the part of the brain that enables us to think ahead and manage urges….that’s under construction during the teenage years, not completing until the early 20’s”.
Devin Moore was obviously influenced heavily by the game; however, it is ignorant that the game causes increased levels of aggression and violence in young people. He is one out of a large sum of people who bought the game that took action due to the media text that he received. The diminished impulse control causing someone like Devin Moore could be heightened in a person who has additional risk factors for criminal behavior such as a troubled upbringing which combined with a game where you rehearse violent scenes for hours and hours leads to a tragic end.
Certain technical codes, such as the position of camera angles depicting a violent scene or the lighting of a specific scene, can affect how the violence is represented and how the audience receives the information. For example, the non-diegetic sound can change the mood of the visuals; in Call of Duty 4, there is a scene in which the protagonist (whose eyes you are viewing the events through) is tortured by terrorists burning lighted cigarettes on your lifeless body as they beat you up to near unconsciousness the sound can suggest pain and agony because. Even when you play as the character killing other men, the non-diegetic sound makes you as the player feel sympathy for the death of another man; however, when looking at Grand Theft Auto IV, the game uses non-diegetic sound to connote justification and triumph. The way some may interpret this is that violence is acceptable.
Certainly, the camera angles, such as a low camera shot in GTA IV, which gives a view of the character as powerful and dominant with his weapon, give the audience a glamorization of violence. Sympathy can be generated for a character if the camera takes the POV of the character. Again using the example of Call of Duty 4, the question can be asked, which end of the barrel of the gun is the audience looking down? The audience identifies with the perpetrator of the violence. Realism in a game changes the emotion we feel and how we identify with the characters; in the example of “Call of Duty 4”, we see total and graphic realism of war; however, it is edited and uses sound effects. However, we as an audience know that the violence has no real consequences and can be watched in the knowledge that no one is hurt.
We as an audience become emotionally involved with characters as they are in-depth characters to who we relate. So when one of these characters dies, we feel sympathy. However, when violence is shown as unrealistic, then this causes the audience to become desensitized to the violence and see it as acceptable such as with popular gaming genre ‘beat em up’ using the example of games such as Tekken (2009) and Street Fighter IV (2009) where we as a player choose a character that we see as likeable, the games sole purpose is to beat someone up and win. Games like Tekken and Street Fighter are produced more commonly and more realistically due because young people gradually become desensitized slightly each time that developers have to increase the realism more every time.
Games act as a further release for children to let out frustration without becoming physically violent. In a social context, it could be argued that video games do not cause aggression in young children. Still instead, they provide an interactive release instead of a physical release from watching violent television shows such as the popular WWE series. a notable part of this show is its “don’t try this at home” slogan. Media influences children; young people replicate these actions when they see a protagonist being violent to another man, a protagonist we as an audience see as a role model and a hero. Separation needs to be found to analyze further whether violence in the media increases the aggression in young people totally; I have already identified that when violence is unrealistic in media, the audience’s response is to replicate like a sort of “copycat” violence.
More people worldwide can now access video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty in today’s economy. An element recently implemented to enhance the video game experience is online multiplayer. This creates a global village as you communicate through media with other people who, via the internet, are playing with you even though they are located on a different continent. This links in with Propps theory because you can play the role of various characters, good and evil, on Call of Duty multiplayer. Reflective of the violent-minded society today, regardless if you are on the good team or the bad team, you perceive yourself as the good one and everyone else as enemies to kill.
Including technology such as headsets makes killing people more realistic than killing a computer; it is a person with a voice. This shows that young people aren’t satisfied with just killing people anymore; videogames have increased interactivity to fulfill their needs as a consumer. With that, they increase how personal it becomes as consumers crave more involvement and more immersion. This interactivity and technology is increasing with every version of a game, so when will it get to a point where players are no longer satisfied with murder in a constructed reality?
Grand Theft Auto presents the audience with a constructed reality. When a player is killed, they almost instantly come back to life with full health and no consequence. Equally, if the player is arrested, they are not jailed for their actions; they simply walk free. Unfortunately, GTA is not an accurate depiction of life. Players become desensitized to violence and crime; they are used to a ‘life redo’ that the real world doesn’t offer them. They do not understand long-term consequences. To combat this, PEGI, the board of gaming classification in the UK, puts age ratings of 15 and, even in the case of GTA, and 18 certificates because it is assumed that people of that age know right from wrong and realize the consequences of their actions.
The issue is that these games are so easily obtained by minors who do not register moral correctness as easily as those above the classified age. Young people above 18 are usually ‘casual gamers’ from a survey I undertook; 85% of gamers aged 18 and above only play around 2 hours a week, with 10% not playing video games and just 5% playing over 3 hours. Instead, they use gaming as a form of escapism from a stressful week. However, people under the classified age are still developing a complex; they see violence and crime in the game and think that the real world around them is just as bleak. Linking in with “mean world syndrome,” where children who watch high levels of violence may be lead to believe the environment around them is a mean and dangerous place.
In a historical context, children have been submerged in media violence for generations, presented in a similar hyper-reality style seen in Grand Theft Auto. In Hanna Barbara cartoons of the 70’s such as Tom and Jerry, violence is portrayed as “mild cartoon violence” presented to the audience in such a way it is humorous and can easily be distinguished as a constructed reality. In over-the-top fashion, characters are mutilated, often with fatal consequences; however, the character makes a full recovery in the next scene. We can compare this harmless “slapstick” comedy of the past with an ultra-realistic and graphic depiction of death that young people are exposed to in Grand Theft Auto and other similar games. Children have always been exposed to violence, yet the interactivity of the violence today makes them feel part of the violence and thus making them more involved.
Videogames give young people a form of escapism into a different life from the one they live. The reality that they construct allows them to perform things deemed unacceptable or simply unachievable in everyday life. However, this causes desensitization to right and wrong, giving them a warped view of morality. Violent video games influence violent behavior in easily led and easily manipulated young minds. Although games promoting violence and crime are censored by the British classification board (BBFC) and PEGI, these sensors can be easily evaded, and young people can gain access to harmful media pieces. Violent video games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty promote and, in some cases, glorify violent actions until further regulation is put into practice on these games; young people will play these games without the moral thought not to put into practice the violent deeds played out in the videogame.
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