The jury is still out about whether video games are really responsible for increasing aggression in youth, and promoting youth violence. Some firmly attest that it is, and many firmly stand by the idea that results are subjective, and inconclusive. My generation, and the generations after me, have been born into and adapted to a culture fully immersed in technology and video games. Adults my age and older joke about how “back in my day, kids played outside; now, all they want is an ipad or tablet and a game”. And just like suspense thrillers and horror films are all the craze, so are the video games that allow you control to kill in the name of the video game’s storyline.
Psychologically, there’s got to be effects that come from this “desensitized” alter-reality that us millennials cannot seem to get enough of. Not only are the games the most popular to buy, they dominate the premise for majority of adult video game storylines. So, as a counselor-in-training, watching my significant other spend hours playing video games as a past-time intrigued me. How do kids these days view the world, and are they reacting to the world through the same violent tactics in which they react to virtual worlds portrayed through video games? Furthermore, are there other variables that we, as counselors and as a society in whole, aren’t taking into consideration when we make “black and white blanket arguments” about video games directly attributing to youth violence?
Because, as much as I can see the argument being made that a desensitization to violence through video games could influence a youth to act out in a similar manner in reality, I can see the argument being had for why that’s inaccurate. For instance, if a youth gets violently bullied at school, comes home to a single parent household where mom is stressed out and resorts to “whooping” her child, and the child plays video games ….. that youth, more than likely, may act out aggressively because of all of the other variables that incite and trigger aggression. And, as a counselor-in-training, I recognize that many children have been bought up playing video games as a past time because they are extremely stimulating. Furthermore, through my experience at practicum, I’ve noticed just how many of today’s youth list video games as a coping skill for them. However, I am beginning to understand just how much of their ideals and values can be shaped through video games, and thus can shape their reality, and I have to take that into consideration. It would be interesting to see studies done, where researchers accumulate data based on today’s youth and their ideals and values that have been shaped through playing video games, and what their standpoint is, with regards to, video games and the desensitization of violence. And, as a future counselor, video games can be a great segway into finding out what stance my minor clients take on video games, and if and how it alters their reality when they navigate through this world.
Poonam “Poo” Ethakotu is a counselor- in- training at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology, and is working towards specializing in marriage and family counseling, along with sex therapy.