Within society, the video game industry is hugely successful, with sales of video games and consoles reaching $50 billion in 2008. In effect video games are considered now as 'one of the leading forms of media consumption', with sales rivalling the most successful Hollywood blockbusters'. However, in the media, certain violent video games have proven to be a serious concern with different audiences such as parents, who are urged to do more to protect their children from playing these games, as they supposedly ‘cause aggression’ and ‘violent behaviour’. In accordance to this, scientific evidence conducted by scientists such as Professor Bruce Bartholow and Anderson and Dill suggest that violent games do, in fact cause aggression and violent behaviour in the audience. Therefore, the media seems to blame gaming institutions such as Infinity Ward, Ubisoft and Rockstar Games for creating games which endorse violence and a result in aggression on the audience. In this essay, I will discuss whether video games are becoming violent and whether or not they are a concern.
Generally, video game institutions such as Infinity Ward and Rockstar games seem to make games which are more violent, as they mainly target the audience's preferences, as most of the violent video games are very male orientated, therefore may be appealing to males, as biologically, males tend to be more aggressive, as shown at a young age where boys tend to engage in play fighting, in contrast to girls who seem to be more passive. Though, another reason why the video game institutions produce games which are more violent is that the audience want to play games which are real, therefore games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 place the player in the game, especially with FPS (First Person Shooters). Therefore, the audience become 'intentionally and actively involved in the action.' Also, the position of the player as the first person shooter allows them to ' interact with the virtual environments in a more personal way' and also allow them to mentally insert themselves into the action." Most importantly, violent video games also give 'players an opportunity to practice violent scripts', with players therefore tending to be more aggressive, yet active.
In addition, violent video games may be becoming more violent because they offer 'varying levels of difficulty', therefore the audience may look to play these games, in order to progress to the next level and come across enemies which are harder to kill. Evidently, in Grand Theft Auto IV players have to complete missions in order to progress, with rewards and special items available such as health packs, which seem to enable the audience to play the game for a longer period of time, yet offers 'instant gratification' to the audience, as they can identify with their player in the game and can play games for escapism. As well as this, males may tend to play violent games in order to fit into the crowd, in this way; the audience can play with friends and family and feel that they are part of the mainstream.
Most importantly, video games tend to be more violent due to many different factors such as the graphics, interface, player activity or the algorithm of the game. However, the way in which the violent video games are marketed seems to have a resonating effect on the audience, as many video games such as Max Payne 2, Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days are involved in controversy, as they seemingly condone violence and inject immoral ideologies in the audience. Though, ‘rather than limiting sales, controversies often fuel demand for such games , as teens and older children flock to stores to purchase mature rated games’ Therefore, the controversy surrounding these games lead to the audience wanting to try them even more. In regards to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the audience seem to buy games whereby they can be involved in live action, such as a battlefield and can gain sadistic pleasures out of shooting the enemy.
The level of violence, sexual references and drug references within violent video games results in a wider moral panic, as the media injects ideologies into the audience that violent video games are a serious concern, as they corrupt children and cause aggression. Therefore different audiences such as adults may have oppositional readings to violent video games and may feel that video game manufacturers have ‘gone too far’ and should ‘agree to stop making games that portray extreme violence or sexual activity". Though, regulation has been implemented on video games, as the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) which was set up in 1994 enforced age recommendations for video games as well as content warnings, such as language, sexual themes and violence. Yet there was still controversy surrounding violent video games, as ‘the 2004 introduction of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, featured corrupt cops, racism, drive-by shootings, pipe beatings and explicit sex’. The introduction of the Grand Theft Auto Series prompted more controversy, as the sandbox style game play involved the player completing missions which involved murdering people, theft, shooting innocent bystanders and a host of unethical issues. Similarly, the killing of Stefan Pakeerah in Leicester in February 2004, was believed to be inspired by the game Manhunt, put the games industry back in the spotlight. Therefore, many shops such as Dixons stopped selling the game amidst the concerns surrounding its content. The second game in the series, Manhunt 2 was banned in Britain in 2007 due to its "unrelenting focus on brutal slaying". The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) – which rates video games and films - rejected the game after finding it "constantly encourages visceral killing". Therefore the regulation and control of violent video games is often demanded by parents of children who play violent video games, as well as politicians, as the control of these games will result in less crime and deviance in society.
In conjunction to moral panics, the media may exaggerate and sensationalize news surrounding violent video games, in order to inject messages that video games cause the audience to become violent, without any sufficient evidence to support their claims. Therefore, the public seemingly reacts by searching for similar links between video games and violence, and, because they want to find a link, they “find” it in other places’. Consequently, the audience may criticize video games and link it to violence, though this link may not be entirely authentic. Professor David Buckingham believes that the audiences should be informed about what they're letting themselves in for and should learn how to understand about the risk posed by violent games, rather than to avoid it.
