By Natalie Bracco
Have you noticed that whenever any kind of gun tragedy occurs, there is always a renewed interest in where to cast the blame for violence in society? Many have said that video games where players are encouraged to kill other people are serving as a model for violent gunmen (most likely from those who don’t play themselves). Whether this is true or not is still up for debate, but have you really checked out both sides?
Evidence that Video Games Cause Violence
One of the more famous studies analyzing the effects of video games on behavior is the 2001 study by Craig Anderson and Brad Bushman. This study concludes that depictions of violence in the media will increase instances of aggressive behavior. These depictions could come in the form of movies, TV programs, or video games.
This study came after the Columbine shootings, and was incited partly due to the fact that the student shooters responsible for the 13 murders at Columbine High in Littleton Colorado were known to play violent video games as a habit. Specifically, they played a special version of the game Doom where victims couldn’t shoot back, and where there were two people doing the shooting. The fact that these conditions are so similar to what happened in real life was not lost on Anderson and Bushman.
The study involved 3,033 participants, and found that video games affected the behavior of youths and college-aged individuals in an aggressive direction. It went on to say that exposure to violence in video games will make it more likely that a child will become aggressive down the road.
More Recent Studies for Video Game Violence
A more recent study in Ohio claims that the more time you spend playing video games in a row, the more aggressive you become. The study focused on 77 French students and showed that their aggression went up day to day when they were playing video games over a three day period. Many have criticized the study, however, for having such a small sample size.
The study makes a comparison to smoking cigarettes. Smoking just one cigarette won’t lead to adverse effects all by itself. It’s the habit of smoking cigarettes over many years that ultimately leads to severe health effects. In the same way, the researcher of the study, named Brad Bushman, argues that the results indicate that long term exposure to video games will have an eventual effect on making young people more violent.
Evidence that Video Games Don’t Contribute to Violence
According to a recent statistics survey, there is no correlation between gun violence and video games when analyzed on a national basis. The survey charts per-capita national game sales versus gun violence. As it turns out, countries with the highest gun-related murders also have the lowest video game spending.
The United States has over 3.59 gun-related murders per 100,000 people. According to the study, this statistic places the United States at over 3 times the number of gun related deaths than any other country. In some cases, this number is closer to around 10 times more than in other countries. Yet, when measured against other countries in terms of video game spending per capita, the U.S. is nowhere near the top, with some other countries spending up to 3 times more per capita than the United States.
One study conducted over a three year period indicated that in all likelihood, any correlation between video games and aggression was actually the “byproduct of other processes occurring in the life of the child.” So basically, children who are aggressive are drawn to aggressive games, or the way they interact with violent video games makes them violent just because of other psychological factors.
A Complex Situation
A recent book from the last few years entitled Grand Theft Childhood talks about how nearly all adult men have played violent video games at some point in their lives. Since gun violence in the United States isn’t high enough to include all adult males, logically the situation is more complex than hard-line proponents of either side may admit.
In fact, even the studies don’t do more than say that video games contribute to a correlation with aggression. It’s not so cut and dry as “X video game always causes Y gun violence.” Most of the time, the studies simply show a higher tendency for aggression on a societal level, rather than an individual one.
The book puts it this way: “…that violent video games make children significantly more violent in the real world; …[is] not supported by the current research, at least in such a simplistic form.” The fact that millions of children play these games without society completely falling apart is testament to the complexity of the situation.
Overall Effects of Violent Video Games
Games that have been included as examples of causing violence include the following:
- Call of Duty
- Mortal Kombat
- Duke Nukem
- Street Fighter
Yet, these games are some of the most popular games of the last few decades. You would think if there was a direct one-to-one correlation then there would be certain games that only violent gunmen play and not the rest of the entire population.
Overall, if anything, the studies seem to indicate that the overall effect could depend on the person. It’s probable, according to writers like the author of Grand Theft Childhood, that all new technology and media present new challenges on how they affect us, especially when games can be played on a constant basis via on mobile devices and android tablets. However, the emergence of video games may not be much more of a challenge than television was when it first started coming out, and the important factor is the individual.
Ultimately, whether or not video games actually cause violence, is up for you to decide. While the reporting studies do make a compelling connection that surrounding yourself with violence can lead to aggression, the evidence isn’t definite, making the verdict still open for debate.
Do you think video games cause aggression and violence? Comment below.
Images courtesy of rockpapershotgun.com, memecenter.com, and pcgamer.com.
Resources: Research News
Natalie Bracco is a techie writer and an amateur gamer. One of her favorite intro songs is from the Kingdom of Hearts, and she still can’t find the red chocobo from FF XII. You can follower her on Twitter @NatalieBracco.