OPINION – Other than the most obvious argument — that video games have been able to lure, entertain and captivate many children from a healthy and vigorous outdoor play in the sunny park — there is research now supporting that certain video games are causing detrimental behavioral changes in children, such as aggressive, impulsive and violent behavior, by influencing their mindset with deviant values.
As a former youth correctional counselor for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, I will qualify myself to validate the above research. I remember writing my book Thug Mentality Exposed in a coffee shop, in a gang-infested area in Sacramento.
Across the street there were some posters that captured my attention. They appeared at first to me to be a movie poster ad; the ad was plastered across in multiple rows on an abandoned building,which read Grand Theft Auto, San Andreas. Again, initially I believed it to be a movie poster, however with closer examination I realized it was actually a video game. First thought being, why would a company advertise a game, glorifying a violent felony offense in this gang-related part of the city? Later I discovered at the time it was the No. 1 selling game in America.
So the next day I decided to continue my research of this game at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility, in Stockton, California, an institution at the time which housed California’s most violent inmates, between the ages of 18-25.
That morning I was working on a lock-up unit, where the most assaultive inmates in the facility were housed. We would escort the inmates in solo, paired by staff in full restraints to the recreational yard, where they would be placed in individual recreational cages. There were seven cages, in the shape of a “U.” These inmates who were rivals of each other, would curse back and forth, disrespecting each others’ gang, family, mother, “dead homies,” girlfriend etc…, for the entire three hours of their recreational period.
Irritated by this monotonous routine, I decided to distract their battle of insults by a simple question: “Have you guys played Grand Theft Auto?” To my surprise it stopped them in their tracks. Not only did it bring forth an enthusiastic response, but also cultivated a friendly conversation between rivals.
Excerpt from “Thug Mentality Exposed” Book
“Yeah I played it at my old lady’s house,” a White Supremacist gang member yells out to a Fresno Bulldog gang member, in an enthusiastic manner as he animates how the video game character he was controlling “jacked” an innocent licensed driver for their car. The Bulldog yells back with mirrored enthusiasm, “You can have shoot-outs with cops.” Another inmate from the cage across shouts, “You can kill cops.” The inmate then begin to smile and shake their head in agreement towards each other after reminiscing together about the violent acts that they committed playing within the video game world. They then, one by one, start rambling off a list of other violent and hostile video games on the market. A inmate yells out with a passionate voice, “I want to see blood. I can’t play a game without blood!”
At this time, I can’t take any more; I have to ask them a question. “Why do you like these video games?” I ask in a subtle and sincere tone. The ward with the “mark of the beast (666)” and a barcode tattoo looks at me calmly and replies with sincerity and says, “You want a game that’s going to show you how reality is, that’s not going to hide it.” Right after his reply, a ward yells out, “You play that “Sniper” game”, as he chuckles he says, “I use to snipe civilians and everything.”
The most disturbing part of the conversation, was when an inmate told me you can get a download to the game Grand Theft Auto, which will allow the player to pick up a prostitute, beat and rape her, then kill her. As an inmate was educating me on this, another one yelled out, “And you get hood points for killing her.”
“I loved the game because I would love to do work for the mafia”
I had this one game called “Driver” and it was cool because this dude would ride around town doing business with the Italian mafia and they would send him on missions to kill certain enemies they wanted dead to rob and steal money from rich guys to wreck and crash into other enemy vehicles and to pick up women they called show girls that worked for the mafia. I loved the game because I would love to do work for the mafia for the amount of money they were putting out for this “driver” dude. He was making $50,000 a mission and in 4 missions that’s $200,000 so in 10 missions you are making a cool amount of money so that’s why that video game has me deeply entrenched.
“Grand Theft Auto, Vice City,” this game also has a lot to do with mafia because this Italian guy himself is running around a city killing people for money, he has to eat, sell dope, do missions or hits for an extraordinary deal of a lot of money. It has entrenched me because I will do the same to sell dope, kill for money at the same time, do business with a mafia that is mandatory going to pay me some damn good money to make these hits I would put my life on the line for $50,000 a hit and the hits are not complicated you could do them if you put yo mind to it and you won’t falter if you do it the way it is suppose to be done. 2nd have your mind set on accomplishing it not being shaky having low self-esteem being paranoid and different feeling that you have when you know you are doing things your not suppose to be doing. This is why some negative video games pump me up and have me somewhat deeply entrenched.
The real tragedy is that an individual can purchase games like these at their neighborhood department or toy store. I hope this article was able to enlighten you on how video games can influence an individual’s beliefs and behavior. So parents and youth workers, please check the theme of a video game before you purchase. This should be a mandatory practice for all media content.
Never underestimate the power of a video game, please remember; a book tells us something, a movie shows us something, music lets us listen to something, but video games allow an individual to actually do something.”
I discuss this issue in more detail in my book Thug Mentality Exposed, which you may read on-line for free or purchase @:www.thugexposed.org.
By Ray Johnson
ThugExposed.Org Gang & Drug Prevention