I Like Bloody Video Games, Will It Make Me Violent in Real Life?

PHOTO BY Herbivore Botanicals

By James Dominic Flores

Since the early 90s, parents have always been critical of video games for the perceived influence it has on the youth in terms of violent behavior.

The old gory shooter games in PCs such as Wolfenstein or Doom, the audacity of a game called “Diablo” and its successor, Diablo 2, and even the blood-spilling and dismembering violence of the first Mortal Kombat game had such an impact on gaming culture.


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Because of this, the Entertainment Software Rating Board or ESRB was founded in the United States which is the video game counterpart of our MTRCB censors board here in the Philippines.

Academic research on the link between violent video games and aggressive behavior have shown mixed results dependent on the method and respondents of the studies making the relationship between the two inconclusive.


Society often attempts to link the two together due to conservative beliefs and traditional logic; people learn what they see from other people or sources of media. While this train of thought seems sound, it is not entirely accurate.

Do video games breed violence?

The idea of learning from watching others is known as the social learning theory proposed by psychologist Albert Bandura.

Previous views on learning centered on personal experience alongside reinforced or conditioned behavior, however social learning allows the concept of vicarious learning which is defined as learning from the experience of others, not just your personal experiences.

An example would be seeing a person recoil from touching a hot plate at a restaurant, one would respond by interpreting that situation and becoming careful when getting a plate of their own.

However, not everything observed or seen are learned in the same quality as the original behavior, sometimes learning doesn’t happen at all.

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If so, how?

Social Learning works through four processes:

  • The first is attention, one must pay attention before behaviors can be learned.
  • Retention implies that the observed behavior is strong enough to be committed to memory.
  • Reproduction follows as people attempt to recreate the behavior they have observed by accessing the information from memory.
  • Lastly one must have motivation which fuels the desire to want to repeat, perfect, and incorporate the behavior in their everyday lives.

Failure to process certain steps means that one is unlikely to adapt or learn a specific behavior. Understanding the core concepts of this theory provides parents the information needed to properly guide their game-loving children or teenagers.

Now, what if a violent game is being played?

When a game is being played, ask, “Are they really paying attention to the violence? Or is it simply a tool to accomplish a certain task or mission in game?” What is the difference in violence between shooting zombies and Mario jumping on a koopa (the turtle shell) and kicking it off a cliff.


Is the child starting to be aggressive outside in everyday situations with attempts of recreating the behaviors seen in game? As always, communication is key to answering these questions.

Perhaps one would be surprised that it is the adults that can’t separate fictional video game violence and the real thing. While the media may at times sensationalize stories of violent youths and connecting them to video games, also remember that video games can serve as a healthy coping mechanism for responsible youths.

Case in point that of 2013 Physician Licensure Exam topnotcher Blake Warren Coloma Ang who played Dota 2 and Starcraft to help handle the pressure during his review classes.

At the end of the day, games are tools for entertainment. Much like any tool, its purpose and meaning, whether it be a force for positive change or an outlet for negative traits, is entirely dependent on the player themselves.


About the author: James Dominic Flores is a lecturer at Far Eastern University Manila, specializing in psychology. He is also a competitive gamer specializing in fighting games.

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