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Articles > Gaming May, 27, 2014

Warp your little brother’s personality for £19.99

Courtney Hartley
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3.03 / 10

It’s fair to say we live in a world full of the latest, up to date technology. At least once a month there is a new video game released, ready for addiction prone teens to enjoy. But can playing these video games really change how we act? We hear stories like “one guy spent 12 hours in his room playing Call Of Duty” and “my friend queued up for 4 hours to get FIFA 14”, but what makes us want to do this? OK the new graphics, adventures and players may be a contributing factor but spending on average 7 and a half hours a day shooting zombies cannot be good for anyone.


Photo By Sean Dreilinger

I came to the realisation the other day that exposure to certain games can change people. My younger brother is at the age where he wants to play Mine craft and Call of Duty and basically shoot stuff. Yet it’s noticeable in day to day activities that he is getting more aggressive; shouting or hitting things if he doesn’t win something. OK he may be at an age where tantrums are ‘acceptable’ and he is a boy, but I have many friends that are girls that spend hours killing zombies and then get angry so easily if they are told something they don’t want to hear. It’s easy to assume these people are all just naturally ‘violent’ but from knowing them before these games became so popular, its clear there’s been a change in their attitudes and actions.

Undoubtedly many people do play video games that involve guns, knives and sex and are just the same person. The video games they play are simply an escape from all the stresses involved in growing up. However, many of these people also are not old enough to play these games. Indeed this is another issue in itself, but this over-exposure to violent games in the longer term can be dramatic. The need to fulfil the fantasies of hijacking cars and shooting people become realistic. Arguably these are only in extreme cases, but looking at the bigger picture it is evident that long over exposure to games like Grand Theft Auto at the age of 12 can lead to this. Exposure to aggressive video games at young ages is becoming a more common thing and inevitably this happening to young teenagers’ impacts their personalities and thoughts.

Hence this opens a lingering question on whether these violent video games should even be produced and manufactured, or whether there is a greater need for more choice in video games for younger people, not involving violence. In addition it is also questionable whether advertisements for video games need to be censored or only shown at a certain time in the day. When you think about the purpose of video games, the only real need for them is pleasure. But is it pleasurable to see family and friend not just addicted to such games but also changing in front of your very eyes? The person you used to know has turned into a grumpy and angry individual. The cause not being hormones, but spending hours and hours playing violent video games.

Do parents need to do more to limit time spent on video games? Could they really effect young people for the worse? What are your experiences with video games? Leave your thoughts and comments down below!

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  1. Kamila Nowicka

    I think that parents should be following the rules if the game says 16 then the child should wait,I think video games have a large influence on kids and having a younger brother shows me that kids have games on internet on their mind nearly 24/7,but imagine the life without it or with the stuff that was there when I was younger.

  2. Bethany Talbot

    ” a lingering question on whether these violent video games should even be produced and manufactured”
    This opens the question, why are parents buying them for their children? At 15 I was I.D’d for a 16 game and couldn’t buy it, I moved on and waited til I was old enough to buy it an play it. If the parents notice a change in their child after they play violent games that aren’t suitable for them because of their age or mental capacity/stability, the parents are to blame for buying them the game, not the industry for producing the game.
    I, as with the rest of my entire family, have been playing video games for many years – for me since I was around 5. While at that age I wouldn’t have been playing violent games (mainly because hey, snes time) but also because my mother simply wouldn’t allow that. All of us have grown up fine, no murderers, no aggresive family members, just a family that play video games together or seperately to relieve stress and envelop ourselves in an interesting story.
    Will we suddenly ban graphic books because – god forbid – a child will read about murder or assault, and therefore mimic it or become aggressive? No. Books are a form of leisure and entertainment as are video games, although from a different branch.

  3. Dan Edwards

    I think that video games are a great source if entertainment for everyone, not just children and other young people. However it is important to not let such devices replace social time where essential life skills can be learnt. Communication skills and good manners are critical for a happy and respectful lifestyle, but one does not inherit these through DNA – they must be developed by loving in the ‘real world’ as opposed to a fictional fantasy if video games. Parent/carers should closely monitor how much time is spent playing video games, as well as the content of the games they are playing. It is undeniably inappropriate for pre-teens and early teens to be playing Call of Duty, which is rightly rated as 15 or 18.

