The violent video game panic

It is not the first time the media have created a moral panic regarding media content and its affects on the human mind. However, the moral panic that video games lead to aggression and a violent nature, is a prevalent and long debated topic.

There is no clear conclusive study indicating that video games, especially first person shooters, will cause individuals to become more violent in their everyday life. Though it is clear that video games and media content in general can result in an emotive response. Though this is not a new revelation.

The Great Train Robbery a 1903 film had incorporated a scene where the bandit chief points his revolver directly at the camera and shoots.

 According to historical accounts this had the audience at the time screaming in fear and then laughing in relief (Bittanti 2006 p.3). Bittanti (2006 p.3) goes on to explain that the;

fourth wall that separates reality from fictional world’ is broken down by these fictional bullets. Thus the spectators’ emotional response reach its peak. (Bittanti 2006 p.3)

It is this fourth wall, which is broken down when individuals play first person shooters, thus resulting in the moral panic that it will invoke an aggressive emotive response. Firstly we should consider what is a first-person shooter?

Bittanti (2006 p.1) defines first person shooter games as; digital application which was created for recreational purposes. First person shooter really immerses the player within the game, as the player is playing through the characters eyes.

First person shooter games are argued to generate realistic effects thus desensitizing the player to acts of violence (Moore 2012 p 350). Therefore, it is speculated to increase aggression. Though Moore (2012 p.351) states that there is only a small to moderate increase of aggression in the short term after playing violent video games (such as first person shooters) but no indication of harmful long term effects.

The main obvious effect is the ‘twitch’ (Moore 2012 p.349). The simple involuntary reaction of the body, reacting before the cognitive interpretation occurs. Moore (2012 p. 349) explains it as;

The fleeting trace of affect.. excitement,pitch, tenor or dramatic volley between players of opposing teams.

This is actually explaining muscle memory resulting in the body remembering what action it must take in similar future situations, thus retaining the potential to be affected. Although these affects will only be directly involved depending on the intensity of game play (Moore 2012 p.349).

In conclusion I believe that there is a limited study that proves that first person shooters and violent video games cause long term affects to the individual. Video games rather result in the same emotive response as all media content; invoking emotions depending on the connection of the individual to the content.


Bittanti, Matteo (2006), ‘From gunplay to gunporn: A technovisual history of the first-person shooter.’

Moore, C. 2012, ‘Invigorating Play: The Role of Affect in Online Multiplayer FPS Game’, in Guns, Grenades, and Grunts First-Person Shooter Games, edited by Gerald A. Voorhees, Josh Call, Katie Whitlock, Continuum, London.


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