Normalisation of Violence in Media- Video Games






Violence in media is EVERYWHERE. Systematic surveys of the content of recent films, television shows, and other media indicate that violence is very frequent in the popular offerings of the mass media. Think of the last movie you saw, I am sure it had atleast one scene where the hero kicks out all the bad guys. In the entirety of media, how often do we see characters attack others and attempt to harm others? This fact raises an important question that psychologists have studied for decades: Does exposure to such materials increase aggression among children or adults? Hundreds of tests were conducted and results say that exposure to media violence may indeed be one factor contributing to high levels of violence in countries where such materials are viewed by large numbers of people. The experts agreed that these effects are real, lasting, and substantial; with important implications for society and for the safety and well-being of millions of people who are the victims. There have been several studies where some adults/children were exposed to violent movies and consequently, those people showed more aggressive/violent behaviour. Furthermore, such effects are not restricted only to actual programs or films; they appear to be produced by violence in news programs, by violent lyrics in popular music and even video games. 

The past few years, violent video games have recently become the subject of intense study because of their immense popularity. A large number of studies were designed to determine if playing such video games is harmful or makes a person more aggressive or violent and the results were truly alarming! The experts said that playing such games increases thoughts related to harming others, feelings of hostility, anger, and revenge and aggressive behavior. Also, playing aggressive video games reduces empathy for others and the tendency to engage in prosocial behavior. But if it is so harmful why do people engage in such activities? It's because some people find violence (especially in a virtual world where there are no real life implications) exciting and enjoyable. However that's not the sole reason! People enjoy that the sense of self-governing and competence that the games provide. In other words, people enjoy playing violent video games because they provide players with a sense of being in control—acting independently—and because they provide opportunities for experiencing competence by exercising their skills or abilities. Results also indicated that the extent to which the games satisfied needs for autonomy and competence were related to enjoyment of the games, absorption in them, and interest in purchasing a possible sequel, but were not related to violent content. So to sum it up, the games are being extremely popular not just because people like being violent. Another study was conducted where participants were made to play one violent and one non-violent game. Then, they were asked which game would they like to play again in future and it was found that people who are naturally aggressive chose violent games, whereas people low in trait aggressiveness preferred the non-violent games. 

So after several more studies it was concluded that although highly aggressive people are indeed attracted to violent video games, it is not the violent content of these games but rather the opportunity for autonomy and competence they provide that makes them so popular. But how do video games make people more aggressive? It has been said by psychologists that repeated exposure to media violence can strongly affect thought patterns relating to aggression, gradually creating a hostile expectation bias—a strong expectation that others will behave aggressively. This, in turn, causes individuals to be more aggressive themselves. Another important thing that needs to be talked about in this topic is desentisation to violence. In other words, as a result of exposure to large amounts of violent content in television programs, films, and video games, individuals become less sensitive to violence and its consequences. It reduces individuals’ emotional reactions to such events so that, in a sense, they perceive them as “nothing out of the ordinary.” 

Time and time again, research studies have concluded that the exposure of violence mass media provides to its audience indeed have very harmful effects on a person's mental state. Therefore, the amount of normalised violence as a form of "entertainment" in media should be reduced as much as possible!

Ref: Social Psychology 13th Edition by Robert A. Baron and Nyla R. Branscombe

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