Similarly, scientific research has been conducted by various scientists and professors namely, Anderson and Dill, in order to show how video games are a concern, as they cause aggression in the audience. Notably, experiments conducted by Craig A Anderson and Karen E Dill concluded that "...in the short run, playing a violent video game appears to affect aggression by priming aggressive thoughts. Longer-term effects are likely to be longer lasting as the player learns and practices new aggression-related scripts that can become more and more accessible for use when real-life conflict situations arise." Therefore, the experiments suggest that violent video games are a concern, as the audience can be affected mentally in the short run, yet they may resort to using violence in real life conflicts, if they play violent games on a continual basis. Notably games such as Grand Theft Auto IV are an example of games which cause aggression, as the sandbox style of game play allows the player to have more freedom; therefore they have the opportunity to kill civilians such as hot dog sellers and can take on the police. As the player is given power in the game, they may gain sadistic pleasures out of killing civilians; therefore the game may perpetuate aggression due to the liberal values it contains.
In conjunction to this, many people believe that the potential effects (and theoretical perspectives) of video games on aggression are similar to those of television violence, as the video games like television contain violent references and many action codes on television shows such as WWE wrestling. Though, it can be inferred that wrestling does create, or at least reinforce, the aggressive attitudes and behaviour in the audience, as they get a chance to react the violent wrestling moves. Therefore, violent video game aggression is similar to television violence as the audience may be influenced by what they see and may gain sadistic pleasures out of watching shows which demonstrate violence. However, the constant exposure to violence in the media may make audience seemingly accept the violence and not try to question it; therefore they may actually become desensitised as a result. “Violence is not just a feature of video game culture. Violence is... everywhere. You can't avoid it. We can plug into violence on television, popular film, the Internet, radio, advertisements, brochures, magazines, newspapers, novels, theatre, MTV..."
Another concern about violent video games is that they can have a psychological effect on the audience. Notably, experiments have been carried out by scientists and researchers such as Professor Bruce Bartholow and Vince Matthews, in order to find a link between the psychological effects of violent video games. One such experiment carried out at the Indiana University School of Medicine involved a group of students who were asked to play a non violent game; Need for Speed and the other group were asked to play a violent game, Medal of Honor. After the experiment brain scans were used in order to measure the brain activity of all of the participants. The brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention. Therefore, the experiment shows that violent video games do have an effect on the brain, as the player feels less restricted and has a lack of attention, due to the fact that their attention is fixed on the TV screen for long periods of time. Similarly, violent video games may also result in health concerns, as they manage to exert a considerable hold over their players who play with an apparent unhealthy frequency and for lengthy periods of time. The fact that games such as Grand Theft Auto IV offer rewards and weapons make the audience want to play longer. Likewise,games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 offer the audience instant gratification, as they are awarded for the way they kill their enemy, as seen in the ‘Search and Destroy Mission’, where players are awarded points for a ‘Buzz kill’, which means that a player has ended their opponent’s kill streak. Similarly, violent video games such as Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and Mafia 2, similar items are available such as weapons and special objects, which make the audience want to continue to play the game and progress to the next level.
In conjunction, one of the main concerns surrounding violent video games would be that they result in the audience becoming desensitised to the violence in the games. The experiments carried out by Professor Bruce Bartholow and Dr Cheryl Olsen show a link between video games and desensitization, as Professor Bruce Bartholow’s experiment on involving student being shown violent and non violent images was effective in showing how teenagers are desensitised to violence, as the players of violent video games showed a significant diminution of p300 (electrical impulses) amplitude when viewing violent images. The findings also concluded that "... violent game players' p300 levels did not change when they encountered the neutral or negative, non-violent images". Therefore, the participants were less sensitive to either of the images, partly due to the exposure to violent video games. Likewise, the investigation carried out by Dr Cheryl Olsen revealed that teenagers who enjoy watching gore or violence in video games and not seeing the consequences that violence might have in real life, may result in them having less empathy for the victims. Consequently, the audience may be unable to understand the real effects of violence in society and the pain comes after a person has died in real life. Though different audiences might have oppositional readings to violent video games, as the modern entertainment media landscape is described as an effective systematic violence desensitization tool. In effect, the excessive amount of violence, sexual explicitness and swearing may result in many people being unable to question what they see on television or on the internet for example, as there may be too much content to regulate or even complain about.
On the contrary, violent video games may not be a concern, as video games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 promote eye hand coordination and improve the player’s skills such as spatial visualization. Games such as Call of Duty require the player to be aware of their surroundings in case of any attack and enable the player to be more precise in terms of shooting. Therefore, violent video games are effective tools in building the player’s current skills. In accordance, Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 also adapts the player’s strategic skills, as they have to read maps and have to complete missions, whereby they have to reach specific destinations and in missions such as ‘Search and Destroy’, the player has to plant a bomb in a specific location.