  4. Maximillion

    Your experience of siblings and friends becoming aggressive most likely has a lot less to do with the content of these games than their own addiction and frustration.

    When you become hooked on something you are compelled to play it again and again regardless of repeated failure, which is usually a signal to our brains to abandon the activity and find something more rewarding. If you experience repeated failure and lack of reward, it is likely we are going to get aggravated, and the cognitive drain caused by playing the game is not going to be balanced out by the reward from playing the game. Cognitive drain is also a big factor in aggression and irritation. It impairs our ability to think logically and respond to situations in a calm and civilised manner. Instead we become impulsive and think/do the first thing that comes to our heads.

    Basically, in my opinion, the aggression caused from playing video games, most especially in teenagers, whose brains are still developing, is more due to the fact that people find it difficult to regulate themselves. We should learn to tell when enough is enough and when an activity is becoming more of a source of irritation than of reward. In normal circumstances, people instinctively avoid the sort of situation which gives them negative feelings, and gravitate to those which give them positive feelings. Compulsion and addiction can totally mess up this otherwise straightforward mode of behaviour.

  5. ariel monticalvo

    young people today are really addicted to computer games. They almost tied their selves up to different gaming consoles just for entertainment. Though this is alarming we should also consider the fact that we are also reducing outside crime through gaming.

  6. Wow, another pointless article, I have done my own research for a TV segment on Gaming and there’s no concrete evidence that violent video games effect a person, they only build on to what that person already is, so if they were already violent then this just reinforces the justification of that person.

    • Rachel Lawson

      Maybe once they’re an adult, violence in video games may have no effect on a person, but children’s brains are still developing so potentially seeing large amounts of violence via games could have a greater effect on development than people expect.

  7. Game Design Graduate

    This is utter nonsense. Apart from the fact that it’s all personal opinion; in over 25 years of videogame effects research there hasn’t been a single conclusive study that shows an increase in violent tendencies from playing violent videogames. Additionally it’s important to understand that most of the studies that claim a link fail to find that link consistently. This is largely due to the fact the all the studies that are carried out use a direct effects media model. This particular effects model was disproven as far back as 1933 in the Payne Fund studies. Unfortunately as Wartella and Reeves (1985) noted “media effects on children” research constantly fails to reference earlier work from similar fields. Radio didn’t reference film, TV didn’t reference radio and so on. Essentially all the research carried out on violent videogames is null and void because none of the people involved ever actually look at past studies and instead produce the same cyclical nonsense year after year with each new form of media.

    Another thing to point out is that comments in this list seem to fall into the same moral panic that tended to follow all the previous effects research. The assumption of harm through the breaking of moral taboo. It’s assumed that because there are no consequences to these actions on screen that the children aren’t able to understand what the images mean. The opposite is actually true, studies have shown (Gutierrez, R., & Giner-Sorolla, R., 2007), (Squire, K., 2002), (Williams, D., 2003), that players are actively aware that what is happening on screen is not real and that moral panics tend to form around new technology.

    Essentially what I’m saying is, if you’re going to make claims on a subject you have absolutely no experience or knowledge of, don’t make it public to graduates, because some of us actually studied this.

  8. keri walker

    I do agree with your point of view whereas there are age ratings on many games such as grand theft auto which is rated 18 as well as any call of duty so kids at the age of 12 shouldn’t legally be playing these games due to the fact it’s not suitable for them but mine craft is a good game for youngsters due to them using their minds to build and think about what they are going to do next which can be a useful skill in life and I play video games my self and do agree that young people should not be playing such war games racing games are fine but limiting time played for young people would be a good idea. But I believe blaming/banning a selection of games due to kids suposibly ‘copying’ action in games shouldn’t be blamed on the game because they have age ratings which the parents should remember not to buy there 7 year old a 18 rated game

  9. Maisie Jameson

    I completely agree with this article. My younger brother is always on his Xbox, Kindle fire, PSP etc. gaming endlessly. When we try and interact with him, he gets aggressive and shouts. We have just about got to the end of our tether with him, and starting to take things off him. I think that parents should control how long children spend gaming and staring at a device, no matter how old they are! Gone are the days where children spend hours outside in the sun! Nobody socialises any more – only on social media website/xbox live etc. It’s just getting ridiculous! Also, all that staring at a bright screen MUST affect childrens eyes, I mean, they are still growing, it’s not a natural light to look at! Bring back reading and board games!!!!

