Since the creation and development of video games every interactive program has been made available to the consumer, even those of a violent nature that some feel propel certain personality types to act out their video fantasies in real life. Studies have demonstrated that frequent viewing of violent actions will enhance some adolescents to be more aggressive than those who watch or play such video games significantly less. In July of 2000 the American Academy of Pediatrics submitted a letter to a Congressional Public Health Summit that stated that though “a wide variety of viewpoints on the import and impact of entertainment violence on children may exist outside the public health community, within it, there is a strong consensus on many of the effects on children’s health, well-being and development.”
But what about the impact such videos have on late teens and young adults, many who have yet experienced anything resembling the destructive nature of war. Are their brains more fully developed enough to disassociate what they see on their video screens from reality? I think the answer is yes but to what degree does such interactive gaming affect their real life decisions to support or even sign up for military duty in combat zones? Will their entertainment adventures be heightened by the real adrenalin flow that emanates when real fear from life threatening conditions presents itself? Will their decision to pursue the reality of what their imagination drove them to have lasting, harmful effects?
The “Call of Duty” war games are a series of videos that introduces young people to a scenario that supposedly reflects war time heroics. The fervor of American patriotism that runs through the blood of many of these young adults is played out on a destructive level in such games; a condition that perhaps many feel certain they are faced with in such a violent world wracked with terrorism and rogue nation displays of anti-Americanism. The specter of good versus evil has been raised at the highest levels of power not only in adversarial nations but most recently in the U.S. during the Bush administration.
At some level though many of the more mature people who are attracted to these games know that war is not a game but I would suspect that they are unaware how emotionally and physically damaging it really is. Though the graphics on today’s video and the special effects on movies are more revealing than anything I grew up with (e.g., John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima and Errol Flynn in Operation Burma) there is still the reality of actual pain, loss of life and long term mental dysfunction that cannot be simulated by on-screen theatrics.
On another level I can see these types of war games as useful tools for those who have already enlisted in the military and who are selected to serve in combat situations. The display of such visual violence with the knowledge that they will soon be faced with real life conditions can have a settling affect that enables their combat experience to their advantage. Having a better sense of what confronts you and being prepared for it is what good training strives to achieve. These “Call to Duty” videos could aid in this type of training but need to be brought into proper perspective by actual combat experiences so that war and its “honorable” perceptions are not glorified for a gullible public.
There are those who have served and faced life and death situations in combat that are attracted to the ugly aspects of situations they have confronted on the field of battle. This small gung ho percentage is wired for such a life but remain the minority of the common veteran of war. I don’t begrudge these people their feelings and love for “the smell of death” in battle. I would rather have them in my company during actual combat than one who would allow fear to overcome them too easily. But I don’t think anyone wants this perception to pervade our youth and allow it to easily influence life decisions they may well regret if they attempt to fulfill them.
War is indeed not a game nor is it glorious except for arm chair generals and civilian warriors that play out their fantasies on video screens or the safety of commercial paint ball fields. Politicians who avoided military service and who lay wreaths on dead soldiers’ graves are also not qualified either to speak of war in a fashion that too easily promotes its use for anything else other than actually defending us against real, not perceived threats.
Only those who have seen and experienced the ugly side of war can speak forthrightly about it in a way that is apt to give game players pause before they choose to live out that “Call to Duty” they engage in artificially. I have no problem with clever video game entrepreneurs having financial success with their inventions and creations but there are consequences for some consumers of violent games when fantasy and the reality become mixed and the receiver of such signals becomes the ultimate loser.
The Impact of Video Games on Children