Video Games and Violence: The Cultivation Theory

Since the 1990’s, there has been a sharp rise in the emergence of digital forms of entertainments. Most of these spectacles are projected using mobile phones, televisions, computers, and tablets. The cultivation theory opines that violent scenes and prejudices in this media affect their audience’s perception of the world. Accordingly, it influences people’s view of the world and results in the emergence of various stereotypes. As a result, some researchers have alluded that extended and uninterrupted display of violent scenes in video games can make individuals have a mean world syndrome. Consequently, this research will establish whether video games indeed alter people’s view of the world.
The high presence of violence in video games has attracted a lot of research about their impact on players’ psychological, especially by causing the development of aggressive behaviors. Most past research works on this topic have relied on cultivation theory to establish television effects on gamers’ attitudes towards the world. Unfortunately, there is no conclusive report on the impact of this form of entertainment (Greitemeyer, Agthe, Turner, & Gschwendtner, 2014). While some researchers are of the opinion that video games lead to the emergence of violent behavior, others have not established clear links between the former and likelihood of a player committing a crime.
According to Shanahan and Mogan (1999), television entertainment results in “first-order effects.” In this case, it only teaches people societal-level lessons about the world without necessarily affecting their perception. On the contrary, video games result in “second-order effects,” mostly due to the player’s high level of involvement (Sherry, 2001). The “first-order effects” mean reasonable estimation of social realities, while “second-order effects” are biased beliefs.
Lubarsky, Dory, Audetat, Custers, and Charlin (2015) observed that children learn aggressive behavior when exposed to violence. His argument is based on script theory, which alludes that a person’s environment determines what he/she learns. Scripts are sets of well-rehearsed and highly associated concepts that involve various linking goals and subsequent action plans (Lubarsky et al., 2015). Therefore, violent scenes in video games result in children having lasting memories of horrific views and strategies of how to counter them if they occurred in the real-life.
Sherry, Greenberg, Lucas, and Lachlan (2006) note that players of video games are usually inclined to personal and social gratification. Typically, these individuals enjoy the challenge of both “beating the game” and their friends. For many, there is also fulfillment in being ranked as a pro-player by their colleagues. Jan, Sultan, and Kareem (2012) collaborate this view by acknowledging that gratification is one of the important aspects of video games. They assert that this form of entertainment gives an individual the feeling of control. Additionally, video games are structured with the aim of promoting competition and challenge since players aim at reaching the next level by outplaying their colleagues and the “game” itself.
Most research findings have found that competition is usually higher among fighter and sports genres (games that test a person’s agility and knowledge) (Sherry et al., 2006). Unlike the real world, digital entertainment environment does not discriminate based on a person’s physical abilities; therefore, it offers players a more even playing field. Similar to the real world, video games are used for social interactions and gratification (Sherry et al., 2006). Consequently, gaming also appears to be a type of diversion that promotes social interactions among individuals. The findings by Sherry et al. (2006) contradict those of previous research in this topic. In particular, they note that although video games make people experience events in an almost real-life manner, they do not promote isolation or development of violent behaviors. On the contrary, they enhance social interactions among individuals.
Research conducted by Lee and Bichard (2009) concluded that people who have excessive exposure to digital forms of entertainment have various types or racial stereotypes. In particular, the two noted that such individuals believe that Africans and Latin Americans are violent, while all Caucasians are loving and caring. Although they did not explore the impact of video games on players’ behavior, their findings showed that, on the overall, digital forms of entertainment influence and impact people’s view of the real-world.
Velez, Mahood, Ewoldsen, and Moyer-Gusé (2014) observed that social learning from digital entertainment occurs when individuals choose role models from what they are watching. Consequently, television shows provide individuals with an opportunity of selecting their preferred characters who, in turn, influence their behaviors (including the formation of stereotypes). On the contrary, they opine that players of video games do not usually acquire any behavior from playing games since these individual do not aim at learning from the games and are not aware or self-reflective of their choices (Sherry et al., 2006). In this regard, any form of social learning from playing games is due to arousal transfer, desensitization, or priming.
Undoubtedly, an understanding of how mass media affects people’s behavior can enable scientists to have the insight of how video games influence players’ behaviors. The current theoretical contributions on this topic have not been conclusive due to the contradicting findings from researchers. In this regard, the research of the impact of video games on individuals will enable me to form detailed conclusions on policies concerning the type of games to be played by each age group. Finally, this research will also enable me to establish whether video games alter people’s view of the world.
Greitemeyer T., Agthe M., Turner R., & Gschwendtner C. (2012) Acting prosocially reduces retaliation: Effects of prosocial video games on aggressive behavior. European Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 235–242.
Jan, M., Sultan, K., & Kareem, W. (2012). Effects of video games on students: Test of uses and gratification theory. Asian Journal of Management Sciences and Education, 1(2), 146-156.
Lee, N., & Bichard, S. (2009). Television Viewing and ethnic stereotypes: Do college students form stereotypical perceptions of ethnic groups as a result of heavy television consumption? The Howard Journal of Communication, 20, 95-110.
Lubarsky, S., Dory, V., Audetat, M., Custers, E., & Charlin, B. (2015). Using script theory to cultivate illness script formation and clinical reasoning in health professions education. Canadian Medicine Education Journal, 6(2), 61-70.
Shanahan, J., & Morgan, M. (1999). Television and its viewers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sherry, L. (2001). The effects of violent video games on aggression: A meta-analysis. Human Communications Research, 27(3), 409–431.
Velez, A., Mahood, C., Ewoldsen, R., & Moyer-Gusé, E. (2014) Ingroup versus outgroup conflict in the context of violent video game play: The effect of cooperation on increased helping and decreased aggression. Communication Research, 41, 607–626.