Changes urged in violent video games

Nov. 14, 1988

CHICAGO -- Children are desensitized by the 'constant and non-stop killing' of the latest home video games that promote an increased acceptance of violence in dealing with conflict, according to a study by the National Coalition on Television Violence.

'Parents would be wise to ban video games from the home,' said Dr. Thomas Radecki, pyschiatrist and NCTV research director. 'They are very captivating, often violent, and certainly, a waste of time.

'The newer video games are definitely more harmful than those of a couple of years ago because of the increasing complexity of the action with advanced computer technology,' Radecki said. 'Although there were a dozen or so nonviolent sporting video games, there was only one educational video game and it was not very impressive.'

The Nintendo home video game has been the best selling toy in America every month since January and Atari and Sega video systems have also been in the top 20, NCTV reported. The home video industry is expected to sell over $2 billion in equipment and game cartridges this year in the U.S.

NCTV studied the 95 Nintendo video games and found that 83 percent featured violent themes and 58 percent were war games. The war themes were divided among modern warfare -- the most common with 17 percent of all games -- gang warfare, futuristic and fantasy warfare and warfare against satanic foes.

'I was surprised by the constant and nonstop killing required by many of the video games,' said Dr. Vince Hammond, who conducted the study for NCTV of Champaign, Ill. 'It is treated as so routine and commonplace and there was not a single game where conflict could best be resolved through nonviolent means.'

The most likely effect of the violent video games is desensitization to violence and increased acceptance of violence as a good means of dealing with conflict, NCTV said. A heavy involvement in video games is also likely to interfere with academic performance, the report said.

The NCTV report was especially critical of a new feature of nearly all the video game systems -- a hand-held laser gun the player uses to shoot at the screen.

The NCTV study showed an 80 percent increase in fighting on school playgrounds among children aged 8-10 years old, immediately after they played with interactive laser weapons. The group also cited a 1983 study of 500 children in which heavy involvement with video games was found to be associated with a deterioration in reading scores.

The NCTV study suggested video game manufacturers remove the toy gun from their systems and enclose with the system, games with conflicts that can be solved through nonviolent means.

Legislators will also be asked to require labels on video cartridges stating: 'This is a war game (or game with a violent theme.) Playing with this game may have harmful effects on normal children. Is this what you want for your child?'

In a separate study released Sunday, the American Academy of Pediatrics warned that rock videos are exposing teens to an unhealthy dose of sex, violence, drugs and suicide.

The academy, with a membership of 36,000 pediatricians, said, 'Music videos may represent a new art form, but we believe it is one that contains an excess of sexism, violence, substance abuse, suicide and sexual behavior.'

Rock videos, usually 3 to 5 minutes long, either show the musicians performing a song, or acting out its lyrics. It is the latter type that the pediatricians complained about.

Rock videos are aired continuously on cable channels such as MTV, VH-1 and others, but major networks also have weekly video shows and videos can be bought as albums or singles at record or video stores.

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