Experts weigh in on the impact of violent video games

Jordyn Zitman

Throughout West Campus at all hours, cries of victory and defeat are a normal disturbance as students attempt to win a round of “Fortnite.” The name of the game is killing all opponents to become the last player standing, which poses a debate over the real-world effects of placing people in a kill-or-be-killed environment.

“Fortnite” was released by Epic Games in early 2018 as a battle royale game, and has since amassed over 3 million players of varying ages. Players are tasked with eliminating up to 99 others to be the last man standing. While playing, gamers rely on a variety of weapons, assault rifles and pump shotguns among them, and engage in battles featuring violence and gory graphics. Similar games such as “Grand Theft Auto” and “Call of Duty” draw hundreds of millions more players.

Victor Wattigny, a biomedical engineering senior and president of Longhorn Gaming, said “Fortnite” in particular has been so successful in attracting players outside the gaming community because of its accommodating features.

“I think the simplicity of it helps with the masses because it is so new-player friendly,” Wattigny said. “It doesn’t take a lot to understand what is going on and to play the game.”

The gorier material in games such as “Grand Theft Auto” have raised speculation that the violent nature of these types of games must have some psychological effect on the developing minds that play them.

Dr. Paul Toprac, UT’s associate director of Game and Mobile Media Applications program, an undergraduate certificate that prepares students to work in the game and application industry, said in an email that there is no proven link between playing these games and violent behavior in real life.

“All too often, people find the correlation between violence and violent video games and turn it into causation,” Toprac said.   

Toprac said, given the hundreds of millions who play violent video games, that the influence of the games would result in much more mass violence than is present in society today.

“Blaming video games for violence is shifting blame from the root causes of violence in our society,” Toprac said.

Nathan Driskell, an Asperger’s and internet addiction specialist in Cypress, Texas, said in an email that he believes violent games independently do not lead to violent behavior in real life.

“Something else is often the cause,” Driskell said. “This could be bullying, social anxiety, depression or conditions such as schizophrenia.”

Driskell said although video games may not directly cause violent behavior, this form of exposure to violence is more dangerous than that of movies or television.

“For someone with a poor mental state with violent thoughts already present, violent video games can enhance that,” Driskell said. “This is due to the active nature of the games, where the player is an active participant in control of who lives, dies or advances.”

Regular players of “Fortnite” maintain that the game has not encouraged violence in their lives. Perry Scott, mechanical engineering freshman, has been playing “Fortnite” for six months.

“‘Fortnite’ makes me less violent in real life,” Scott said. “It’s a great outlet for anger and aggression, and I can play it like a competitive sport — once I’ve won, I can relax.”

More research will likely be conducted as the game matures regarding its effect on violence in players. For now, the game is just a game, and students will continue to strive to win.