The debate that has researchers conflicted, parents nodding, and gamers furious.
Do video games really cause violence, or is there more to it?
According to Sky, a comprehensive study has concluded that violent video games do in fact lead to violence.
The report from the American Psychological Association (APA) has reviewed more than 300 violent video game papers released between 2005 and 2013.
The players were tested in a variety of ways over a variety of time periods from short to long term. Researchers inevitably concluded that violent video games do in fact have an effect on aggression.
“The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression,” the report concludes.
Many pro gaming groups have denounced the studies, saying that the psychologists who undertook the study are “anti-gamers” and that they chose the studies that were relevant to the point they were trying to make.
Mark Starkey from the Heart of Gaming arcade in Acton, North West London said: “This is just history repeating itself. Yes, video games have become more realistic and more violent overtime and there is a heightened level of realism that could affect people in society. But no more so than violent films and the ratings system is the same in games.”
The review also indicated that there is “insufficient evidence” about whether playing violent video games can lead to criminal violence or delinquency.
Tragedies such as the Sandy Hook massacre and the Aurora Cinema Shootings have been linked heavily to violent video games.
However, the APA has admitted that more research is needed into the “controversial” topic, specifically on the influences on children.
So the APA publishes a paper that slams violent video games, and then states that more study is needed.
Indeed, a very, very smart move.
British psychologist Dr Jane McCartney told Sky News: “Even though this is a well-researched report, more needs to be done especially on the effects these games have on over stimulating young people.
“They don’t have such an easy cut off as older people because their brains aren’t quite fully developed. Their ‘off-pedal’ isn’t quite developed so it’s harder for them to switch off and come back to reality.”
The APA report “strongly encourages” American game rating organisation to update its video game rating system “to reflect the levels and characteristics of violence in games, in addition to the current global ratings”.
Responding to the report, UKIE, (UK Interactive Entertainment) said: “This report, like others before it, does not identify a causal link between games and aggression, and definitely no link between games and real life violence.
“Such studies also show that games offer many positive cognitive skills benefits, such as problem solving skills, team management, and social skills.”
However, if we go back to last year, a study had found that violent video games do not have a link with youth violence.
The research conducted last year, according the UK’s Independent, found that there was no link between violent media and behaviour. The psychologist in charge, Christopher Ferguson went one step further by questioning the methodology of the studies previously conducted.
Well in Christopher.
Ferguson and his team of psychologists point out that many lab based studies into the effect of media violence have measured aggression in test subjects through “less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering non painful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.”
Ferguson’s study also points out that these studies conducted also “commonly provide brief clips of media, rather than full narrative experience”, which he states that “the resultant aggressive behaviors are also outside a real world context in which the aggression appears to be sanctioned by the researchers themselves.”
The study conducted notes that film violence followed a “rough U turn pattern”. The latter half of the 20th century saw an increase in film violence; however, it came with a reduced level of societal violence.
A second study into video game violence took data directly from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to estimate the violent content of popular games from 1996 to 2011. This was then compared to the data on youth violence during the same time frame, with the study, surprisingly, finding a correlation between falling youth violence and the rising popularity of violent video games.
Don’t double take that last line. The study had found that youth violence had fallen, whilst the popularity of violent video games had risen.
During the time period of 1996 to 2011, “youth violence dropped precipitously”, the researchers had noted, “despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of video games”.
In a press statement, Ferguson noted that the media narrative surrounding violent video games and youth violence might be due to “limited amounts of resources and attention” that society can devote to “the problem of reducing crime”.
He adds, however, that if the wrong problem is identified, it may “distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health.”
Ferguson writes: “This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.”
It’s word vs. word, paper vs. paper in a battle that will seemingly never end, as game technology advances significantly.
So, let’s do some numbers.
According to newzoo.com, these are the world’s top 15 countries based off of game revenues. Australia sits 13th.
Let’s compare the general crime rates between Japan and the United States of America. Note that not all gamers are youth. It’s important to actually include crime in its’ entirety.
If we take the statistics from crime in 2014 as an analysis point, the numbers are below, according to nationmaster.com
So, let’s break down the statistics we can deem as important.