  10. Courtney Hartley

    Hi Jonny, okay so you asked for evidence right? A study from Bushman (2009) suggested that over exposure to violent video games had a negative impact on behaviour. They staged two conditions, one where participants were playing violent video games for 20mintues (including GTA and Resident Evil) and the other where participants played non-violent video games for 20mins. They then staged a fight where someone got injured and found that those who played the violent video games took longer to respond to the injured person. Indeed this does not show a direct link between aggression and video games, but it does indicate that players became desensitised to the aggression within the games. Therefore meaning that with continious over exposure there is a likelihood that aggression would seem ‘normal’. With reference to my article, this links with the fact that over exposure to violent games is negative and hence brings up the question whether something should be done about it. There has also been research conducted by Sopes and Millar (1983) that found that children playing video games exhibited addictive tendencies and withdrawal symptoms (i.e. sweating and shaking). Clearly showing for younger generations video games are bad, and as I mentioned before in long term can and potentionally will have drastic effects on them.

    • Perhaps you might want to consider again what that 2009 study you cited actually showed. Reluctance to become involved in a situation…not aggression or violence, reluctance to put themselves into a potentially violent situation.

      When staging experiments it is essential to properly consider what it is you are doing and what it means. Too often this fails utterly in the social sciences (sometimes too in other disciplines, but less so) one reason I have respect for the study by Przybylski et al is that they have properly controlled for variables. For example, creating a high violence and low violence version of the same game and seeing if there was any difference between those that played one or the other. Too often the experiments are conducted in a slapdash way which seems to be the case with the Bushman study.

      I’d need to have a look at the Snopes and Millar study, but I suspect it is similarly highly flawed given that those are also post adrenaline responses and I suspect that there was little or no control or consideration given to that as possible cause.

  11. Beverly Hooton

    Whilst I can see your point I have to say I disagree. Yes, videogames can be violent, and they do act on children on an impressionable age, but doesn’t everything in the world? You can’t just blame violence on video games. Magazines constantly throw pictures of scantily clad men and women out there within perfect height of children to see, many popular TV shows can contain swearing and violence. The Inbetweeners, for one, whilst an excellent show, does have strong swearing in it, as well as drinking and sex. And children will watch these shows, regardless of what their parents say. Even the newspapers are full of articles on violence and war, and who can say as a child they never played anything like cops and robbers? Cowboys and Indians? I can remember myself and my brother on hot days as kids shooting each other with water guns and “killing” one another. When you look at it like that, and how accepted it is for children to go around shooting one another, the whole world seems pretty violent.
    To blame violence in children entirely on video games is a bit extreme. Yes, some video games may play a part but, as I have mentioned earlier, as do countless other media outlets.
    And video games do teach children. They can teach strategy and common sense. They can teach problem and puzzle solving e.g. in the Tomb Raider franchise. They can teach teamwork in multiplayer and in games like Fifa. Some of them, such as Clash of Clans, can even be thought to teach time and money management, even if it is just saving up to buy/upgrade more troops. Whilst, yes, the majority of video games are there for entertainment, I do believe that they can be constructive for children in ways that aren’t particularly focused on in schools.
    And my final point: Minecraft? Violent? Have you played Minecraft? You literally dig stuff out the ground and craft with it. I hardly think Minecraft should be lumped in with violent games such as CoD.

