Among the different types of entertainment that are known in this generation, video games seems to be the most popular way of entertaining oneself. Due to the emergence of technology, almost every individuals are owning gadgets that they can use to entertain themselves not just because of having able to contact their loved ones but mostly because they got to play different games that they want. Despite the advantages that they provide, such as entertainment, reduction of stress and depression, and improvement of literacy skills and hand­eye coordination, video games, such as Assassin’s Creed, Counter Strike, and Grand Theft Auto, can be considered as one of the main sources of negative psychological effects that adolescents acquire thus it should be seen as a threat to children due to its violent and sexual contents.

This paper aims to present different video games such as Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto, and Counter Strike as an avenue where an individual, mostly those in the adolescent stage, can acquire various psychological effects and contemplate the possible threat it will build in the mind of an individual. The discussions in this paper is divided into three sections. Section 1 presents how video games are seen in this generation and the positive contents as well as the advantages that one may acquire from it. Section 2, on the other hand, introduces us to the negative contents inside the different video games that are famous nowadays. Section 3 focuses on the different psychological effects that one may acquire from the various contents that different video games have and why it should be seen as a threat to them.

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Due to the emergence of technology, playing video games became a popular entertainment for individuals worldwide. In general, video game is defined as a type of game played by manipulating the images created by the computer or console that an individual sees in the television or screen. However, video games in this generation are seen in different ways based on the individual’s perspective. There are some aspects of a game that defines how a game structure experience. However, people only base their definition of the game base on how they see it when they are playing it. In other words, given those varieties of games, one defines it as it is, based on what he only see, and don’t see anything unique any further. But if we look at different games in a general perspective, without considering the genre difference and technological complexities, there are some key factors that really define a game. According to McGonigal, interactivity, narrative, graphics, rewards, competition, virtual environment and the idea of winning reinforce and enhance the goals, rules, feedback system, and participation present in the game to act as the defining features (21). These elements enhances our experience in the virtual world. As a result, video games are seen as the reality itself, the ideal world an individual want to have, and this is what defines the video game and individual is playing.

People define video games, as stated earlier, based on its contents. From these various contents that a video game have, there are elements that change the behavior of individuals as well as the way they think towards the things they see in their everyday lives. Through a thorough research of different researchers, it is identifies that playing video games provide some advantages, physically, emotionally, and mentally, to an individual. Physically, individuals playing video games enable better hand-eye coordination and vision. Playing video games requires the movement of the hands to control the character in the game and requires the eyes to focus on the game. The hand and eye works together at the same time while playing in order to control everything that is in the screen. This enables an individual to familiarize himself in using both at the same time to function well in his surroundings. On the other hand, it improves vision but mostly only for those who have eye problem like cataracts. According to Dr. Daphen Maurer of the Visual Development Lab of Ontario’s McMaster University, the required massive attention and focus to keep up with the fast-paced first person shooter games, such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, train the eyes of individuals with cataracts to view things more sharply.

Emotionally, video games are used to entertain oneself and also to reduce stress and depression at times. Again, as stated earlier, video games has already become a very popular type of entertainment because different gadgets are already everywhere. During free times, one can get his gadget and play the games he want to relieve himself from stress and depression even for a short amount of time. By playing video games, people are able to vent their problems, stress and depression, by playing video games. This enables people to relax and avoid reaching a certain stage of stressfulness and depression.

Mentally, video games also enhance literacy skills and decision making skills of an individual. “Most video games require fast reactions and split-second decisions that can mean the difference between virtual life and virtual death.” As a result, it gives the brain a practice to easily infer information and decide on the things around him and eventually react to it accordingly. On the other hand, it enhance literacy skills since video games provide and individual with various information, consequently, he learn from it. There are studies that shows that people learn more easily when they are playing games rather that when they are studying different information through books or any medium.

Lastly, video games present different aspects in real life that provides an adolescent a sense of awareness about himself and the things around him. Video games present reality in a positive manner such as having a good social life in the virtual world as the character you are playing or having a chance to be your ideal self temporarily while playing the game. Even though it is known that video games mostly have negative effects on an individual, in one way or another, it also presents some positive effect that is beneficial to players. As Przybylski et al. states, video games also provide some opportunities for every individual to acquire positive effects while playing. Since in video games there is a merging of reality and the virtual world, individuals who are playing are free to do anything they like to do in reality because they are in control of the whole games itself. Moreover, he can create his ideal world of game and consider it as a part of reality. Also, he can give himself the abilities, skills, and power that will enable him to manipulate the world in the game. Even things that are difficult to perform in real life are possible when it comes to the virtual world (70). Though not physically, the feeling of having freedom and power over everything in virtual world gives an individual a sense of joy. One can also test his creativeness while playing given this freedom over the things he sees. Though it is in virtual world, the character one plays reflects his own identity thus it shows how one behave in real world.

