Knowing Right From Wrong
by Nathan J. Lichtenstein | published Oct. 3rd, 2013
I’ve killed a man and I would do it again. I have done it again. I’m not a serial killer or a blood thirsty murder; I’m simply a college student who occasionally plays a round of Call of Duty with my friends.
Today’s media is full of stories of senseless acts of random violence and death and, somewhere along the line, violent video games, and the supposed psychological effect they have on players, was turned into a hot button issue. While a lot of high profile media outlets would like you to believe video games are too violent, and that playing them leads to violence, I would like to argue the contrary.
By the nature of their content and entertainment genre, it is safe to say that the main demographic of video games and other forms of electronic entertainment are kids and teens. In fact, an article by CBS News Affiliate THV11 suggests that the target audience is getting younger. The media fixates on violence in our society. It does not take a stretch of the imagination to understand how video games have been associated with acts of violence portrayed by young people and overall societal desensitization. But this uninformed conclusion could not be further from the truth. Teens participating in violent acts in a digital setting do not simply mimic these acts in the real world. A key factor that is commonly left out from this proverbial equation is the basic human instinct of distinguishing right from wrong, and its development in young people.
There are many theories on where an individual learns the difference between right and wrong. Recent research performed by Paul Bloom of Yale University supports the thought that human morality is a natural instinct of sorts. More traditional modes of thought, like those purveyed by 20th century psychologists Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg, suggest that it is learned during a child’s upbringing through environmental interactions and feedback.
If you assume that people know right from wrong instinctively, it is easy to explain why a person does not act out a video game scenario. Take stealing a car for instance. It is an action that is illegal and known to be wrong. In the real world, most people would never steal a car for those reasons, yet in a video game people have no problem doing so. This is because they have a clear sense of right and wrong and also understand that a video game is not the real world, and that their actions do not have real consequences.
Now, assuming that people learn right from wrong through their upbringing requires more thought. If a child is born with no moral compass whatsoever, it is the job of the parent to shape a child’s definition of right and wrong. If a parent chooses to let a child play a game that openly displays acts of violence and illegal activities, it is in turn their job to teach their child that what they are doing is just a game and not acceptable in the real world.
The issue of violence in video games and its effect on players is very dynamic but also has a simple conclusion. Violence in video games does not lead to violence in real life. If everything a person saw on television or did in a video game influenced them in the manner of “monkey see, monkey do” we would live in a bizarre world. The main pillar that supports this seemingly bold, yet logical, conclusion is the fact that people, for the most part, fundamentally know right from wrong. It is this fundamental element of the human psyche that makes a game just a game and nothing more, that’s all there is to it.