    • Daniel Annear

      I disagree with your point. You say that violence is all around and you compare playing cowboys and Indians with sticks and things to a video game such as CoD – however, there is a major difference… In reality if you get hit by one of the sticks – you actually FEEL pain. You can get injured and you LEARN to be more careful. In violent video games – if you ‘Die’ – you think ‘its okay – ill start again…’ And there is no learning involved this can affect a part of the brain in younger people that might not realise the consequences of their actions…

      It, then comes back to the issues between nature and nurture. Sure, the media can be seen as negative in many ways – yet it is up to a parent to understand where and when it is appropriate to introduce these factors which will be met. When the first series of the imbetweeners came out I was 16 – for me that was about the right age, because I could understand most of the themes involved and laugh along with the joke. I can’t imagine an 8 year old for example being at all interested in a group of teenagers…

      The bit I can agree with you is about Video games teaching teamwork and being a learning experience – (When I was younger I identified with Ape Escape; and ever since have been able to name every era of life from the prehistoric to present day – although I know now some names were adapted for the game)

      But this then raises the question – if it’s a good Learning experience; involving things like teamwork, social skills and understanding how to fix problems / puzzles – surely this can be taught through Real Life situations – if you have to rely on a game to teach EVERYTHING … It poses the question… What can A PARENT teach their children.

      • Beverly Hooton

        Thank you, I do see your point on the Cowboys and Indians thing. Maybe it was far-fetched to assume it similar to CoD. I was simply trying to point out that from a very young age children already play violent games, and these are deemed acceptable. Granted I accept that it does hurt if they get hit, and that is where the key difference lies with games, but I still believe that kids will continue to play these games the next day, even after the hit. Children will play what they love.
        I also accept that maybe the Inbetweeners was a little too far-fetched as well (I can’t see an eight year old watching it either!) but a lot of the cartoons that I watched as a child were full of violence. Granted, Tom and Jerry violence was comical, but it still all proves the point that violence is around children from a very early age. Countless cartoons used to be based on violence and, even though it is fake, it still puts the ide on impressionable kids that it is funny, something to be laughed at and not taken seriously. I can’t imagine a five/six year old playing CoD, but I can imagine them watching cartoons where violence is used for humour, so they are still subject to it, even if it isn’t in games. And if cartoons seem far-fetched as well then Marvel films, whilst entertaining, often show scenes of fighting. I’m simply trying to make the point that violence is all around from a very early age, and the idea that we can blame it solely on video games is a narrow minded one.
        I am accepting that video games can be a promoter to violence. The news story of a boy who couldn’t get GTA V when it came out so he stole it from a friend, for example, can be seen as being a link to video game violence used in real life. However, what I am trying to say is that it is unfair to claim that yes, all teenage violence can be blamed on video games. I’m sure there were bullies and violence long before video games – sometimes it is just people nature, and the violence seen in media only acts as an early trigger, rather than it coming out later. People were wrestling, fighting, stealing, bullying others and burning ants with magnifying glasses for fun long before video game violence was popular.
        I do accept your point on the parents teaching children things like problem solving as well. It is down to the parents to be more careful with their children, and I feel personally that they sometimes are not as aware of it as they should be. Not their fault, I’m sure, what with many parents having to work now.

  12. jonny martin

    possibly the worst article i’ve ever read. i could maybe take on board your point if you’d given any evidence to back it up other than “I have many friends that are girls that spend hours killing zombies and then get angry so easily if they are told something they don’t want to hear”. 1st problem tiny sample size of just your friend group and 2nd its basically just an unfounded opinion same as “it is evident that long over exposure to games like Grand Theft Auto at the age of 12 can lead to this”. in what was is this evident? we need to hear your evidence.

  13. Courtney Hartley

    I completely understand all of the points raised from your comments, however I think some of you are perhaps missing the real point. Many of you are saying that you’ve played video games for years and are fine etc. Yet the real point was, for the younger generations them growing up with exposure to violent videos games inevitably will affect them and therefore questions what we should do to change this. Even if the younger people do not play these games, the simple exposure to others playing them will still have an affect. With reference to the fact that I have made a too explicit link between aggression and video games, it may come across that I’ve just nailed it down to all aggressive acts are because of video games, but this wasn’t the intention. There has been research into the effects of video games on behaviour, with findings ranging from them having an extremely positive effect on us to them being a cause for anti-social behaviour. Also Ian raised a point about catharsis, by no means was I saying this was negative or should be stopped because as you raised it can’t.