2 DESTRUCTIVE

Though video games contain positive elements, its counterpart, the negative contents, also exists to maintain the so-called balance on the game itself. Violence, such as murder, burning, assault, threat, and stabbing, is always present in almost all video games nowadays. Video games also present some sexual acts, such as forced sexual intercourse, kissing, grabbing and fondling private parts, and showing private parts of the body, wherein an individual can gain awareness from. Cursing, criticism, intimidation, and using words that are not appropriate for young individuals are also present in video games in this generation because doing those acts has already become very entertaining for most individuals. Indeed, many children nowadays are addicted to video games particularly on violent ones such as Grand Theft Auto and Assassin’s Creed.

In the book Growing Up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the Impacts of Violent and Sexualised Media on Children, it is presented that “Violent video games are much more repetitive than other forms of violent media and more often involve the repetition of complete behavioural sequences (Gentile et al, 2007). Players repeat the same behaviours and receive similar rewards throughout the game, experience similar thoughts and feelings during those actions and are exposed to the attitudes espoused in the game implicitly and explicitly (for example, sleeping with prostitutes and then murdering them to retrieve one’s money in GTA implies misogyny, the acceptance of violence to get what one wants and that human life has little value)” (Anderson and Warburton, 71). Based on the passage, one can say that reward and punishment is present in video games and this encourages the players to patronize the game even more. Due to virtual reality, while playing, the players feel as if they are the one moving in the game itself doing such acts presented on such games. As a consequence, they repeat such acts because they like it and they feel that they are rewarded by doing such acts.

Moreover, one of the popular first-person-shooter games nowadays is Counter Strike. Here, two teams are placed in one battleground and the group who can eliminate all the members of the opposing group, using the provided weapons, is considered victorious. According to Gentile and Craig, “As early as 2000, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation reported that one of the warning signs characteristic of school shooters was that the high-risk student “spends inordinate amounts of time playing video games with violent themes, and seems more interested in the violent images than in the game itself”” (233). Again, every game in this generation has already become very addictive because of the advancement of technology. Excessive playing can cause confusion between reality and the virtual world. Thus, Children who are always exposed to violent actions, such as killing and murder, present on games for a huge amount of time is very much likely to do the same thing in real life since probably, they think it is now the new way of entertaining themselves.

On the other hand, children owning a video game indeed are very vulnerable to the negative effects that it can bring. With enough violence present there, it can shape the attitude of the person and eventually it can lead to serious behavioral problems that one can exhibit. But Weis and Cerankosky explains that owning video-games that don’t exhibit enough violence is not associated with increased behavior problems among boys. Detecting these behavioral problems is also largely affected by the scope of the experiment and lack in differentiation among the different behaviors involved (469). In other words, as long as it does not present enough violence to children, it is not harmful or a threat to their behavior but still there is the risk of acquiring such negative effects. Because of the things that video games provide to an individual, may it be positive or negative, it already became an important part of their life and so they think that everything that they see in the video game is already the new expected social norms in the society that needs to be practiced.

3 SEEN AS A THREAT

Young, teen, or adult, all of them are used to playing video games. As the technology continues to develop, many games are also released that caught the attention of many people around the world. According to Schrader and McCreery, many have considered games as something that is well-known, something that is widespread throughout the different parts of the world. However, this given fact has been argued upon by many people about the positive effects that it can bring to children who always play games in terms of their studies as well as reasoning in connection with the learning ability of a child. It has also been considered that these video games that children are addicted to in this generation might probably the cause of Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder and the constant problem of Eye-Poking Behavior. Although these simple things are not that necessary when we focus into it, we should also bear in mind that these effects can also affect the ideology that are important for researchers (558).

Due to its contents, certain psychological effects arising from video games are already identified by some researchers and psychologists. Psychological problems, such as physiological arousal, attention deficit, and aggression, can be acquired from exposure to video games. People who are exposed to playing games are most likely to be vulnerable to problems such as attention deficits, impulsivity and hyperactivity. This is very much affected by the amount of time children spend in playing games. This attention problems are not caused by the game they play rather it is the addiction to the game is the source to the problem. “Anderson et al (2012) believe that on theoretical grounds some video games should have less effect on attentional problems (for example, those that require controlled thought and planning) and that those which require constant reactive behaviours from players (a common feature of many violent first person shooting games for example) may be more problematic in terms of children developing attentional difficulties” (60). We can say that playing video games plays a big role in the attention problems that are acquired by children and even adults.

