Such a tedious little web we weave. First games cause violence… then they prove to be good for you… then they’re bad for you… then they cause aggression… then they cause aggression but in a good way… then they say FPS’s are good for you… and now this. The link between violence in video games and ill effects in the head is as unstable and changing as a bipolar agnostic at a christian scientist’s convention. Still, as a journalist, gamer, and casual fan of science, I feel it is my duty to report on this latest development on the mental health of video game enthusiasts everywhere.
The Ohio State University (Not the University of Ohio, as I’ve been told) has recently finished a study that examined the effect of violent video games on the brain, compared to their non-violent counterpart. The study suggests that people who play violent video games for three days consecutively showed “increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations” for each day they played.
“It’s important to know the long-term causal effects of violent videogames, because so many young people regularly play these games,” Professor Brad Bushman, who lead the experiment, said. “Playing videogames could be compared to smoking cigarettes. A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent videogames may have a cumulative effect on aggression.”
70 French university students were used in this study, under the guise of a video game brightness test. Half were asked to play a violent video game, like Call of Duty, while the other half were asked to play non-violent ones, like Superbike or Pure, for at least twenty minutes a day, every day. Following each session, they were given the beginning of a story (you know, the kinds given to all the people who test game brightness) and asked to list 20 things the lead in the story would say or do in it. The students who had just finished playing the violent game were more likely to predict the lead would be more aggressive and violent (a belief that grew stronger every day of the study) while the one’s who played peaceful games showed no signs of extra hostility.
“Hostile expectations are probably not the only reason that players of violent games are more aggressive, but our study suggests it is certainly one important factor,” Bushman explained. “After playing a violent videogame, we found that people expect others to behave aggressively. That expectation may make them more defensive and more likely to respond with aggression themselves, as we saw in this study and in other studies we have conducted.”
The study didn’t study the long term effects, as it wouldn’t be t “practical or ethical” to see how much aggression would build up, but Bushman did predict that eventually the aggression would level off, after prolonged exposure… but… “There is no theoretical reason to think that aggression would decrease over time, as long as players are still playing the violent games.”
So yeah, there’s that. This isn’t the first time I’ve reported on violence in games and the studies conducted on them, and it won’t be the last. Frankly at this point I think the only way to solve this is to take both sides and make them participate in one big volleyball tournament. Or maybe dodgeball, just for irony’s sake.