Latest Study On Violent Video Games Shows More Aggressive Behavior

from the but-how-much? dept

We’ve seen plenty of studies on the impacts of violent video games, whose results were later blown out of proportion in the media. When you looked at the actual details of the studies that were often purported to show a link between violent video games and real world violence, the so-called link almost always disappeared. Instead, what you found was that playing violent video games did make kids more emotional, which is what you would expect. While playing an exciting game, who wouldn’t get caught up in the action? That doesn’t mean they’d go out and hurt people, though. Some studies showed immediate aggressive behavior immediately after playing, but, again, that’s rather reasonable as they probably have increased adrenalin flowing. But that’s hardly a sign that they’re going to go hurt people, and the effect doesn’t last very long. Other studies have shown that kids who play such games get desensitized to images of violence — which again makes sense, but still doesn’t mean that they think violence is acceptable. It just means they’re not shocked when they see it.

The latest study may be the most interesting (and, perhaps, controversial), however. It actually tries to account for much of this and tries to measure aggressive behavior of violent video game players months later. The study found that kids who spent more time playing more violent games, did in fact get more aggressive over time, even accounting for how aggressive they were at the beginning of the study. There are some questionable aspects to the study, such as using self-reporting to determine “violent acts,” but on the whole this study does appear to be at least marginally more convincing than earlier studies, and, at the very least suggests further areas that should be studied.

Of course, nowhere does it explain why, if the study’s findings are true, youth violence has decreased significantly over the same period of time that violent video games have become much more popular. If violent video games really made people consistently more violent, you’d expect to see that increase. And, if that number is not increasing, then you have to wonder if any reported increase in youth violence is even at a level that matters. If there’s a marginal increase in aggressive behavior that doesn’t lead to any increase in illegal behavior, is that really an issue? Also, when compared with another recent study that shows it’s the small percentage of kids who don’t play video games who are more likely to actually get in trouble, it makes you wonder if there are some completely independent factors at work here, rather than any direct correlation between violent video games and real world violence.

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Comments on “Latest Study On Violent Video Games Shows More Aggressive Behavior”

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Lonnie E. Holder says:

Multiple Causes

As I was reading this, my mind went in the same direction as yours. I think there are at least two independent factors at work.

But, another possibility. Is it possible that children who are naturally more violent play violent video games, and that natural tendency just takes time to manifest itself? Also, is it possible that many of the small percentage of kids who do not play video games who are more likely to get into trouble are unable to afford video games?

Anonymous Coward says:

Politicians and Media need to STFU

Until the bean counters in the DOJ actually say that youth crime increased, rather than the 40 year low it was at during the height of the “violent video games make timmy a mass murderer” craze, I’m just not going to buy it.

Hell if anything kids these days are still far more sensitive and less violent then their grandparents. I still have co-workers and relatives that are older than me that tell stories of getting into brawls or street racing at night.

Some of them even tell of porky-esque run ins with the police. Even taking this with a heavy dose of skepticism, the facts seem to indicate that kids these days are a lot more talk, a lot less action.

You’ll always have fucked up people, but really. It is just getting very trying to deal with “OMG THE THING YOU LOVE IS BAD, YOU NEED JESUS” on a daily basis in every angle of society.

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re: Politicians and Media need to STFU

I am going to have to second that Amen.

Recently in the news (don’t recall if it was channel 4 or channel 2) (also note: these are Detroit news stations) they did a segment about kids being stalked through video games. All I saw was kids playing Call of Duty 4 on an XBox and they had the mom blacked out and voice changed because she was too embarassed to be seen. I didn’t get to see the actual news part, but saw that preview like five times over a couple days. I seriously wanted to reach through the TV and smack the news people. They were trying to make it sound like it was pandemic and all parents need to freak out NOW. So stupid. I routinely shoot down people at work who take news stories like that at face value and think it really is happening everywhere. Like a parent here who won’t even let their kid have a myspace because they are convinced their kid WILL be stalked by a predator. Soo stupid.

Counter to this, along the lines of parenting in a positive direction rather than Fear! Fear! Fear!, in the Reader’s Digest from last month, there was an article about a lady who dropped her 9 yr old son off with a map at a subway station so he could find his way home by himself. He actually requested it and she obliged. Lotta parents were saying how bad she was. She pointed out the crimes against children and everything are at levels so low they haven’t been seen since the 70’s. How true that is I do not know, but I applaud the lady for letting her kid be a kid.

Tired of the media fear mongering EVERYTHING these days. It was old years ago.

JB says:

Re: Politicians and Media need to STFU

First off, evangelism has gotten a little out of hand in many denominations and religions. If asked, I will tell people who and what I believe in and why I live the way I do. People that outright condemn others are not doing it right and I wish I could apologize for them to all those who are berated by such ‘Christians.’

