Is there any truth to the claim that violent video games produce violent real life behaviors?
I’m not a gamer so I wanted to understand what level of violence we were talking about. Here's a sampling of some of the games I researched:
1. Soldier of Fortune: A first-person game of fighting terrorists by blowing up, torturing, and brutalizing them (can you say disembowelment?).
2. Postal 2: A first-person game where the player goes “postal” – killing “hostiles” including bystanders with a variety of weapons.
3. Grand Theft Auto III: A third-person story of a car-thieving criminal seeks revenge against his ex-girlfriend. Players can sex with prostitutes before beating and killing them.
Want to see others that make the top 10 most violent lists? Parenting's top ten most violent list is here.
Now that we know what the games are like, let's go to research cited by Craig A. Anderson for the American Psychological Association. He writes:
- “High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery).”
- "Even nonaggressive individuals are consistently affected by brief exposures."
- “Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.”
Not everyone agrees with his synthesis of the research however. Others also point out that no research shows video games cause players to become killers.
As the public struggles to understand the massacre at Sandy Hook, video games were initially blamed as a potential cause. (So was autism.) Apparently the shooter played a strategy video game called Starcraft. It's a weak link at best (like the autism link which has no merit in reality). We must realize that we probably will never understand the mind of a killer and attempting to simplify the killings by blaming video games is nothing close to the answer.
That doesn't mean people won't stop blaming. In fact, a group in Southington, Connecticut is offering to buy back violent video games. (Are they that dangerous?)
Sure, I'm horrified at the levels of violence in the games I mentioned. And, I believe the research that video games make kids more aggressive. But, that's where I stop.
I can't make the leap of faith that says video games cause murder.
What do you think? Comment here.