I have played video games since I was a young child. It is one of my first memories, opening up a Christmas present with my first Pokemon game ever, Pokemon Silver and a Gameboy Color. Over the years, I have played numerous video games across all different genres on Playstation, whatever Nintendo’s latest handheld console was, as well as some PC gaming. I have also had a fascination for how people “ticked”. This is from a psychological, sociological, and physiological point of view. I can’t help it, us, as humans, are fascinating creatures (espicially since we “break the rules” for ecology for just about every ecological law we’ve made up).
Every few years we see a big case about someone supposedly inspired by a video game to kill and/or seriously maim another person. The most recent case of this was the 2014 Slenderman case that involved the confirmed mentally ill girls who were not even teenagers and how they nearly stabbed a girl to death in Wisconsin. As someone whose fascinated by human psychology, as well as someone whose played video games for over two decades at this point, I think I can provide some good input on this type of phenomena.
First, let’s look at the rating system for video games. ESRB is the system in the USA (I am unsure if other countries use different systems). ESRB has different “levels” of rating systems for those unfamiliar with video games. These different levels (E/veryone, E/veryone 10+, T/een, M/ature, A/dults O/nly) state what could be considered “questionable” or “controversial” within the game titles, such as but not limited to: violence (cartoon or otherwise), blood and gore, cursing, alcohol and drug usage, sexual imagery, sex, among other things. Popular gaming chains (like Gamestop) with uncorrupt employees hold a strict policy of NOT selling “Mature” rated games (“Adults only” rating is exceptionally rare to be sold in these stores) to anyone 16 years old and younger. However, there is a loophole with this. If the parent or guardian is with the person and the parent/guardian approaches the counter (even if the intent is clear that the parent or guardian will buy it, only to give to their teenager or younger child), then the employee can sell the game to the family.
This brings me to my next point: parents, please be responsible and be a parent to your child. You are ultimately responsible for what media your children consume. You can take away specific games and/or systems (Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, whatever) if you feel the game contains content that is not appropriate for your child. This is not the 1990s (or another decade before the 90s) where it was much more difficult to learn information about the game before buying the game. There are tons of websites and gaming magazines (as well as gaming Youtube videos and channels) to learn about the specific video game your child wants to play. You know you should probably not expose your little six year old child to a game that involves frequent, bloody violence. You should be more concerned about a decapitation than a female nipple in a video game.
I enjoy a good violent game every now and again. One of my favorite genres in the horror genre, which inherently has questionable content. I know what I can mentally handle and what I should stay away from as a 24 year old. Not everyone has that luxury. Children, espicially, can be vulnerable to video games. Psychologists and other mental health experts believe that children do not start to separate fiction from reality until about the ages of 6–9, depending on the exact child. For this reason, parents need to be extra cautious about what they expose their child to in regards to questionable content.
There is current no concrete evidence in the scientific community that violent video games cause children (or adults for that matter) to become violent. Rather, it is an issue of what a person should (and should not) be consuming in regards to content. People have been making the argument that mass media (books, comic books, movies, etc.) “cause people to become violent” since these different forms of media began. Your average adult is not going to suddenly become a serial killer, just because they played a little of Grand Theft Auto or started blowing up the heads of zombies in a zombie video game.
If your child can not tell the difference between fiction and reality yet, do not buy them a violent game. If your child has a mental illness that makes them very impressionable, do not buy them a game that involves intense violence. If your child has a mental illness, go to your local health center and explain your situation. The center can help get you to the appropriate healthcare facility and treatment plan, regardless of your financial situation.