  14. Ian

    Confusing correlation with causation. Catharsis as an idea has been around for a long time and spouting about it isn’t going to stop it now. Some of the finest novels ever written are about sex and violence. Our world is full of it. Why not embrace it and engage with the creative artists who make this work so they have an impulse to improve and make work that truly matters to people. The problems with computer games is not the violence, its the throwaway nature of the violence

  15. Liam

    Kevin be interesting for you to provide a citation for that statement, it would be an interesting read. Especially with regards to where the aggression has been learnt.

    Otherwise, whilst I think this article makes too explicit causal link between violent video games and aggression, for some of the comments to so readily dismiss this is equally wrong.

    Obviously research into this topic will invariably be restricted due to ethical constraints, and there is a degree of evidence to both sides of the argument.

    Aside from that debate, do we really need to keep improving the graphics and illustrations of violence in both video games and films? It may be becoming more commonplace and there’s debate as to whether or not it has any influence. But why the necessity to continuously increase the exposure?
    Certainly responsibility should primarily lay with parents to try and restrict access. Yet no parent can have 100% control (nor should they) on what their child plays, whether they’re at a friends for instance or otherwise.

    Lastly, with regards to comments about our own generation growing up with these games and being fine ourselves, over our lifespans even we can see the changing nature of them. As in, many of us grew up with what is now regarded as ridiculous graphics. Our experiences are not applicable to the current generation.

    • The article in question is “Competence-impeding electronic games and players’ aggressive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors”
      by Andrew Przybylski published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. I’m afraid I don’t have an open link to it, you’ll need access to journals to read it in its entirety. The thing about the “degree of evidence to both sides” is that one side is “common sense” and anecdote and the other is using controlled testing and evidence….

      One of those techniques has resulted in modern medicine, the ability to put people into space and the internet….the other….well….

  16. Gudria

    Playing violent games do not make a person violent but the surrounding and behaviour around them has an affect on their life.

  17. Abi

    GTA V has an 18 rating for a reason and if parents ignore this and buy it for their 12 year old child, chances are there are other things they’re ignoring too.

    I love video games and have since I was a child. I’ve happily spent hours upon hours playing games such as GTA and Left 4 Dead but I’ve never been in a fight in my life and I very rarely get angry.

    We’re surrounded by violent films, TV, music and books; all of which I’ve enjoyed at different stages of my life, at an age where I was old enough to separate fantasy from reality.

    I wouldn’t buy GTA for someone under 18, just as much as I wouldn’t buy a child the Game of Thrones box set for their 12th birthday.

  18. Interesting, except that there has been no properly done study that shows the media effects model is anything but bunk. One of the latest studies from Oxford university shows that there is no link between violence levels in games and aggressive behaviour. There is however a link between failure, frustration and aggressive behaviour.

  19. Chris Wells

    Hi, I’m an avid gamer, having played games of all sorts for 15+ years, both violent and non violent.
    Violent video games should be produced, there is demand for them, on a massive scale. Take the new GTA, having sold over 30 million copies.
    On the subject of people playing games when they are too young and potentially impressionable to what they see, it is a similar story to parents who let their children watch films that are too mature for them, whether that be due to graphic depiction or psychological implications. I think it is the responsibility of the parent to monitor and to stop children from playing games that are not suitable for them (presumably, for most of the games the parents would have to purchase the game for the child). A parent should be well informed enough to know the rating system for games, it’s almost identical for films.
    People also queue for hours to watch films, buy books and go to events, this again is not exclusive to gamers.
    Having spent probably thousands of hours on a whole variety of video games, I can say I have no inclination or want to steal, kill or do anything depicted in gaming because I know that what I see in unrealistic, wrong, dangerous and immoral. Having had the media I was able to watch and play monitored and filtered by good parenting, these games have had no negative impact on my morals or state of mind. I knew the boundaries between what was depicted in a game and what was acceptable in reality. There is no need to ‘fulfil the fantasies’.
    Admittedly, games are an escape, the same way TV, film and sports are, just in a different way.
    Someone who is aware that what they play or watch is simply a game and no more will know that what they see or do in game is not acceptable in the real world. They will separate what they see in games and, while fun to enact and play, will know not to take those actions beyond the screen of which they play games on.

    • Adam

      +1 to the notion that it is the parents responsibility to not give a 12 year old a game which is rated PEGI 16 or 18. It is irresponsible of the parents and they only have themselves to blame.