In addition, Anderson and Bushman state that exposure to video games present health risks and heightened levels of personality and cognitive aggression. On the other hand, it is negatively associated with prosocial behavior (358). This is because children in this generation is very hooked up into playing video games for hours. Sometimes they spend their whole day seating in front of the console and play for hours. With this great exposure to video games and addiction at the same time, it is very much likely for children to promote high level of aggression in them as well as health problems. Indeed, in this situation, it is somewhat too vague to consider the possible positive effects a video game can provide.

Furthermore, in an online game or other interactive games that are already well known nowadays, high level of competency among players are already required in order to perform the different task that has to be done on the game itself. In the article Deciding to Defect: The Effects of Video-Game Violence on Cooperative Behavior, it is stated that “Anderson and Morrow (1995) suggested that the activation of competitive knowledge structures can lead directly to aggression. Their findings were consistent with this hypothesis: In comparison with priming cooperation, priming competition led to more aggressive behavior in a subsequent video game, but did not affect friendliness, liking, or hostility toward an interaction partner” (Sheese and Graziano, 356). This simply means that because of the high level of competency promoted among children on the game, they are most likely to gain it in reality thus they became more aggressive in their actions towards other people. Of course cooperation is very much different from competition. Sometimes, competition is also present among social groups but as what Anderson and Morrow suggested, this competitiveness does not ignore the previous relationships among the people involved.

Lastly, shooting cases in some countries are said to be the effect of the games that an individual plays. In the thesis The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior and the Relationship to School Shootings, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) states that excessive playing of video games that has contents that are contrary to the social norms expected in the society can lead to problems that can affect how an individual behave in his surroundings. However, it does not only affect one’s behavior rather it also affect how people interact with the people around him – family, friends, and relatives – and it also changes the way an individual make use of his free time, probably for sports or other physical activities. AACAP also talks about how addiction to video games, spending most of their time playing, can lead to attention problems (Bond, 5).

Video games actually provide certain problems and benefits but children acquire these psychological problems from video games because of excessive exposure and poor capability to set priorities in everything they do. Given these psychological problems one acquire from video game contents, it must already be seen as a threat to children’s way of living.

LIST OF WORKS CITED

ACADEMIC JOURNALS

Weis, Robert, and Brittany Cerankosky. “Effects of Video-Game Ownership on Young Boys’ Academic and Behavioral Functioning: A Randomized, Controlled Study.” Psychological Science. 21.4 (2010): 463–470. Print.

Anderson, Craig, and Brad Bushman. “Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature.” Psychological Science. 12.5 (2001): 353-359. Print.

Sheese, Brad, and William Graziano. “Deciding to Defect: The Effects of Video-Game Violence on Cooperative Behavior.” Psychological Science. 16.5 (2005): 354-357. Print.

Gentile, Douglas, and Craig Anderson. “Violent Video Games: The Effects on Youth, and Public Policy Implications .“ Handbook of Children, Culture, and Violence. Eds. Dowd, Nancy, Dorothy Singer, and Robin Fretwell Wilson. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2005. 226-246.

Anderson, Craig, and Wayne A Warburton. “The impact of violent video games: An overview.”Growing Up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the Impacts of Violent and Sexualised Media on Children. Eds. Warburton, Wayne, and Danya Braunstein. Annandale, New South Wales, Australia: The Federation Press, 2012. 56-84.

Bond, David. “The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior and the Relationship to School Shootings.” Diss. University of South Florida, 2011.

SCHOLARLY BOOKS

McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin, 2011.

Schrader, P. G., and Michael McCreery. “The Acquisition of Skill and Expertise in Massively Multiplayer Online Games.” Educational Technology Research and Development 56.5-6 (2008): 557-74.

THESES/DISSERTATIONS

Bond, David. “The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior and the Relationship to School Shootings.” Diss. University of South Florida, 2011.

Przybylski, Andrew K., et al. “The Ideal Self at Play: The Appeal of Video Games That Let You Be All You Can Be.” Psychological Science 23 (2012): 69-76.

WEBSITES

http://theweek.com/article/index/241121/7-health-benefits-of-playing-video-games

http://www.gov.nl.ca/VPI/types/

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