As Video Games Are In Presidential Crosshairs, New Study Again Shows They Don't Affect Behavior
from the it's-just-entertainment dept
Violent video games have once again found themselves in the role of scapegoat after a recent spate of gun violence in America. After the Florida school shooting, and in the extended wake of the massacre in Las Vegas, several government representatives at various levels have leveled their ire at violent games, including Trump, who commissioned an insane sit-down to act as moderator between game company executives and those that blame them for all the world’s ills. Amid this deluge of distraction, it would be easy to forget that study after study after study have detailed how bunk the notion is that you can tie real-world violence and violent games is. Not to mention, of course, that there has never been more people playing more violent video games in the history of the world than at this moment right now, and at the same time research shows a declining trend for deviant behavior in teens rather than any sort of upswing.
But a recent study conducted by the Max Planck Institute and published in Molecular Psychiatry further demonstrates the point that violence and games are not connected, with a specific methodology that carries a great deal of weight. The purpose of the study was to move beyond measuring behavior effects immediately after short, unsustained bursts of game-playing and into the realm of the effects on sustained, regular consumption of violent video games.
To correct for the “priming” effects inherent in these other studies, researchers had 90 adult participants play either Grand Theft Auto V or The Sims 3 for at least 30 minutes every day over eight weeks (a control group played no games during the testing period). The adults chosen, who ranged from 18 to 45 years old, reported little to no video game play in the previous six months and were screened for pre-existing psychological problems before the tests.
The participants were subjected to a wide battery of 52 established questionnaires intended to measure “aggression, sexist attitudes, empathy, and interpersonal competencies, impulsivity-related constructs (such as sensation seeking, boredom proneness, risk-taking, delay discounting), mental health (depressivity, anxiety) as well as executive control functions.” The tests were administered immediately before and immediately after the two-month gameplay period and also two months afterward, in order to measure potential continuing effects.
Participants in the experimental groups were playing GTA, The Sims, or no games at all, and the before and after tests demonstrated three significant behavior changes among all participants. That equates to less than 10% of the survey results indicating any significant change. As the Ars post points out, you would expect at least 10% to show significant change just by random chance. Going through the data and the near complete dearth of any significant behavior changes, the study fairly boldly concludes that there were “no detrimental effects of violent video game play” among the participants.
Were this a fair and just world, this study would be seen as merely confirming what our common sense observations tell us: playing violent games doesn’t make someone violent in real life. After all, were that not true, we would see violence rising commensurate with the availability of violent games across a collection of global societies. That simply isn’t happening.
So, as America tries to work out its mass-shooting problem, one thing should be clear: whatever list you have in your head about what to blame for the violence, we should be taking video games off of that list.