U.S. Army has produced a violent video game in
which players can "join the Army" and kill enemy
terrorists. Called "America's Army," it is the
most popular video game on the Internet with more
than 3 million registered players.
people who play "America's Army" learn about the
history of the Army, they do not learn about the
horrors of war. The graphics look realistic, but
the violent consequences are glazed over.
a player is shot, a puff of blood is shown and
the player falls to the ground. No one is shown
suffering or writhing in pain. At the end of the
mission, the player comes back to life again for
the next mission.
the end of the day, the player gets a violent
video game for free. Actually it is not free,
because taxpayers coughed up the money used to
develop and promote the game.
one thing if the Army wants to use video games
to desensitize soldiers so they can more easily
kill "the enemy." But it's another thing to desensitize
civilians in the same way, especially impressionable
colleague Craig Anderson, a psychology professor
at Iowa State University, and I reviewed 85 violent
video game studies in 2001. A total of 6,750 subjects
were included in these studies. We found that
violent video games increase aggressive behavior,
increase aggressive thoughts, increase angry feelings,
increase physiological arousal (for example, heart
rate and blood pressure) and decrease helping
Army" is particularly pernicious because it's
a first person shooter game, meaning the player
has a first person perspective. The game is rated
for teenagers 13 and older, but anyone can download
it from the Internet. Gamers can play with other
people on the Internet.
than 50 years of research converge on the indisputable
conclusion that violent media increase aggression.
In fact, the U.S. surgeon general came to this
conclusion more than 30 years ago.
March 1972, Jesse Steinfeld, former surgeon general,
said: "It is clear to me that the causal relationship
between televised violence and anti-social behavior
is sufficient to warrant appropriate and immediate
remedial action. ... There comes a time when the
data are sufficient to justify action. That time
then, the scientific evidence has grown stronger.
effect of media violence on aggression is not
trivial. The effect of media violence on aggression
is stronger than the effect of asbestos on cancer,
the effect of lead poisoning on IQ scores and
the effect of wearing a condom on HIV.
surgeon general warning applied to TV programs.
But there are at least three reasons to believe
violent video games are even more harmful than
violent TV programs:
Watching TV is a passive activity, whereas playing
a violent video game is much more active. Research
indicates that people learn better when they are
TV viewers may or may not identify with violent
characters in TV programs and films. Video game
players must identify with the violent character
they control. In first person shooter games, the
player is the violent character.
Any rewards obtained from violent TV programs
and films are indirect. For example, it may be
rewarding to see the hero or heroine prevail.
The rewards in violent video games are direct.
Players usually get points for killing people.
In some games (including Americas Army), players
get praised for behaving aggressively ("Nice shot!").
Army has no more right to use taxpayer money to
distribute this harmful product to potential recruits
than the tobacco industry would have to use taxpayer
money to introduce young people to cigarette smoking.
Both reduce the chances of leading long and healthy
Bushman is a professor of psychology and communication
studies at the University of Michigan. Write letters
Posted: May 10, 2004