That being said, I see each of these reports as an attempt to pass the blame. The reality is that there are always going to be aggressive people. Any guesses as to their gaming preferences? They, more often than not, like to play a violent video game. This is not a bad thing; studies have shown time and again that adrenaline inducing games tend to lower stress levels and supply the player with a non-destructive outlet for their aggressive tendencies.

PaulT (profile) says:

This “study” is already being soundly debunked due to poor methodology:

As somebody who played videogames extensively during the 80s and 90s while I was growing up (and have never committed a violent crime, juvenile or otherwise), this is, and always will be, bunk. In 10-20 years, there will be a new scapegoat to attack.

I just hope that at some time in the future, society will actually address the underlying issues that cause these problems rather than pointing at satanists/drugs/witches/rock ‘n roll/comics/movies/hip-hop/heavy metal/dancing/RPGs/whatever the current “concern” du jour happens to be. Attacks on videogames are more a symptom of the generation gap than anything that really affecting today’s kids.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As somebody who played videogames extensively during the 80s and 90s while I was growing up (and have never committed a violent crime, juvenile or otherwise), this is, and always will be, bunk.

So just because you have committed no violent crimes that proves that violent games have no effect on anyone? I think it is your scientific method that need a little debunking.

duderino says:


Aren’t children naturally aggressive? which is how and why we learn at a young age the difference between hurting and playing? As children, especially boys, we are always rough, as long as the other boy puts up with it (aka isn’t crying…yet). So before video games, when kids were being kids and fought with eachother for fun or for principle, what was the “link” then? Couldn’t it just be natural? The medium changes, nature doesn’t.

The other thing is, what started the aggression? Were the games turned off without notice? (That would piss me off mid game, movie, show, athletic event, etc) Are they upset because they lost? Was there aggression verbally or physically? Was it while they were playing someone or waiting?

Also, keep in mind, when you watch a scary movie, if you get tapped on your shoulder you will jump, but there’s no study about how people become tense when watching scary movies.

Maybe this study is saying something about how children areevolving to be more self-confident in fights. Maybe, when a bully is pushing around a kid who plays Halo and identifies with Master Chief, that kid will stand his ground.

So, is the aggression the good kind or the bad kind? were they hurting people for no reason or were they just repsonding to the current situation.

but I agree with what the Coward says: “Politicians and Media need to STFU”

Mr. Nosuch (user link) says:

Somewhat difficult to isolate any influence that videogame playing has on children over time, since it is hardly the only media children are exposed to.

For instance, does playing football make kids “more violent”? It’s hard to isolate these things.

And the reason that is, and the one no one trying to get a grant wants to face, is that a person’s tendency towards violent acts is always much more complicated than any singular cause or influence.

I mean, seriously, duh.

John Doe says:

Which came first, the violent game or the violent kid? There is a similar story in the news about TV shows and teen pregnancy. It would seem really difficult to determine cause and affect. Is the violent kid attracted to violent games or did the violent games turn a kid violent? I am always skeptical of such claims. Not saying they aren’t true; but it would be very hard to prove a link much less a cause and effect.

Phillip (profile) says:

perhaps people who play violent games have more aggressive personalities

From what I saw this study used largely self-reporting and doesn’t really have a good control group.

Perhaps the explanation is more corollary and not causation. Perhaps the personalities of people who enjoy, say violent video games, lend themselves toward aggressive behavior. Much in the same way people who are alcoholics tend to be more additive with other things like spending and gambling.

the truth says:

video game blame

No video game blame
For many years video games have been blamed for sex drug use and mass murder. But there have been no reasons for such accusations parents and the government blames music and video games for a lot of thing. Such as the columbine high school massacre and the Virginia tech massacre but there have been no proven links between sex, drugs use and murder. Video games have also been studied for links to addiction and violent behavior. Some studies have found that video games do not contribute to these problems Recently several groups have argued that there are few if any scientifically proven studies to backup such claims, and that the video game industry has become a scapegoat for the media to blame for various social ills. Furthermore, numerous researchers have proposed potential positive effects of video games on aspects of development and for psychological well-being.

A common argument used by advocates of videogames is that the majority of gamers are adults. Statistics show that between 40 – 50% of computer game players are women, and that the average age of players is increasing – currently standing at mid to late 20s. Most of the critics of videogames however, agree that it is the large portion of children playing that is the issue. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they allegedly increase violent tendencies among youth. Several major studies by groups such as The Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health. The Journal of Adolescent Health and The British Medical Journal have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity. One of the first widely accepted controversial video games was developer Exidy’s 1976 title Death Race.

