Only recently another study was released linking violent behavior to violent video games, this time from Harris Interactive. Given how often these studies appear, is it time to accept that this link exists?
If we take at look at the study it shows that 58% of adults believe there is a direct link between playing violent video games and violent behaviour. However, 71% of the adults asked were either unaware of ESRB ratings or let their teenager/child play any video game regardless of ratings and only just over 2,000 individuals participated in the all American study.
At face value these results are inconclusive, yet we will no doubt see the media jump all over these findings and hammer home the idea, misleadingly, to the non-gaming population and worried parents. In no time at all we can probably expect a horrific gun crime to be blamed on violent video games; we’ve seen it happened in the past.[drop]Usually I would always defend the gaming world and suggest that if we are to find the real link to violent behaviour we need to look deeper into social aspects, such as parenting and mental health issues.
However, I find my opinion edging ever closer to believing that this link between games and violent behaviour exists and is, personally, worrying.
In my own experience I find gaming to be the most anger inducing activity I undertake.
Forget competitive sports, it’s online gaming, and sometimes single player campaigns, that see my blood pressure rocket and my patience wear thin. It has even reached the point that I keep a stress ball handy when I game. I’m sure other gamers can relate to this.
Whilst this doesn’t lead me to exhibit truly violent behaviour, what I have noticed is a small rising anger problem. At the moment it’s nothing major, but it’s surely unhealthy.
Of course one could suggest other reasons for this change in mind set, ones that have nothing to do with gaming. Although I’m a stranger to the stresses of the real working world, mounting university work is certainly applying pressure. Another cause may be my football refereeing, an activity where I regularly receive verbal abuse.
Both of these could easily be triggers for my anger, yet deep down I know gaming plays a role. Gaming’s an integral part of my life, so it has a significant effect on my day to day actions.
From an early age I have been allowed to play games, and watch films for that matter, rated well above my age. For example, Grand Theft Auto is one of my earliest gaming memories. Although my play time’s been limited and I was supervised occasionally whilst playing these high rated games, the fact still remains that I’ve played violent video games from a young age – wrongly some may say.
However, despite consuming entertainment rated for those older than me for years, I’ve seen no detrimental effects from those particular games and movies, and my rising anger has only emerged recently. This leads to me believe that any source of violent behaviour arising from video games, including my own recently developing anger issues, is the result of modern day gaming. By this I mean online multiplayer.
Now don’t get me wrong I think the feature is great; playing with friends online is a must these days. It also promotes healthy competition most of the time. But sometimes this competitive nature crosses the line, and you can find gamers taking the game in question too seriously (this Call Of Duty Championship is a prime example). It’s not even limited to violent games, online gaming for racing and sports games yield the same problems.
I think it’s time for these studies to disregard the actual violence in video games and focus on this extreme competitive nature shown in modern gaming.
So do I believe there is a direct link between violence in games and violent behaviour? No, but what I do believe is that online multiplayer is a direct source of violent behaviour, not the violent actions undertaken in a game. It is only natural for us to defend one of our favourite past times, particularly when attacks on gaming can be seen as unjust and unfounded.
However, I think that problems arising from online gaming need to be further explored before we truly understand if they’re having an effect on those playing them.