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Violence and video games

Author: Quentin Allison
04-Feb-2017

Category: Opinion

There has been a lot of debate over the years of whether or not video games lead to violent behavior, with no clear consensus from the experts in the field, we'll continue researching this social debate for some time to come.

Violence and video games
Let's be honest, this debate really shouldn't exist. After all, just because I can jump my way through traffic in Frogger doesn't mean I'm raring to go find the nearest freeway and start hopping my way to the other side. This entire idea of "games are violent so our children are too" is honestly childish. But, lets get on to the studies.

Media narrative doesn't always show the whole picture, often citing one or two studies and cherry picking evidence to drive home a conclusion to a specific audience, so it's no wonder that video games get the same treatment when it comes to violence and society. We try to draw a line of blame when something terrible happens, like the shooting on the island of Utøya on 22 July, 2012. The shooter, Anders Breivik, told the court that he used Call of Duty to train using a "holographic aiming device" and that you "develop target acquisition". Anybody who remembers this event will likely remember the media jumping on the bandwagon that was video games and violence and pushing the narrative that "video games cause violence". Those who remember this likely remember a subsequent rolling of their eyes and a snide, but justified, "these absolute morons".

However, eye rolling aside, a long term US study led by Christopher Ferguson and published in the Journal of Communication finds that there is no link between violent behavior and video games, outright challenging a review made by the APA in 2015 that confirmed a link between violent video games and aggression saying there was a "consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression". Although this review could not find a clear correlation between criminal behavior and delinquency, the APA released a policy statement advising parents to more closely monitor what their children are playing, as if that wasn't already an obvious thing to do: parents doing the parenting.

Whether or not parents are allowed to raise their kids, issues have risen over whether studies like the APA's have taken into account any type of predisposition to violence, and show a correlation at best, which does not indicate causation. An article written by Whitney DeCamp for the Psychology of Popular Media Culture, explores various methods of determining the factors that can predict violence and compares them to violent video games, concludes that "seeing or hearing violence at home, having a sensation seeking personality, experiencing less parental monitoring, and having lower levels of parental attachment are all relatively strong predictors of violent behavior". The article goes on to say that some of these factors range from "only marginally stronger as a predictor to having an effect size over twenty times as strong".

The final nail in the coffin is an economic study published in February, 2016 that looks at the correlation between video game sales and levels of violence. To dispel any suspense you may have, it finds that violent crime tended to actually go down following the release of a new popular title. What a shocker! Admittidely it is surprising; after all, crime lowering, rather than stagnating, is an unexpected result. But I suppose when the criminals are preoccupied, so maybe it's a good thing to have such awesome games coming out.

It comes as no surprise that games don't really cause violence as much as, lets say, physical abuse, and the fact that media will try to downplay the effects of these serious issues, and make it appear as though video games are responsible, is absolutely absurd. Video games do not cause violence, anyone who says otherwise is an idiot and should be treated as such.
 



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