In conclusion, video games are becoming more violent, as the audience demand games which are more realistic and offer certain gratifications to the player, for example extra collectable items in the game. The audience would want to play violent video games such as Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2, as they are involved in the action and would want to experience playing in desirable fictional settings. To an extent, violent video games would be a concern, as they cause aggression and may lead to desensitisation. However, there is little evidence to suggest that these games cause long term aggressive behaviour and carry psychological effects. In many ways, the media exaggerates the links to violent video games and aggression, in order to become more newsworthy. Therefore, moral panics are created by the media, resulting in parents feeling worried and set against these games. Yet, parents and different audiences fail to understand that violent video games are beneficial to a teenage audience, as they encourage persistence at difficult tasks and help the player practice decision making. As well as this, violent video games enable the audience to hone their skills such as navigation, spatial awareness, as well as coordination, teamwork and cooperation, as missions in games such as Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty: modern Warfare 2 enable the audience to play with different people, therefore players have to work together to defeat their rivals. Also, these offer clear objectives and goals which the player must complete, therefore the audience can adapted their skills and knowledge by playing violent video games.
 Innovation and Marketing in the Video Games Industry, Wesley, David, and Gloria Barczak Social and Economic Impact of video games, pg 10
 Signorielli, Nancy. "Violence in the media." Violence in the media: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005. pg 37
It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt: The Effectiveness of proposed video-game legislation on reducing violence in children, Houston Law Review, Patrick Byrd, pg 406
 Newman, James. Playing with videogames. New York: Routledge, 2008, pg 89
 Gunter, Barrie. The effects of video games on children: the myth unmasked. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998, pg 27
 Newman, James. Playing with videogames. New York: Routledge, 2008, pg 6
 Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry: David Wesley, and Gloria Barczak 2010, pg 8
 Wesley, David, and Gloria Barczak. Innovation and Marketing in the Video Game Industry: Avoiding the Performance Trap.. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2010. Page 7
 Innovation and Marketing in the Video Games Industry, Wesley, David, and Gloria Barczak Social and Economic Impact of video games, Introduction, pg xii
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/aug/28/conservatives.ukcrime1?INTCMP=SRCH- The Guardian article on the background of violent video games, James Sturcke, Tuesday 28 August 2007
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/aug/28/conservatives.ukcrime1?INTCMP=SRCH- The Guardian article on the background of violent video games, The murder of Stephan Pakeerah, James Strucke, Tuesday 28 August 2007
 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/aug/28/conservatives.ukcrime1?INTCMP=SRCH- The Guardian article on the background of violent video games, Manhunt 2 ban in Britain, James Strucke, Tuesday 28 August 2007
 http://www.lkl.ac.uk/cms/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=349 – Interview of Prof David Buckingham and his response to violent video games, Wednesday, 19 August 2009
http://www.selfhelpmagazine.com/article/video-game - Article on the experiments carried out by Anderson and Dill, Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D., 25/11/2008
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhjWDuug4BA&feature=player_embedded – YouTube video of game play from Grand Theft Auto 4
Books and Websites
 Signorielli, Nancy. "violence in the media." Violence in the media: a reference handbook. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2005. Page 36.
 Oppliger, Patrice A.. Wrestling and hypermasculinity. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2004. Page 90
 Violence and the media, Cynthia Carter , and C. Kay Weaver. Buckingham [England: Open University Press, 2003. Print. page 142
 http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16099971/ns/technology_and_science-games/ - MSNBC article on the psychological effects of playing video games and its links to aggression, Kristin Kalning , 12/8/2006
 Newman, James. Playing with videogames. New York: Routledge, 2008. Page 6
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9LpUuGLMUU&feature=player_embedded – YouTube video of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Search and Destroy mission
 http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/28/video-games-desensitize-to-real-violence/137.html - Violent video games and Desensitization, July 28, 2006
 Gunter, Barrie. The effects of video games on children: the myth unmasked. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998. Page 22
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9LpUuGLMUU&feature=player_embedded – YouTube video of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Search and Destroy mission
 Willoughby, Teena, and Eileen Wood. Children's learning in a digital world. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print. Chapter 3: How and What Do Video Games teach? Page 64
 Tapscott, Don. Grown up digital how the net generation is changing your world. Concordville, Pa.: Soundview Executive Book Summaries;, 2009. Print. Page 290
 http://www.raisesmartkid.com/raise-smart-preschool-kid-articles/the-good-and-bad-effects-of-video.html - Useful article on both the good and bad effects of video games, Raise Smart Kid.
 Willoughby, Teena, and Eileen Wood. Children's learning in a digital world . Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print. Chapter 3: How and What Do Video Games teach? Page 71