On Video Games


By Iggi Khomasurya


Once I wondered if Pokemon video games were suitable for my kids (turned out, Pokemon characters are suspect but the violence makes it a no-no). Pope Benedict XVI’s comment woke me up: “Video games … and other media that exalt violence and trivialize sexuality is a perversion, especially when directed at young people.” My web search indicated violent video games are pervasive and a threat to our children! Game Crazy Poll stated 80% of USA children wanted video games for Christmas and 80% of violent video games were sold at Christmas. Harris interactive polls found 50% of 8-12 years old gamers admitted playing M-rated games. (USA Entertainment Software Rating Board’s rating: M=Mature, T=Teen, E=Everyone). What then, are our beliefs and actions toward violent video games for our children: Outright acceptance (friend of the world), Avoidance (friend of the world indirectly) or Righteous opposition?

The effect of video games on children
: AAP Head, after Jonesboro’s school killing, stated “Children do not naturally kill. It is a learned skill.” Grossman explained, “Killing requires training because within the midbrain, is a powerful, GOD-given resistance to killing your own kind.” In US history, firing at enemy soldiers increased steadily as the Military fixed the “problem”: Civil War: incredibly low; WWII: 20%; Korean War: 55% and Vietnam War: 90%. During WWII, men are willing to die and sacrifice themselves, but not kill. Psychological conditioning techniques used to train soldiers out of their natural resistance to kill, are the very same techniques now used in violent video games. The four proven techniques are:

Brutalization and desensitization at boot camp. You lose your individuality and are desensitized to violent behaviors (accepted as normal). When kids and their friends see somebody shot, stabbed, raped, brutalized, degraded, or murdered on video games or TV, to them it is as though it was actually happening. Moreover, video games are addictive – kids can be hooked on violence. (2) Classical conditioning. Pavlov conditioned dogs associated ringing bell with food. Thereafter the dogs salivated on just hearing the bell. We are doing the exact opposite. Our children watch vivid pictures of human suffering and death, and associate it with their favorite soft drink, candy bar or their girlfriend’s perfume – violence is the norm. We have raised a generation like the Romans, cheering and snacking while people were slaughtered in the Colosseum. (3) Operant conditioning makes killing a conditioned response. Now soldiers have a split second to shoot realistic, man-shaped silhouettes (not bull’s eyes). A child playing interactive point-and-shoot video game is learning the exact same conditioned reflex and motor skills plus learning to like killing. (4) Role modeling is your Army drill sergeant. He is a violent and aggressive role model, who influenced young, impressionable minds. Video game graphics, especially the mindless violence types, make equally poor role models.

My recommendations:
1. “One of the most effective ways for Christians to be salt and light is by simply confronting the culture of violence as entertainment. If we do not actively present our (Christian) values, then the media will most assuredly inflict theirs on our children, and they simply will not know any better”. 2. Understand video rating system (ESRB) but check out the games yourself. Harvard study found 81% of video games rated M, has sex, profanity, violence or other objectionable content not labeled on the box. 3. “Make family life as an attractive alternative” to counter video games, as huge leaps in mental and social development unfold in early adolescence. The 2-3 hours/day of violent video games is not good for such developing brain.

Catholic Online: Speaking in the 41st World Communications Day (Jan 2007)
National Catholic Registry: Violence under the Christmas Tree
American Academy of Paediatrics Task Force on Juvenile Violence
Homefaith.com: It’s time to stop training our kids to kill - Lt Col Dave Grossman.
Catholiceducation.org: Video Game Culture-A Harmless Addiction?
Catholic News Service 5/12/2006 quote from Harvard School of Public Health’s Kids Risk Project
HomeFaith.com: Do Video Games Stunts Kids’ Growth