Looking for Connections Between Real Life Violent Events and Video Games
With all the recent tragedies in the news, people are looking for answers on why this is happening. Many people have their own theories, but a popular one perpetuated is that violent video games are causing real life violence. Even the president of the United States has run with this theory. He claims that the easy access and normalization of gory video games is too blame and must be stopped. Just because both people who committed these atrocities were avid gamers, it has been labeled by some as one of the primary motivations and even the cause for these shootings. The thinking is that violent video games cause dissociation from real life violence and more aggressive and antisocial behavior. This paper will analyze the claim that violent video games cause aggressive behavior in children. A summary of Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behavior and The effect of violent video game play on emotional modulation of startle will be provided. An analysis of this source will support the view that video games do not cause aggressive behavior in children and young adults.
After the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, many politicians searched for answers in order to stop the epidemic of mass shootings in our society. President Trump went on record saying that the cause of this violence is from adolescents’ access to violent video games and glorification of killing. But a study published by the University of Oxford states otherwise.
The study is a self-reported survey, in which a large variety of adolescents where participants were given a questionnaire to measure youth aggression and prosocial behavior. The survey used is widely implemented by educators, clinicians and researchers for ages 4-17. 1004 total participants were recruited (ages 14 and 15). Participants were first asked to answer questions regarding their behavior in school and in the community looking for patterns of aggressive behavior. There were five questions with three responses each (not true, somewhat true, certainly true). Scores ranged from 5 to 15, with 5 being least aggressive, to 15 being most. The average score for the study was 6.93 with a standard deviation of 2.20 points. The participants were then asked if they play games, three games they frequented the most in the past 3 months, what console/system they played on, if the game was multiplayer and how much they played a day. Each game was given a score depending on how violent it is using the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) and Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems, boards which rate games based on its maturity. The survey found that on average, participants played 2.07 hours of video games a day with a standard deviation of 2.30 hours. Participants were then given a shortened for of the Buss-Perry aggression scale. Each question is rated on a five point school from ‘very unlike me’ to ‘very like me’. There were four aspects of aggression tested: Physical (M = 2.20, s.d. = 1.14), verbal (M = 2.55, s.d. = 1.10) anger (M = 2.41, s.d. = 1.11,) and hostility (M = 2.60, s.d. = 1.08). The study found that there was neither linear nor parabolic correlation between trait-level aggression and violent video game play.
The fact that study shows no evidence of video games causing aggressive behavior in youth shows that that is not the cause of the recent tragedies in America. But the study does have some flaws that need to be addressed. Firstly, the survey being self-reported may cause the participants to report lower levels of aggression if they know that the survey is measuring the effects of video game violence on participant violence. Secondly, such a large majority of the population plays video games; it would be hard to determine whether the cause of aggressiveness was video-games and not external factors. Lastly, the survey needs a control of those who don’t play video games at all, instead of just how much they play violent videos and what type of violent video games they play. The control would allow researchers to determine if gamers, as a whole, are more aggressive than their non-gaming counterparts. Regardless of this, the researchers hypothesized that there was a correlation between violent video games and aggressive behavior, but found no such results, indicating in my opinion no researcher bias.
But do violent video games cause desensitization to real life violence? The answer is only in the short term. In a study from the University of Missouri, researchers set up an experiment where participants looked at negative images before and after playing a violent video game. The more negative of a reaction from the participant, the more their eye would blink. The research found that in the short term, the participants had a less negative reaction to disturbing images after playing a violent video game compared to those who did not. But the researcher does acknowledge that further research does need to be done on the matter. The study did however find that it doesn’t cause priming for violence after playing violent video games. But even if someone was desensitized to video game violence, there is no proof that they would desensitized to real life violence.
Although violent video games seem like an easy scapegoat, they do not in fact cause real life violence. There was no correlation between in-game violence and real life violence much to the chagrin of politicians. Video games are ways for people to have fun and enjoyment. Although people might think it causes people to commit violent acts, in actuality it’s a hobby enjoyed by millions of people around the world. The debates may continue amongst politicians and parents, but video games are and always will be works of art, with loads of enjoyment.
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