Home > Science, Social issues > Video games and violence

Video games and violence

I’ve always been a bit in the middle regarding this debate. On the one hand, there are quite a few studies correlating aggression and violent game play. On the other, there’s no evidence (though this doesn’t mean that it isn’t having an effect) that it’s actually affecting violent crime statistics, as we see from the decreasing crime statistics. We also have to factor in the fact that video games seem improve certain mental abilities of kids. How to reconcile all that? I found this point in post from Cognitive Daily interesting:

Kirsh puts all this evidence together to argue that violent games should have a more dramatic affect on aggressive behavior in early adolescence compared to mid and late adolescence. However, Kirsch also acknowledges that there are many other contributors to aggressive behavior, including gender, family, peers, school, and personality. Each of these other contributors may vary differently across adolescence — for example, susceptibility to peer pressure peaks at around age 15, just as physical aggression is beginning to diminish. And while there are significant gender differences in violent and aggressive behavior (boys are much more aggressive than girls), there does not appear to be a gender difference in the impact of video game violence.

Some researchers, such as James Garbarino, suggest that most kids can handle one or two of these risk factors for aggressive behavior, but once several of them are combined, the likelihood of aggressive behavior increases dramatically. Perhaps only when video game violence is studied in the context of many different risk factors — and the other known phenomena related to adolescent development — will its true impact be known.

What Garbarino suggests seems like the right idea. The loss of other risk factors could explain the fact that we don’t seem to be seeing the effects of violent video games manifesting themselves outside of these studies. I’m hardly a psychologist, though.

Another salient comment follows:

I’d like to add one more recommendation myself — that researchers also not treat all video games the same. As recent research has suggested, not all video game violence is created equal, and a careful study will also take different types of video game violence into account.

Certainly true. Rome: Total War may have plenty of violence, but it’s qualitatively different from Halo.

Categories: Science, Social issues
  1. ben
    January 13, 2006 at 9:52 am

    Or God of War, which totally dominates, but still has you ripping people in half, killing the same poor guy twice (!) and deliberately cooking a fellow warrior-type in order to appease Hades. I know some small junior-high types (they are actually in high school, but they should be demoted) who should probably not be anywhere near that game. People aren’t all the same, so a lot of these studies are much too focused on content, rather than the people who might be playing them.

  2. January 13, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    Kirsch also acknowledges that there are many other contributors to aggressive behavior, including gender, family, peers, school, and personality… Once several of them are combined, the likelihood of aggressive behavior increases dramatically.

    Yeah, this is sort of where I end up at regarding the issue; it has a lot to do with other stimuli. If violent gaming alone could contribute significantly to aggression then there might actually be, you know, a problem.

  3. ben
    January 15, 2006 at 7:05 pm

    Oh, I missed that part you quoted, I guess. Reading’s for sissies.
    Leave me alone, man, I’m tired!

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