In which players controlled cars that ran over pixilated representations of gremlins. The game caused such an outcry that it was pulled from store shelves and profiled on 60 Minutes. PTA president Ronnie Lamm pushed for legislation in the early 1980s to place restrictions on how close video game arcades could be to schools, asserting that they caused children to fight. Portrayals of violence allegedly became more realistic with time, and so politicians such as U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman conducted hearings during the 1990s regarding what he referred to as “violent video games” which, in his opinion, included such games as Mortal Kombat. His sentiments have been echoed by certain researchers, such as Dr. Craig A. Anderson who testified before the Senate, “Some studies have yielded no significant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer”.

An example of videogame controversy Grand Theft Auto: Vice City came under similar criticism, also for implying allegedly racist hate crimes: The game, taking place in “Vice City” (a fictional Miami) in 1986, involves a gang war between Haitians and Cuban refugees, and the player often serves both gangs to plot against one another. Haitian and Cuban anti-defamation groups highly criticized the game for these actions, including using phrases such as “kill the Haitian dickheads” (a phrase used in the game, actually referring to the Haitian gang with which the character is having a shoot-out). After the threat of being sued by the Haitian-American Coalition, Rock star removed the word “Haitians” from this phrase in the game’s subtitles. These concerns have led to voluntary rating systems adopted by the industry, such as the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) rating system in the United States and the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) rating system in Europe, that are aimed at informing parents about the types of games their children are playing (or are asking to play). Certain game publishers’ decision to have controversial games rated seems to show that they are not targeted at young children. They are ESRB rated as “Mature” or “Adults Only” in the US, or given BBFC ratings of 15 or 18 in the UK. The packaging notes that these games should not be sold to children. In the US, ESRB ratings are not legally binding, but many retailers take it upon themselves to refuse the sale of these games to minors. In the UK, the BBFC ratings are backed up by law, so it is actually illegal to sell the game to anyone under the indicated age, and many UK retailers go beyond that and also enforce the PEGI ratings, which are not backed up by law.

Parents have come to hate or become angry at the video games they are outraged at the video game makers. I think it is because they are just looking for a reason to blame some one else other than them self’s but it is in some way their fault to even if they might not know they have done some thing wrong. Maybe they did not try to find out what was going on with their kid when he/she came home crying or depressed. Maybe even did some thing weird that they normally would not do but I’m not saying it is their fault. I’m saying that maybe if they tried they could have prevented this or help stop it but they are blaming some thing that they are not even sure is the problem music and games doing not kill people. People kill people if fact out of all the cases that have been recorded that were blamed for video game and music only 5 of them are really related.

But in all but one of those the person was extremely mentally disturbed and tried to become the main character and hurting and/or killing the main bad guy. Those games were roles playing fantasy in witch ask the player to act and/or think like the main character. The other ones was a when two people had a fight online and then one of them found were he lived via MySpace hunt down them and them hurt them very badly trying to kill them luckily the police stopped them before he killed him. So there is no proof and there is no reason why games should be blamed and attacked the way they are but they are any ways.

There might not be any way to stop it but I can hope that people will stop and think about this subject. The worst part is that they not only attack the games that are violent but the e rated game as well. Some people think that they don’t even care about the game or what’s in it but are trying to get rid of them all together. This is only fueling the fire that is fueling this fire you ask none other Jack Thompson a man that makes me shutter at the evil thing this man says. Jack Thompson for you that don’t know who he is a Florida attorney and fervent critic the of video game industry. He is the first one attacking the games some of you might remember him he was the evil man that said and I quote “These are real lives. These are real people that are in the ground now because of this game. I have no doubt about it,” this guy is so full of him self. When Jack Thompson gets worked up, he refers to gamers as “knuckleheads.” He calls video games “mental masturbation.” When he’s talking about himself and his crusade against violent games, he calls himself an “educator.” He likes to use the word “pioneer.” On those rare occasions when a student opens fire on a school campus, Thompson is frequently the first and the loudest to declare games responsible. In recent years he’s blamed games such as “Counter-Strike,” “Doom” and “Grand Theft Auto III” for school shootings in Littleton, Colo., Red Lake, Minn. and Paducah, Ky. He’s blamed them for shootings beyond school grounds as well. In an attempt to hold game developers and publishers responsible for these spasms of violence, Thompson has launched several unsuccessful lawsuits.

It appears that others are now picking up on this tactic. Adam Thierer points us to a recent case where a lawyer isn’t arguing that his client, a 24-year-old, didn’t commit a murder. He’s arguing that the guy thought he was playing a video game. This is a really weak way to try to get someone acquitted of murder — and says quite a bit about the lawyers who would use this sort of defense. As the article notes, the actual evidence suggests that video games had nothing to do with the murder, and that it was an old-fashioned robbery attempt.

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