Argument Analysis: Violent Video Games and Aggression

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Rebecca Brown

September 20, 2007

Engl 3080, History, Theory, and Practice in Argumentative Writing
Argument Analysis: Violent Video Games and Aggression
In April of 2000, Pam Willenz published a short article online about the dangers of video game violence. The headline reads “Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggression” and the article briefly summarizes a study published at the same time. Willenz’s article was published on the American Psychological Association (APA) website, with a link to the original scientific article. While the article itself is only about two pages in length, it boldly states the opinion that violent video games cause aggressive behavior and other negative results.

The issue of violence in video games has been ongoing since the mid-90s when games like Mortal Kombat and Doom were released (Anderson 772). It has slowly replaced the issue of violence on television (Anderson 773), and in this article, a subheading in bold states that video games may be more harmful than television and movies.

Pam Willenz’s name is at the beginning of the article with the title of being in the Public Affairs Office of the APA. It can be assumed, since it was published on the APA website, that Willenz is a part of this larger organization of psychologists in America. Being a fellow colleague legitimizes her writing this article and makes her seem to be an authority on this subject. Even if she didn’t write the scientific paper, she knows how to read it and is stating the fact.

However, it is clear that she chose only pieces of information to confirm the headline. For example, she quotes the research by saying “even a brief exposure to violent video games can temporarily increase aggressive behavior in all types of participants.” But in the research article, the authors state that they did not factor in the possibility of current mood at the time of the tests (Anderson 788). The abstract at the beginning of the study has a conclusion statement that violence will increase short-term behavior (Anderson 772), and it seems as though Willenz herself briefly scanned the article for key terms and phrases.

While this is published on an APA website, it seems as though her audience is of people looking to prove claims that violent video games are harmful. This article was found by using “violence in video games” in a web-based search engine. For someone looking for a fast source, this is an article that could be used. Students and researchers can find this, but also people just looking for information leisurely. A parent could easily find the article and justify why their children should not play video games, and it seems to be aimed more towards that crowd.

If the article is aimed at a broader audience, then it is clear to see that while this is about summarizing a scientific study, it is also about the influence of violence in video games. The main point of this article is to state the negative impact of violent video games, but at the same time raises issues as to the other effects. She makes it clear that the study found that grades decreased in the people exposed to violent video games—which would reinforces the claim of how bad video games are for you.

The main claim is different than the headline of this article. Willenz proclaims, without a doubt, that playing violent video games can increase negative behavior. However, she does place after her claim that it is “according to an article published,” which seems to pass on the opinion to the original study’s authors rather than herself. This proves to be wrong when you critically analyze this article, it is clear to see that Willenz has taken the research and drawn her own conclusions. By saying it is according to the other authors, the responsibility within the claim is lessened on her part and legitimizes the claim more. If more people are saying violent video games are bad, then the audience feels more comfortable that this is a legitimate claim.

Being published on the APA website also helps in legitimizing her opinion. It is a well-established and well-respected organization that supports her article and its claims. Once again, it broadens the amount of supporters of her argument, even if it isn’t clearly stated. The APA doesn’t have to say they support her, but just by the action of letting her publish this on their website is saying the same thing. By using her status as a colleague of the APA and being a part of the APA, Willenz is appealing to the ethos of the audience. She is an expert and the audience recognizes her as a point of authority on the matter.

She also uses logos to support her claim as well. She selects some of the results from the Anderson article and lets the audience conclude that because they played these violent games, all the negative results were a direct effect of them. Grades dropped not because of poor study habits or the group being unbalanced in study methods, but because they were consumed by the violence. Willenz also fails to mention is that the correlation of videogame play and grade point average was measured by using total video game play that included nonviolent playing (Anderson 781).

The style of the article overall is that of a news article, stating the facts of the matter. A news article is looked upon as being informative and with the right information, so oftentimes the statements aren’t questioned and seen as fact.

While the ulterior motive of this article might not be to express Willenz’s opinion on video games, the sentiments are clearly stated within the text. It was placed to reference an APA article to possibly entice people to read the article or at least stir feelings on a controversial subject. But to some, a brief summary is all that is needed. Instead of having to read through the entire research article, someone can just assume Willenz’ opinion is correct and cites the research article instead. She argues that the results of this article are empirically true with no citation nor analysis of the other side of the argument.

Works Cited

Willenz, Pam. “Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggression.” American Psycological Association Online. 23 March 2000.

Anderson, Craig A. and Karen E. Dill. “Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 78.4 (2000): 772-90.

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