87% of Japanese people feel safe walking home, as opposed to 41% of Americans (in the night)
90% of Japanese people feel safe walking home, as opposed to 75% of Americans (in the day)
15% of Japanese people, as opposed to 42% of Americans fear being attacked.
16% of Japanese people, as opposed to 48% of Americans fear break and enters.
Japan has a far lesser rate of violent crimes than the USA, fewer problems with vandalism as opposed to the USA and a substantially low rate of gun crimes.
The USA is ranked first in the world for gun crimes in developed countries.
However, crime rates and video games are different stories that are further apart or closer together, depending on the stance you take.
Keep in mind the USA is top in games revenue, so we’ll assume it’s first in the gaming market, followed by China and Japan.
So how come the USA has a significantly, in fact, stupidly high crime rate all around and the fear of crime as opposed to Japan, who are third in the games revenue?
Both the USA and Japan, without a doubt have a high proportion of the population that play video games. That much is concrete fact.
But, if studies attribute violent video games to violence in real life, then it’s something we really need to sit back and take in for a second.
Call of Duty and Counter Strike Global Offensive are two very prominent games amongst casual players, competitive players, YouTube content creators, live streamers and professional players. If violent video games really do influence violence, then we’d have a major, major problem.
However, it’s not all black and white. There are areas of grey, such as cognitive function. It’s easy to plague video games as the sole cause of growing youth and adult violence, however, one must not forget the key factor of mental illness, cognitive function and interpretation.
Interpretation of a violent video game is purely subjective. What that means is, is that people have the ability to interpret the game however they want. It’s up to them. Cognitive function, or lack thereof and mental illness unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on the individual play a role in interpretation.
According to Harvard University, those with borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, conduct disorder and many other personality disorders contribute to levels of aggression and eventual violence. If these personality disorders work in conjunction with a psychiatric disorder, the combination is often fierce and can result in an increase of violent behaviour. Similarly, patients with paranoia, command hallucinations, florid psychotic thoughts can be more likely to be violent. Common mental issues such as stress and crisis often lead to violence.
However, it is important to note that not all with these mental illnesses are certain to act violently. A lack of cognitive function can also play a part, such as the lack of thought process and so forth. If individuals do not think before they do, their actions often become rash and possibly dangerous. Similarly, experiences with drugs and alcohol can contribute to violence, just as it does in the unfortunate scenarios where violence does occur domestically or publically.
Therefore, the studies against video game violence do have a point in these cases, but not everyone is like this. Since there’s no concrete definition of “normal”, we’ll assume that the average population does not have the issues of drug and alcohol abuse, nor the mental disorders listed above.
It is also important to note that similar studies were conducted against movies, so this could very well be a copy paste of those to promote less violent video games.
To put this in a civilized context, most video games are violent to an extent, but the violence is within the game, which provides players with a safe experience of the adrenaline rush, instead of acting it out in real life. Those Call of Duty players and Counter Strike players, for example, feel the adrenaline rush within the game and that’s that. They’re able to communicate, build teamwork on occasion and work towards a common goal. It’s difficult to attribute games violence to real life violence within youth, and now perhaps adults seeing as the results of the “anti-gamers” may be heavily emphasized and selective.
What about those games that aren’t violent whatsoever, yet induce people into states of quick bursts of anger, such as FIFA, NBA and so forth. Sport games can produce moments of increased anger and almost violent behaviour within a short amount of time, yet those are ignored and the studies are focused on violent video games solely.
If these researchers want more accurate examples and results, then they should research games in general. Just a tip for next time you so called “anti-gamer” researchers.
Games cannot be the only direct contributor to growing youth violence, as there are other influences such as upbringing, peer environment, home environment, socioeconomic status and so forth. It is difficult to attribute youth and possibly adult violence to the growing video game culture specifically, as one must also include many other aspects of all the tested individual’s life.
In essence, it is difficult to lay blame on violent video games, as there are many aspects that contribute to youth violence, and these studies may as well be deemed irrelevant if the American Psychological Association claims that further research is needed.
Don’t worry guys, even if a time comes where violent video games are banned altogether, we can still find comfort in playing Farmville.