A report in the American Psychological Association tries to reconcile the scientific research on violent videogames with the ongoing debate. (The report is one of the best explainers on videogame violence we've ever read, by the way. Do check it out here.) But if the research is still being debated, with nothing definitive found, then why are so many scientists and pundits on both sides acting like we have a verdict?
When the Supreme Court struck down a California law regulating the sale of "violent" videogames to minors, they said the scientific evidence damning such games was, at best, "unpersuasive." And they're probably right: if a link between violent games and aggression does exist, it's still debatable how strongly they correlate. Even talking to scientists who have studied this doesn't clear up what's actually going on here, and that's largely due to external pressures. The media is ready to latch on to any study that indicates a conclusion, and media attention can often turn into grant money for research--and if there's anything we don't want mixing, it's science with media and money.
Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M International University lays it out, starting with that now-infamous Supreme Court ruling. The fault doesn't isn't on one group, necessarily, but rather on the scientific status quo. Research is not the objective procedural we'd all like to hope it is; results can be interpreted to make the case for certain findings, or they can be put out of proportion. In fact, it's a confirmed phenomenon that may or may not affect research on violent games: publication bias. If data is more likely to be published--in this case, positive correlations between games and aggression--scientists may give it more weight.
So a certain study finds a correlation, or says there's one, and it's published. The media picks it up, explaining the (science-approved!) dangers of these games, and the debate gets even more polarized. But if one study finds a correlation, it's not the last word (or vice versa). Both sides of the debate can go to battle armed with studies, even if the evidence on either side is weak at best. And even with the shield of peer review, scientists aren't immune to falling into an advocacy camp. The media picks up those individual studies without looking at the big picture, more scientists drop back into corners, and the debate continues without any kind of clarity brought to the table.
Ferguson uses "moral panic theory" to explain what's happening here:
It also explains that when a particularly publicized event happens, like the Sandy Hook tragedy, the debate gets even more heated. It's in the lab as often as it's on the cable news. The fact is, data isn't as cut and dry as we'd like it to be. There are "sides" in this debate, even among scientists, however honestly they came to those sides. Both can stare at the same sheet of numbers, recoil, and say with complete certainty they see a correlation. Or not. Or that more research needs to be done. Ferguson points out that there's plenty that scientists wholeheartedly agree on: behavior is a messy subject, the roots of violence are complicated, and multiple sources need to be factored into any conclusion. But there's also a lot more they don't agree on, like: Do we see a link between violent games and "aggression"? Is "aggression" a fair metric? How much evidence will it take to say there's a definitive link? But mostly the question is: Where are we disagreeing? Says Ferguson: We haven't even agreed on what we're talking about. We're still a while away from making conclusions.
It also explains that when a particularly publicized event happens, like the Sandy Hook tragedy, the debate gets even more heated. It's in the lab as often as it's on the cable news.
The fact is, data isn't as cut and dry as we'd like it to be. There are "sides" in this debate, even among scientists, however honestly they came to those sides. Both can stare at the same sheet of numbers, recoil, and say with complete certainty they see a correlation. Or not. Or that more research needs to be done.
Ferguson points out that there's plenty that scientists wholeheartedly agree on: behavior is a messy subject, the roots of violence are complicated, and multiple sources need to be factored into any conclusion. But there's also a lot more they don't agree on, like: Do we see a link between violent games and "aggression"? Is "aggression" a fair metric? How much evidence will it take to say there's a definitive link?
But mostly the question is: Where are we disagreeing? Says Ferguson:
We haven't even agreed on what we're talking about. We're still a while away from making conclusions.
There should be no debate. Violent video games played for days on end begin to hardwire an adrenaline response. The scholars are wrong as usual. (If you don't know it well, don't write about it and make it look like there is conflicting data)
Heres an idea, ask someone who plays or played a lot of violent games for a long time. Oh wait thats me. I sold them all years ago because i didnt like the changes in my endocrine system. I could literally be on edge for days, especially if i was playing a violent first person shooter. But any game where violence is present, even cartoonish violence will begin to wire that response in. (and dont try and contradict me, i am far more aware then most people of myself)
The younger a person is who is allowed to play violent games, the more it becomes normal to them. Expose them to a stressful situation when they are older, and involve alchohol, or any other behaviour modifying substance, and a certain percentage of the population that would have used fists, will turn to guns if they are available.
