Entertainment and Violence

by Robert D. McLaughlin, Christian Counselor

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The computer revolution brought a game revolution with it. Video arcades became the rage during the late 70's and early 80's, with games that were fairly simple by today's standards. The games today provide better graphics and are much more interactive. Unfortunately, many of the video games are also more violent in both graphics and content.

Shareware is computer software that is distributed without cost, whether through an online service, personally, through an electronic bulletin board service, or in stores. The person getting it tries out the game, pays for it if they like it, usually at a much lower price than through regular outlets. Probably one of the biggest success stories of shareware is the game "Doom." Since its introduction, Doom has become one of the most popular computer games available. But, are games like Doom psychologically healthy for children and adults?

Research that has been conducted in regard to television programming would tend to indicate that playing violent games may have some undesireable consequences. R.G. Green and S.L. Thomas, in the Journal of Social Issues (1986, vol. 42, pgs. 7-27), found that after watching aggressive people, both live and on film, increased the aggressive behavior in both children and adults. D.P. Phillips wrote about his study in the Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (1986, vol. 19, pgs. 205-250). In it, he finds a positive correlation betwen media reports on aggressive incidents and aggressive behavior in the general population. The more reports, or the more aggressive the reported event, the more aggressive the behavior in the general population. L.D. Eron, in Development Psychology (1983, vol. 19, pgs. 71-77) writes about his study of children. He found that those children in a peer group who watched the most television were identified by their peers as being the most aggressive. He also found that this increased as the children grew older.

Obviously, these studies were done on television, not on video games. The question may be then, what is there to be worried about? Granted, there is a difference between television, and video games, but that difference could actually make things worse. In watching television, the person is passive, there is no interaction with the program. With video games, though, the person interacts with, and, in a sense, becomes a part of the game. While participating in the game violent behavior is modeled, violence is associated with pleasure, pleasure is associated with the suffering or destruction of another individual, and a response is practiced that could lead to a habitual response to people or situations in the real world.

As Christians, it is important to know how our children use computers. There are wonderful programs on the market today, both games and otherwise, that are suitable for children, adolescents, and adults. It is important to know what each program involves. Even the game Doom has a disclaimer on it, indicating that it contains quite a bit of violence and graphic gore. The admonition to raise up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) carries both positive and negative aspects. We are also to flee from all appearance of evil and from things that do not glorify God (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). Violent video games, although never mentioned in the Bible, certainly come under this catergory.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume III, Part 9, September 1995.

Copyright 1999 Robert D. McLaughlin. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.