Can games with a social impact replace games with a violent appeal?

Children, tweens, and teens are driven to casual game sites like Nickelodeon’s by the millions. In fact, every month alone brings 20 million unique users to its site, according to the New York Times article by Joel Bakan, “Games People Play.”  This past week the top played games included the violent Bloody Day, Boneless Girl, and Beat Me Up. Since these sites offer free entertainment, casual games (quick and easy to play games available on the computer, tablets, and cellphones) aren’t affected by any regulations keeping  children and teens from playing violent games.

Balkan explains the site’s owner, Viacom, is marketing to game “junkies” to “gorge themselves” and “fuel their addiction” on their site. Their large fan base continues to grow and return, while Viacom makes money off advertisements. So what’s the appeal? “Violence sells,” writes Balkan. Children are being raised on addictive games that call for them to butcher people in an alley (Bloody Day), shoot arrows through peoples’ heads (Bow Man 2), and run through fountains of blood (Beat Me Up).

We do know that the addictive nature of a video game can be used for good in an educational environment that encourages the gamer to level-up through earning points and rewards along the way. We also know corporate companies like Viacom not only realize the addictive nature of their product, but enhance its appeal by offering a slew of games with violent themes. Do these companies have a responsibility to not market their games to youth? What are the consequences of young brains being raised on easily accessible violent games? An increase in bullying at school? Less time spent on homework? Fewer college students with critical thinking skills as well as the ability to be empathetic? What if gamers were able to develop challenging and truly real games whereby students could solve real problems like the slave trade of children and women in many parts of Asia, the tyranny that is still playing out right now in the Middle East in what has been termed the “Facebook” revolution, or the chance to feed millions in Africa through developing solutions like rice infused with vitamins and minerals that prevent childhood death?

It seems youth who are raised on violent games must feel a connection between the real world and the virtual world where they spend most of their time. The popularity of these games suggests they aren’t going anywhere, so what can parents and teachers do to offer a counterbalance to these violent games children are exposed to in their daily lives? What can gamers do to both earn a profit and make a difference? How can we raise the consciousness of American youth through engaging their interests and abilities in real human needs which can be solved and eliminated with the right know-how, compassion, and commitment?


“Games People Play,” by Joel Bakan.

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2 Responses to “Can games with a social impact replace games with a violent appeal?”

  1. Janis James says:

    This past May, kids in an inner-city school in an impoverished neighborhood in Dayton, OH, worked with their language arts teacher to prodice a play about video games. PLAYGROUND R[E]VOLUTION explored how these games alter the real world of children and compared the world of video games to what Alice experienced when she fell down the rabbit hole. Our youth shed light on the fact that the gaming companies earn millions by selling sex and violence as toys to kids. Such phrases as “We will advance our humanity to outrun your technology,” “We won’t buy your illusions,” We will stand illuminated in your simulated world,” were spoken loudly and clearly to an audience of almost 300 people. While this impressed the audience in Dayton, we think their message should be shared in every community. While judges, legislatures, game makers, parents and many adults are debating this issue. I believe the true change will be led by the children. These kids are 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. We have sent inquiries to various media to try and get attention for what these young people have done, but so far, no takers. We think it’s an incredible news story….

    • carol carter says:

      Hello Janis, we would very much like to work with you on your initiative. We’ll send you some of our materials and you can let us know how we might support your efforts. Thanks for your leadership in this important area. I look forward to working with you.

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