There are other factors , like how long someone is isolated, the more they are isolated the worse it will be. (a stronger adrenaline response)
The point is that the weaker a persons morals are , the more likely it is that a hardwired adrenaline response built since childhood (much like any addiction hardwires in connections for the reward response) will translate into violence later.
With your head in the variables, and controls, and theoreticals, you would have absolutely no idea of the reality, even if it was staring you in the face. Violent video games are partly responsible for the rise in violence in society. But not among people with strong morals. Only an idiot would emulate (no not run it on a different OS) or play modern warfare.
@dkella No. It is pretty obvious that you are "far more aware then most people".
It seems that you have had a personal experience and are using it to blanket the gaming community as all the same person.
Also, there has been a decline in crime and violence in recent history.
Sure gaming creates an adrenalin response, but so does sports, reading about violence, seeing it on the big screen, or hearing about it on the radio. But you dont see those demonized by the media do you?
dkella, this article is addressing the very notions that produced comments like yours. Your experience may be true (and I'm sure it is!) but it only applies to you. You have a vested interest in this debate which clouds your view and introduces a personal bias. This leads to you making generalized assumptions that may or may not be true for everyone. In all truthfulness this is a reasonable reaction and I understand where you’re coming from. Humans extrapolate based on their own data and that is a wonderful thing. However, the point of good science is to remove the personal bias and let the data speak to the truth of the matter. The science we are discussing is not "how do violent video games affect dkella." The discussion here is "how do violent video games affect society." And while there is ample evidence (based on your testimony) that you should definitely not play violent video games, it is still inconclusive as to what the science says about society in general. This is where personal responsibility from both an individual and a parental stand point comes in. We need to asses ourselves with prudence. We need to asses our children with prudence. We do not, however, need to asses society as a whole based upon our personal experiences. Let’s let the science, as a whole, speak for itself.
P.S. And before you ask, yes I have myself played my fair share of video games and have not perceived any dramatic change in myself (I am a fairly calm and friendly person). However, and this is most important, I did not perform a double blind study on myself so I have no grounds to speak to the generalized experience of others.
@dkella Sounds like a straw man argument that you made here. So you witnessed your adrenaline spike when you played video games you deemed violent? This article is about violent video games inciting violence not excitement. I personally like video games to get me excited it shows a fuller immersion into the fantasy.
"and don't try try and contradict me,i am far more aware then most people of myself)" You are just asking for it with this one. Plus umm yeeah i would hope so??
"The younger a person is who is allowed to play violent games, the more it becomes normal to them. Expose them to a stressful situation when they are older, and involve alchohol, or any other behaviour modifying substance, and a certain percentage of the population that would have used fists, will turn to guns if they are available." Proof or it doesn't happen. Plus these games have ratings. It is in the same way that letting your minor child watch NC-17 movies or violent rated 'R' movies is bad for them. They are too immature to handle it. Argument invalid.
"With your head in the variables, and controls, and theoreticals, you would have absolutely no idea of the reality, even if it was staring you in the face. Violent video games are partly responsible for the rise in violence in society. But not among people with strong morals. Only an idiot would emulate (no not run it on a different OS) or play modern warfare." Proof to it doesn't happen.
Overall an inflammatory post. Not sure if a troll or just stupid.
I'm 29, and I've been playing video games since I got my first NES at age 5. Violent video games really came to fruition around 1994 or 1995 and on. There are a few earlier exceptions, like wolfenstein or doom, but they're so far from realistic that I'd write them off.
Needless to say, I am an avid gamer, and I have been playing realistic, violent video games for somewhere in the neighborhood of 14 years. I'll cede that we all may react differently to violent media, but I can say with confidence that I've never connected video games to reality. I have used them to relax, to pass time, or as a hobby my whole life. Any adrenaline rush I get from video games is usually from competitive multiplayer games, and they don't have to be violent. The adrenaline is from the excitement.
If you're making a connection between fiction and reality to the point that you (or your physiology) mistake(s) a realistic, animated figure on a screen with a real human being, and you mistake high resolution, fake blood for the real deal, then you may have psychological issues that need to be addressed. I've never been a violent person, and I'm not any more inclined to violence now than I was as a child. I can only speak for myself.
