"What people see in violent computer games, they will eventually do in real life." Yeah, I'm pretty sure that kid gamer used Omnislash to kill that other kid gamer in real life. Can't wait to learn Meteor and use it on someone!
"Research shows that getting addicted to games will shrink your brain." Now I'm concerned, being 'addicted' to games since 7 years old, using 1000+ hours of my life in gaming, and counting. I'll probably have a pea-sized brain when I reach 60.
"So parents, don't get fooled- buy good games. If your children want such games, scare them. Don't expect the school to do everything for you." ...Define 'good' games? (Source)
Instead, I decided to write about something that this whole issue has reminded me of. A recent conversation with a friend involved the discussion of scary movies, and how they’re often linked to turning children into psychopaths too. Again, that’s not anything I’m going to delve into, and I’m going to stay in the realm of proposals and theories.
See, I’m one of those people who absolutely love watching a good horror flick. It’s my favorite genre, and I loved scaring myself shitless. I think my sister and I’ve pretty much seen every supernatural movie ever to show up on a “Top 10 Scariest Movies” list. Thing is, I love being scared shitless, but hate it at the same time. The boyfriend always tells me off for it, commenting on how ironic it is that I love scary movies but can’t really bear to watch them.
Last night, a bunch of my cousins were gathered in our living room watching scary shorts, and while I could hear some of them shrieking and whimpering, I noticed that one particular cousin, a girl in her mid-teens, was nonchalant. I asked her if the shorts were scary at all, and she said no. The screams of the rest of the group begged to differ.
It got me wondering about why some people are scared by movies and video games easily, while others aren’t. I think it has something to do with empathy.
Think about it. Empathy goes beyond just understanding how someone feels and involves actually putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, trying to understand what they’re feeling and experience it for yourself. Call center agents are taught that this is one of the most important skills to have – they need to be able to empathize with callers to actually be able to help them.
Many underestimate the benefits of empathizing. They think that simply telling the customer that “I understand how you feel, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience” counts as empathy. It doesn’t. When you empathize, you don’t even have to say anything to the other person. Instead, you tell yourself, “Shit, if this had happened to me, I would be just as freaked out as she is. I’d better go and find that dildo she ordered.” It makes you more efficient, and it helps you appreciate the kind of work you’re doing too.
The same people who can empathize with people in the strangest situations will probably find that even the sappiest, cheesiest horror movies can scare them shitless. Why? Because they have no trouble placing themselves in the movie, taking the role of the protagonist who’s talking to the little girl in the corner – except they know more than the protagonist does. They know that that little girl is actually a ghoul, and they know that something really bad is about to happen, and that’s what scares them.
As I told my friend, I don’t think that movies turn children into psycho- or sociopaths. Instead, the movies expose the children who are already at risk for becoming sociopaths. For the unaware, sociopaths are people who exhibit extremely antisocial behavior, including but not limited to – you guessed it – lack of empathy. When someone appears utterly unperturbed by even the most harrowing scenes (such as, I dunno, any scene from A Serbian Film), they don’t just have balls of steel, they might have a stone-fucking-cold heart too.
Believe it or not, someone’s already studied the psychophysiological effects of horror films, and the results showed that people who exhibited “Fearlessness” and “Coldheartedness” had no increase in systolic blood pressure – which previous literature has documented to increase as subjects are exposed to increasingly violent scenes.
While I don’t think that movies can turn people into sociopaths, I do believe that they can desensitize them to violence. Constant unguided exposure to violence may cause impressionable minds to think that it’s the norm. I believe that this is one of the pillars that people who argue against video game violence constantly fall back on. Yes, the same can be said for violence in video games, but no, they still don’t cause children to grow up into violent pricks.
What does? It’s their environment. Children brought up in caring households are able to distinguish between reality and the imagined worlds of video games and movies. That’s because their parents are there to guide them through making most of these distinctions.
So, parents, instead of being lazy bums and blaming your children’s tendency for violence on the video games they play, why not do a little self-reflection? Why did you let your child buy that copy of GTA V without knowing that he’d be shooting people in the game (uh, it’s called Grand Theft Auto, it shouldn’t have been that hard to figure out)? Why did you let him spend his weekend watching slash-and-gore? Why didn’t you stop him when he was yelling insults into his microphone while shooting people in the head in COD? Why didn’t you take him to a therapist or tell him off at least when you saw him shooting the neighbor’s cat with a BB gun?
Sure, some children are born predisposed to violence, but parents have the responsibility to get them the treatment they need to be able to function as good human beings and not menaces to society.
It’s the parent’s responsibility to teach their children to empathize, so they don’t grow up into bullies or mass-murderers. And if you can’t take responsibility for your children and how they turn out, then you’re unfit parents, and I really wish time machines existed out of sci-fi novels, movies and video games, so you could right your wrongs.