The digital age has had a massive impact on people around the globe, especially teens. However, video games are arguably the most effective and addictive. From FIFA and Madden to Call of Duty, kids have become more and more addicted to their Xbox's and PS4's. But, how do violent and action video games affect them psychologically?
Not only are violent video games addictive, but video games are in general. From all of the neurological effects that video games have on kids, addiction is one of the most significant.
It all starts with the pleasure hormone, dopamine. This chemical is released from the brain when one makes an action, choice, or receives feedback that was correct. In addition, a person has to have some sense of challenge and difficulty in order to trigger those releases.
When a gamer fulfills a goal, completes a level, or has any sort of achievement when playing, dopamine is released and the person gets a feeling of satisfaction and pleasure. This satisfaction prompts the brain to want to repeat that action and receive more dopamine, which causes the person to want to play more and more of that game. This desperate need for euphoria is what then causes the gamer to fall into addiction.
Dopamine released in the brain
The suggestion that video game addictions are similar to substance addictions are indeed true. Cocaine addictions are a direct result of dopamine releases; when it is taken, it causes the user’s dopamine level to become very high. But, when the pleasure stops, the user seeks more of that euphoric feeling by taking more cocaine, thus causing them to become addicted as well.
What They Are
Many kids play video games around the nation; to be more precise, 91% of kids play them. However, even with the non-violent games such as Minecraft and Animal Crossing, statistics have shown that 90% of popular games are violent, with ratings like E+, Teen, and Mature.
One of the most popular of these is called Grand Theft Auto 5, or GTA V. This action and crime based game generated more than $800 million in worldwide revenue within just 24 hours of its release. So what makes it so interesting?
The disc cover of Grand Theft Auto 5
In the fictional reality of GTA, players can choose different missions and earn points by destroying parked vehicles, stealing cars, dealing drugs, and killing pedestrians and police officers. Characters can regain health by using their money to have sex with a prostitute, and have the option of killing him/her after to steal their money. It has a rating of M, “for mature players 17 and older”, and is rated 18+ elsewhere in the world; but, according to ’Screenagers’, a documentary about the effects of the digital age on teens, 40% of kids, as in under 13, in the nation have played this game.
Violence and Aggression
Studies around the nation have been conducted to see the effects of violent video games.
One prominent effect to be found is that those who played violent video games were “more rudely” than they would be normally, even after just a few minutes of playing. They also found that playing those games regularly can cause an increase aggressive thoughts and feelings, which leads to a higher heart rate and blood pressure and more aggressive behavior. In addition, playing habitually decreases helping behavior and feelings of empathy and compassion for others.
These effects occurred in males and females of all ages, regardless of the area in the world in which they lived. “None of these extreme acts, like a school shooting, occurs because of only one risk factor; there are many factors, including feeling socially isolated, being bullied, and so on,” said Craig A. Anderson, a psychologist at Iowa State University. “But if you look at the literature, I think it’s clear that violent media is one factor; it’s not the largest factor, but it’s also not the smallest.”