Video games have been some what of a leading factor in violence but that doesn't necessarily mean its the main cause. Before I continue, Yes I am a gamer myself, but I have not experience any violent behavior within myself and neither have those around me. In my own opinion, I believe that people who take things too seriously and those who believe in anything are the ones who eventually go on a rampage and start thinking they are Niko Bellic from GTA 4. Like chezmanq said to dkella, this is only my experience but we need to also realize what everyone else is think when they are playing a first person shooter like call of duty or a third person shooter like Grand Theft Auto. Further studies in personal traits of behavior should be in effect so we can tell who should or should not be playing violent video games.
someone needs to lock the comments on this one....I can smell a gun fight coming on ;0)
From the first posters ideas it might just as easily be said that someone playing violent video games who gets adrenalin spikes, but takes no real violent action against a real person is actually practicing being able to control adrenalin spikes and violent activity. People who play violent video games may actually have more executive control and choice then those who get a random adrenalin spike due to a violent situation and haven't experienced it except in situations where they actually take violence against another person.
People may not be aware of the changes in themselves. You need to be observant to actually understand it. I have no bias towards or away from video games, regardless of the amount of violence.
Raalic is right, we can only speak for ourselves, but all humans share tendencies.
imatard bot is right, multiplayer gunfights are a great way of settling disputes. i suppose my reflexes would be a bit rusty.
invictus, no clear response other the the trool/stupid.
all people get hardwired adrenaline responses from first person shooters. guess who also gets hardwired addictive responses? addicts. whether its cigarettes or heroin, its a reward response.
I have played every system and pretty much every game on every console, and have observed children develop violent tendencies in a few hours. children are not adults, and emulate behaviour without understanding. Children are not idiots, and are being shaped by what they learn.
Besides the adrenaline response is actually from a clinical child psychologist, (with many years in the field , dealing with the worst of the violent youth, and kids as young as 11 who have tried to kill people) not from me. (and no it was not psychotherapy relating to me) Its a real condition, and you should all understand garbage in garbage out. Just curious, what is the legal age for the most addictive substance known to man (tobacco) in your state?
Could i possibly expect a rational discussion about heroin addiction from a heroin addict? No. Video game addicts are no different.
Just take the numbers into account and one could argue that violent video games have actually decreased violence (possibly by giving those prone to violence a different outlet, just speculation there).
According to BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics) figures, the rate of violent crime victimization in the United States declined by more than two thirds between the years 1994 and 2009.
Wolfenstein 3D (created by id Software and released in 1992) was an instant success and has been credited with inventing the first-person shooter genre proper.
And then there's these statistics:
In 2009 there were 16.9 victimizations per 1000 persons aged 12 and over.(BJS)
Zooming in on yesterday's NPD data for November, it turns out Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 sold 7.5 million copies in the United States. The retail tracking service also told Gamespot that second-place entry Halo 4 sold 3.2 million units, while runner-up Assassin's Creed 3 moved 2.9 million copies.
NPD's data tracked Black Ops 2 sales from launch on November 13 until November 24. The game would go on, according to Activision, to reach sales of $1 billion four days later.
So, since the US has a population of around 310 million, and 1 single violent video game sold more than 7.5 million copies in the US alone in less than a month, that means that more than 2.4% of the population should have violent tendencies if there really is a correlation between video game violence and real violence, and yet in 2009 less than 1.69% of our population were even victims of violent crimes (obviously the actual number of violent offenders must be equal to or less than the number of victims).
Chew on those numbers for awhile and get back to me with a rebuttal.
@dkella Again your argument about young kids playing violent video games makes them.... (insert whatever your non-fact based conclusion might be) is irrelevant. As with driving, sex, drinking, and voting there are age based guidelines and/or requirements because of a simple already known fact: kids are not mature enough to handle adult activities. Violent video games such as FPS games are not designed for kids just as driving, sex, drinking, and voting are not designed for kids. Parents that allow their kids to partake in these types of games are damaging the kids.
I don't know how to make it simpler for you to understand.
People like dkella scare me.
Them and religious people.
It really just comes down to education and the ability to 1)Control oneself and realize that 2) There is a huge difference between reality and fiction. If you can't tell the difference between killing people in real life and killing pixels in a video game then maybe you should get a little help.
In all of these debates we are only looking at the most superficial issues. The key issues here are healthcare and education. I would like to see a graph showing literacy rates/education/graduation rates/numbers of students compared to violence in the past 100 years or further back if records exist. I'm sure that in human history violence has decreased due to an increase in our average intelligence.
