No matter your attitude toward violent media, the proliferation of violent video games has permeated our popular culture, teaching our children to embrace violence as a way of life. Parents who would never invite a serial murderer to dine with their family regularly allow their children to interact with virtual killers whenever they turn on the Playstation.
Families that espouse equality as a core value are seriously undermined when their children are being conditioned to harm women and view minorities as thugs, thieves and drug dealers as depicted in today's most popular video games.
What began in the arcades as a misshapen blob of black and white pixels running over stick figures in 1976' Death Race, has evolved into interactive simulators that require real-life jabs, punches and chopping motions to execute kills and grotesque finishing moves on the Nintendo Wii's "Manhunt 2" and "Mortal Kombat: Armageddon." It's an issue that recently garnered congressional attention. Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Evan Bayh (D-IN) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) called for an overhaul of the current Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) ratings system. In a letter written to the ESRB, the senators made known their concern for how games on the Nintendo Wii are rated due to the nature of its motion-sensing controller.
"That system permits children to act out each of the many graphic torture scenes and murders in Manhunt 2 rather than simply manipulating a game pad," wrote the senators. "This led one clinical psychologist to state that the realistic motions used with the Wii mean that 'You're basically teaching a child the behavioral sequencing of killing."
To date, nearly 40 different studies have shown a consistent pattern of results: Playing violent video games can increase a person's aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior in both laboratory settings and actual life.
In "Stop Teaching our Kids to Kill: A Call to Action Against TV, Movie, and Video Game Violence," Pulitzer Prize nominated Lt. Col. (retired) Dave Grossman wrote, "There are three things you need in order to shoot and kill effectively and efficiently. From a soldier in Vietnam to an eleven-year-old in Jonesboro. First, you need a gun. Next you need the skill to hit a target with that gun. And finally you need the will to use that gun.
Today soldiers learn to fire at realistic, man-shaped silhouettes that pop up in their field of vision. This 'simulated' human being is the conditioning stimulus. The conditioned response is to shoot the target and then it drops. Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, stimulus-response: soldiers and police officers experience hundreds of repetitions of this. Later, when they're out on the battlefield or walking a beat and someone pops up with a gun, reflexively they will shoot and shoot to kill." Grossman concluded, "Now these simulators are in our homes and arcades-in the form of violent video games!
If you don't believe us, you should know that one of the most effective and widely used simulators developed by the United States Army in recent years is nothing more than a modified Nintendo game."
What can you do to keep your children safe from videogame violence? Know what they're playing by playing the games with them. You're the best judge about what's appropriate for your family. And, encourage your local video retailers to use and enforce the ratings.