by Ted Rueter, Assistant Professor of Political Science at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana

Coming soon to a college or university near you: a major in designing violent ted-rueter.jpgvideo games. The New York Times reports that such august institutions as the University of Southern California, Georgia Tech, Carnegie Mellon, the New School, and the University of Central Florida are now offering undergraduate and master’s degrees in joysticks and video predators. The International Game Developers Association notes that there are more than 100 North American universities offering programs in video game design, with many more overseas.

Video game design as a college major? It’s yet another sign of the coming of the apocalypse. Schools of higher learning are simply cashing in on a fad that is destructive to society.

Electronic Arts, the nation’s largest game maker, has led the way in encouraging ivy-stained institutions to teach the design of such games as Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Mortal Kombat. Last year, the company contributed millions of dollars to establish a three-year master of fine arts program in “interactive entertainment” at USC.

Video games are big business–rivaling the movie industry. In 2004, video game sales totaled $9.9 billion. Electronic Arts alone employs 4,300 video game makers.

Video games also have a grip on the younger generation. Surveys indicate that young boys spend an average of 13 hours a week playing video games. For girls, the figure is 5 hours per week. Studies indicate that the video game clipart.gifamount of time spent playing video games is associated with lower grades.

The central problem with video games is their violence. The National Coalition on Television Violence (NCTV) has developed a ratings system to evaluate the violent content of video games, ranging from XUnfit, XV, and RV (highly violent) to PG and G. NCTV surveyed 176 Nintendo video games. They gave the XUnfit rating to 11 percent of games. Forty-three percent received an XV and 15 percent earned an RV. A different survey found that 40 of the 47 top-rated Nintendo video games had violence as a theme.

Unfortunately, children seem to enjoy violence in video games. In a 1993 study, psychologists asked 357 seventh and eighth graders for their preferences among five categories of video games. Thirty-two percent said they preferred games that involved fantasy violence.

There is evidence that exposure to violent video games increases aggression. Psychologists Craig Anderson and Karen Dill examined the behaviors and attitudes of 227 college students who play video games. “Our study reveals that young men who are habitually aggressive may be especially vulnerable to the aggression-enhancing effects of repeated exposure to violent video games,” said Anderson. “Even a brief exposure to violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive behavior in all types of participants.” Anderson also notes that “violent video games provide a forum for learning and practicing aggressive solutions to conflict situations.”

Fifty years of research have established the negative consequences of ec tower snow 2005.jpgwatching violent television and movies. However, violent video games may have even stronger effects on children’s aggression, because (1) the games are highly engaging and interactive; (2) the games reward violent behavior; and (3) children repeat these behaviors over and over as they play.

In addition, the content of video games may influence children’s atititudes toward gender roles. In Nintendo games, women are often depicted as victims. The covers of Nintendo games show males striking a dominant pose. Many games are based upon a scenario in which a woman is kidnapped or has to be rescued

Offering degrees in video game design is to kidnap American education. Higher education needs to be rescued from such destructive nonsense.

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