Additionally, we need to solve issues with healthcare for those who cannot help themselves for whatever reason. You know why these problems didn't exist before? Because they used to lock up people who they thought were insane or mentally unstable. Now we just give them pills and hope they keep taking them. It's a generalization but if we focused on those two issues we could really solve a lot of problems in this world.
First, I think banning games is wrong. Regardless of any findings, adults have the right to entertain themselves the way they please. And the baby boomers need to understand that by far, most gamers are adults.
I do think that violent video games can have a profound effect on some children at certain ages. I think this warrants a study on the effect of violent games on children. I support a rating system on games to help parents determine the content of a game. However the decision of what games a child is or is not exposed to is the sole responsibility of the parent.
IMO, most children can be exposed to violent games at young ages and not be effected. However there are those with a genetic predisposition, a traumatic childhood experience, or abusive parents, that makes them vulnerable. More research will allow us to identify at risk children and parents to take appropriate action.
1 You can't predict that little Johnny, who plays video games, wouldn't have gone out and killed birds with his slingshot 100 years ago.
2 If you are comparing violence between 1980 kids and 2010 kids, you must also consider the great strides in feminizing our american males during this period as well.
3 I still get changes in my "endocrine system" every time I see apes throwing barrels.
"Can't you take it for what it is, its fake people! Kids aren't that stupid. Oh they're stupid, but they're not THAT stupid. Just because you see killing in a video game doesn't mean you're actually going to do it in real life... Crazy mass murderers have been around since before pong actually, or space war. Where'd they get their training? The Andy Griffith Show?"
---(Someone else who got it before all this)
I think we need to take a look at the elephant in the room here. Maybe it’s the crazies that use the guns. My little brother plays all the shooting games that have 'graced' us in the past few years. Does he feel the need to go out and murder any elementary students? No. It’s because he's sane.
I reject your reality, and substitute my own.
i should scare you killer t, i have logic, reason, and people far wiser then me that i listen to. I spent my time off trying to change minds. i really only look to change one mind, because thats all i need to affect to cause change.
racer79 has RATIONAL point. there should be a correlation between the number of people playing the video games and violence. but there needs to be an adjustment factor, something to determine what percentage of the population is screwball bats##t crazy or is going to go that way.
the vast majority of people are completely sane, moral and will stay that way no matter what they are exposed to.
I would never advocate banning video games, but age restrictions are appropriate, for titles with questionable content. Doctors who play video games have substantially higher success rates in surgery, video games teach logic, reasoning and reflexes. First person shooters dont really teach anything and are mindless fun, but some people are too dumb to know the difference.
If you can't understand that playing a violent video game changes the way you feel and look at reality, you do not understand yourself, or reality. What we consistently tune into become part of our internal reality, and changes our perception and our bias. (we all have bias) People who only view positive media are vastly different the people who listen to scream-0 , heavy metal (which btw screamo and heavy metal listeners have the highest suicide rate of any music genre) and watch horror constantly. GIGO. (garbage in garbage out)
I like you any way you are, but i would prefer you, and your community to be breathing, and not on life support. Thats my point.
dkella Try replacing the word videogame with a popular sport, and your argument still works. Or any upbeat music. Those cause adrenalin spikes too you know.
TV News, Politics and articles similar to this PoPSCi inspire me to go out and do violence.
They should stop informing so much of violence or else something bad might happen.
Oh, I know what I will do to release my stress and violence tendency in a harmless fashion. I will go to my home computer and turn on a bang bang video game and imagine that things that disturb me to be in the game and release my angry in a harmless way, GREAT!
Ah, video game over and much of my stress is gone. I will leave the game and resume the real world. Oh yes, and stop watching the TV News, politics and PoPSCI articles so much as well.
I am surprise no one ever considers a violent video game as a harmless way to release stress and violence. Why isn't that point of view ever considered? ;)
do those people kill themselves because of the music, or do the listen to the music because they allready want to kill themselves? is it a relationship or a causailty?
Being an a gamer myself I can recognize that people have different reactions to video games. Now lets talk about the adrenaline itself. Like any mind-altering chemical is affecting the brain the more it is released the more tolerant you are but also the more you want it. The increased tolerance requires you to need more adrenaline for anything, including real life. Now when you play games for too long your begins to excrete cortisol. Cortisol itself like adrenaline has its good purposes but in for a elongated duration of time it begins to act negatively upon your body. Look it up.
