Video Gaming (EL 250)

9 Jan 2006

New Study Linking Video Games and Aggression

I think this class is a good forum to raise this issue. I enjoy kicking ass in video games, too, but it's important not to dismiss a scientific report simply because its conclusion is troubling.

BBC NEWS | Health | Violent games 'affect behaviour'

When shown images of real-life violence, people who played violent video games were found to have a diminished response.

However, when the same group were shown other disturbing images such as dead animals or ill children they had a much more natural response.

When the game players were given the opportunity to punish a pretend opponent those with the greatest reduction in P300 meted out the severest punishments.

Psychologist Bruce Bartholow, the lead researcher of the study which will be published in full in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology later this year, said: "As far as I'm aware, this is the first study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behaviour.

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In just reading the first few paragraphs, it sounded more like desensitization and not aggression. There is a huge difference. Desensitization only affects your reaction to a behaviour (hee hee hee, I'm Bi'ish!) and not your outward expression of a behavior. The most convincing and most famous study on violence in the media was by Bandura, but even his studies are debated.

I was confirmed of this by the statement: "All we are really getting is desensitisation to images. There's no way to show that this relates to real-life aggression."

David Buckingham raises some interesting issues:

"And Professor David Buckingham, an expert on the media and children at the Institute of Education, added there was still no consensus on whether violent games caused aggressive behaviour or were just played by violent people."

It is possible that some people who were violent to begin with simply gravitated to the violent games, while other non-violent gamers went for other reasons.

"The debate we are seeing is very similar to the one that has raged for years about TV. The truth is there are many factors that can lead to violence, such as being withdrawn and isolated, so it is hard to say it is because of one thing."

Love this statement! People's natural reaction is to blame the media. (Like in the Columbine shootings). However, there are more factors involved and the media are only a small part of it. There is simply more research in the literature of psychology linking isolation, self-esteem, even (God forbid) bad parenting to agressive behavior.

I vaguely remember (ironically) Marilyn Manson having some insight into this. In an interview, he said that we can throw a stone in the air at random and it would hit the person responsible for this.

-going to rant for a couple paragraphs-

The fact is that we as a society don't want to take the blame for this, so we project it onto the next easy target. If you ask me who's responsible for the shooting, I say it's everyone:

It's those vicious, petty, condescending brats that compose our high schools, it's the parents who didn't teach their children how to deal with life's problems and anger, it's the administrators and teachers who should be sensitive to every child's need, not just the one's they like.

-sorry, rant over-

"In the absence of any proof, I think we have to be agnostic about it. However, I think there is an argument about the morality of some games."

This is the issue that matters. It is not a question of whether video games cause displays of violence, it is a more a philosophical question of whether it is socially appropriate to play violent video games in the first place.

Posted by: Evan at January 9, 2006 07:36 PM

Hard to blame society for this, I think it rests on moderation. If a child stares at a TV for hours a day then maybe it is the TV that led to this behavior, but the difference in my arguement is that it is not TV's fault. As individuals in any era without moderation of sources, we wil be very stunted and learned from one source. And so if TV is a source for violence and sex and parents constantly plop their children infront of TV; then the parents easily should understand why the two hours they spend with their children each day is not enough. Bah, Evan you have sent me on a rant. It's contagious.

Posted by: Stephan Puff at January 9, 2006 08:13 PM

I agree with you, Stephen, parents should monitor what their children consume. However, I was looking at it mostly from a psychological perspective. Like the book It Ain't Necessarily So suggests, this article was vastly misleading.

I guess the only difference between Brit. and American journalism is the Brit's save the truth for the end and the Americans don't tell it in the first place ;c)

The title is "making a journalistic mountain out of a scientific molehill." The study did not demonstrate that children become violent from video games. It only showed that they were desensitized to violence.

I'm not saying that's a good thing. I'm just saying that we're blaming the media for the wrong thing. We so easily displace our problems rather than deal with them.

Look at it philosophically. I sometimes read "conservative" newspapers. Does that make me conservative? Dr. Jerz likes to "kick ass in video games." Does he abuse his students? For some, video games can be a catharsis, thereby decreasing outward aggression.

But the point I want to get at most of all is that there is also a certain level of personal responsibility for this.

-back to the psychology-

I think the more pressing issue is not that the children are watching TV instead of being with their parents (believe me, there are a lot worse things that a child can get into), but the fact that they aren't with their parents in the first place.

That is what causes aggression. Not watching TV, but lack of social skills and experience in dealing with other people. Parents need to be active with their children.

Isolation and alienation also causes aggression. Why did the Columbine kids lash out? Not because the TV told them to, but because they were alienated, were not taught how to effectively deal with their anger, and had access to guns.

That spells disaster. The parents and school administrators should have been more active. The parents should freakin' lock their guns or better yet not have guns in the first place (NRA would have a shitfit). But what it mostly boils down to is that the kids should be able to speak openly about how they feel to someone (that is, a counselor or friend) without having to feel inferior.

Kids can be cruel. Why couldn't anyone in that school be a friend to them? Oh, it will drop my popularity points. Puh-lease! It will save your life (and many others) in the end. This is why I feel society is to blame. We create an environment of insecurity and judgment.

1. If society would evolve to not stigmatize people who seek mental therapy, but rather encourage it, those kids could have gotten help.
2. If we would not be so image-conscious, but rather be friendly to everyone and maybe even make friends with people without having to worry about popularity, etc. they wouldn't need therapy in the first place.

Wishful thinking, I know. But in a culture that values strength over sensitivity, it's no wonder angry people lash out instead of talk.

Posted by: Evan at January 10, 2006 12:23 AM

In my opinion eventually we are in fact going to become desensitided to everything. Each night on the news we see killing, that doesn't mean that we are now going to go out and kill people because we suddenly think it is ok, noer does it mean that it is ok and we don't care because we see it all the time. Video games are just one thing on the list (amongst Tv, Books, and Comics) that people have chosen to critisize for their content. Don't blame games for the cause of aggression in teens or people that play the games, blame reality. I felt at the end of this article, the message was clear, blame the parents.

Posted by: Leslie Rodriguez at January 11, 2006 04:23 PM

I posted my comment on however I overlooked this page.

I support Leslie's view. Desensitization is going to happen. Everyone is being desensitized from the day that they are born. If the issue is violence and adolescents, shouldn't the parents be responsible for what their children see.

The other day I was driving down the road and saw a billboard that said "The bus driver knows who your kid has a crush on, do you?" When I saw this it made me sad because is this what our world is coming to? Are we too busy in our lives to stop and talk to our kids? Why? What is soo important that we cannot listen to our children? What happened to family dinners where everyone sat down and had a family meal where they discussed what was going on in their lives? I know that I never had that growing up as a child. So when everyone is pointing fingers at who is responsible for a kid shooting up a school, the finger should be first pointed at the parent. Now don't get me wrong, some parents are not bad but children get their morals, values, and first real bit of education at home and if it doesn't start there the child will be lost in the crowd and may do something to get a little bit of attention.

--okay, thank you for listening (reading rather) to my rant--

Posted by: Kayla Lukacs at January 13, 2006 01:18 AM

I think that the media and games and tv r not the ones to blame if we go and cut oof someones hand or kill them it is up to us altho if u r mentle callengd it is a diferent case but we still decide if what we will do if this it is our own faults.

Posted by: Morgan green (age13) at February 6, 2006 02:07 PM
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