Is video gaming an addiction? Can playing violent video games lead to violent behaviors?
Do video games hurt the psychology of a young child? Can excessive video gaming lead to a ‘gaming disorder?’
These are common questions that concerned parents ask every single day. Their child seems fine, but spends hours in front of the TV, playing online with people they’ve never met in real life.
For today’s children, video games are a ubiquitous form of media entertainment, replacing what was once in-person interactive play with online interactions. While some video games are exciting and exhilarating for children, many contain violent and dark messages that are dangerous, especially for impressionable children who aren’t mature enough to fully comprehend what they’re putting into their brains.
In an age of common mass killings, no longer are parents the only ones concerned about the effects of video games, with psychologist, teachers, and doctors paying mind to the sometimes troubling effects these games have on children.
There are two main things to look at when assessing whether or not you should allow your child to play video games: the content of the video games, and whether or not it breeds addiction.
Controversial video games
Over the past couple of years, more and more controversial video games have been put through development, and sometimes even pushed to production.
Recently, Steam Games, notorious for their X-rated games, announced plans to release a computer video game that would allow players to simulate both the rape and murder of women.
According to the developer’s website, “Rape Day” created by Desk Plant, “is a visual novel where you control the choices of a sociopath during a zombie apocalypse.”
“You can verbally harass, kill people and rape women as you choose to progress the story,” the statement continued.
The game developer explained that the game is set during a zombie apocalypse, in which players “can rape and murder” to advance. He referred to the game as “fantasy,” saying, “Every good fantasy is a power fantasy. Even if it’s some odd-ball story about gaining the acceptance of the loss of control, it’s still a form of power.”
Debbie Tohill, executive director of New Zealand advocacy group Rape Prevention Education, told Newshub that “making a game out of rape is never OK — it’s outrageous, and it totally negates the impact that sexual violence has on its victims.”
“To think that people under the age of 18 are able to access this is just plain wrong,” she added.
Shortly after news of the new video game began to spread, a Change.org petition was created, asking the company to remove the game.
“We need to let reviewers know that a game centered on raping and killing women is unacceptable and cannot hit the market,” the petition reads.
At around 3,00 signatures, Valve, the parent company of Steam, agreed to remove the game.
In a public statement, Steam said that they understand that developers want to be expressive, but that they could not support the content in “Rape Day.”
“We respect developers’ desire to express themselves, and the purpose of Steam is to help developers find an audience,” Steam said, “but this developer has chosen content matter and a way of representing it that makes it very difficult for us to help them do that.”
This isn’t the first time that Steam has produced a controversial video game.
Just last year, the company created a game called “Active Shooter,” which simulated a school shooting. Like with the “Rape Day” video game, a petition was created, and eventually, the game was pulled from the store.
Fred Guttenberg, the father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was killed in the Parkland shooting, tweeted out a message condemning the game, calling it “one of the worst.”
Video games and addiction
According to the American Psychological Association, video game addiction is not real, but it is a question that is frequently debated in national health organizations, according to Dr. Linda Mintle.
The licensed marriage and family therapist and best-selling author pointed out that the community is trying to determine whether or not it’s a real addiction, or simply a life-balance problem.
“If you tend to think, no anything can be done to the excess,” Mintle told CBN News in a June 2018 interview. “You can be compulsively shopping. You could be compulsively eating. You can do other things to the excess. So whatever it turns out to be there still needs to [be] life balance. You have to pay attention to the whole person. Your physical body, your emotional well-being, your relationships, and certainly your spiritual life.”
“But we have to look at our whole life balance,” she said. “Are we really teaching our kids to be in balance? Are we doing that and modeling that as parents?
Mintle further argued that having faith in Jesus Christ can help children and adults alike overcome video game addiction, because of knowing that the power to overcome any addiction is accessible to all.
“I think that the whole idea that we have the power to overcome, because of the Holy Spirit in us,” she explained. “Certainly, abstinence is one of the ways we change the brain. Sometimes if there is an addictive process going in the brain, you have to remain abstinent with it in order for the brain to rewire and extinguish those pathways that you don’t have the compulsive need to play anymore.”
Mintle shared a practice that can be helpful to not just those addicted to video games, but anything that is setting off the balance in their life.
“It’s a little more complicated, but certainly praying and asking the Holy Spirit to give you the power to put some balance into your life,” she stated.
Dr. Brent Conrad, a clinical psychologist for TechAddiction, argues that whether or not video addiction is real depends on who you ask.
He pointed out that if you ask “a mother with a teen who neglects his studies, rarely goes out with friends, and plays World of Warcraft or Call of Duty in excess of six hours per day will likely believe that video game addiction is all too real.”But on the other hand, if you ask someone who has never touched a video game in their life if it is addictive, they “may laugh at the idea of video game addiction and completely dismiss the entire concept.”
In a 2010 study on 438 World of Warcraft gamers conducted by the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, it was found that 44 percent openly stated they were addicted to the games, while the average playing time was 5.5 hours per day.
One person surveyed even admitted to feeling withdrawals similar to that of caffeine when playing.
“Amazingly, not playing Warcraft for a few days can send me into withdrawal, similar to my old vice, caffeine addiction,” the participant said.
Where do you draw the line?
If video games have a tendency to become addictive and contain violent content, should parents ban their kids from playing them altogether?
Just like many activities in life, it should come in balance. Not all video games are violent, gory escapades that revolve around mass annihilation. Some are educational, some help with a child’s level of communication, while others are simply good, clean fun.
Kevin Schut, a professor of Media and Communication at Trinity Western University, urges parents to not be afraid of the world of video games. Instead, he encourages them to “stay alert and stay engaged,” when it comes to moderating their kid’s games.
“If your kids want to dive into digital worlds, don’t automatically say no. God made people infinitely creative, and video games are just a newer version of our age-old impulse to imagine and play,” he said.