I would also like to address the psychological issue. Now it is hard to believe that when on sees violence and acts upon, albeit virtually, that this would not act upon their minds. Now the reason why you don't see kids picking up guns and committing mass murders, is because they do not have assault weapons laying around. Let's talk about hand to hand combat video games, ie super smash bros. Children have emulated this game, even acting specific moves against their friends if they got mad enough from the game itself. Sports do cause heightened aggression, look pro football retirees ther have been studies.
The possible cause for why many gamers may be more relaxed than actually becoming more violent because of the heightened tolerance to stress-induced hormones, again not a good thing.
One doesn't need a degree to know poop stinks.
The issue of violence in society can easily be studied in almost any violent area. Look at Detroit or South Africa or Russia or (list goes on.)
If your only surroundings are violence and lack of moral fiber then what would you expect?
Children and Adults are affected by seeing or being near violence.
But does pretend violence have the same effect as witnessing real violence?
I have never heard of anyone getting PTSD from a video game.
I blame Disney. My 3 year old nephew started hitting people with swords and shooting them with guns saying "I'll kill you!" after falling in love with the movie "Peter Pan".
Kids grow up with violence in media more and more, regardless of how careful you are raising them. (His parents don't have TV)
Video games demonstrate the EASE of killing people with a gun. Whether someone does it or not depends on the availability of guns and their reasoning or lack of reasoning.
I don't really blame Disney. I blame the sick people of the world who think violence and war and murder and weapons solve problems.
These VIDEO games are no different than PHYSICAL games played for eons. "Cowboys and Indians" and "Army" etc. that I and many others played in their youth are not significantly different. What about Paint Ball? or water guns? These games are only the next evolution of games we have played forever.
Look I don't care how in touch you are with yourself. I have been playing video games since I was a kid ( about 5 years old). I'm basically the poster child of this article. I have never felt the need to pick up a gun and shoot people. Or any other violent act for that matter. I play video games to be entertained and challenged, same reason somebody would play a sport.
@ dkella How exactly did you measure the changes in your brain chemistry? By a scientific method? Or speculation?
How about the data that show that our I.Q's have gone up on average since the introduction of video games? How about the millions of adults that have never enacted a violent act on anybody but play video games? If it was something that everybody was susceptible to why havent the millions of people playing the new Call of duty gone out there shooting people?
I argue the issue isn't video games or movies etc.. It's parents and a shoddy mental health system. Parents today let their kids get away with anything. If you don't like violent video games don't let your kids play them. Do your job raising your kids and let me enjoy my favorite passtime without villefying it.
Go back and do some research into the last couple violent shootings. Look to see how many of them looked for help because they new they were sick. Almost all of them but there was no help to be found.
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I am a avid gamer and when I play games like this it seams to be kids not the people it is aged for. Rated M games are for people 17+ and kids age 10 are not mature enuf to play these games. The kids can't buy the game a PARENT must buy for them so it not the kids fault for idolizing the people In the game. Also games are just fiction and these kids don't get that they think it is what real life is and you can't blame the game because they should not be playing it yet because of maturity and they do not have the same maturity as a 17 year old person.
dkella's story on the subject is totally on-spot. What he says is exactly true.
The weaker a persons morals are , the more likely it is that a hardwired adrenaline response built since childhood (much like any addiction hardwires in connections for the reward response) will translate into violence later.
And it's pretty obvious.
It's not the violence in video games that invokes an adrenaline response, but rather the competition. The desire to win or not die/lose in games is the primary cause. I know this from my own experience of gaming. You can get an adrenaline response from a non-violent game that is just as strong as from a violent one. The feeling is stronger where the stakes feel higher to you, i.e. a competitive online multiplayer game invokes a stronger adrenaline reaction than just playing against an artificial inteligence because the emotional value of winning or losing is greater when your competitors are real people. The reaction is even stronger when greater reputations are at stake, like in a clan match, or in a ranked online game in comparison to an unranked one. It's the potential pride of winning and shame of losing that invokes these strong adrenaline responses so they are not just the preserve of video games either. Sporting competitions do the same thing. Video games do allow us to be engaged in such competition for much more of our time though, even in comparison to professional sportsmen.
So if you think such adrenaline responses are a driver of real violence then you would need to be much more of a killjoy to combat them than you are being now.