When one man eyeballs another, whether they are 5 or 50 and it results in a combative invite to the car park after school, sooner or later you are going to run into someone who is better than you are. The course of events will guarantee that someday you are going to have the crap beaten out of you. When you do, for ever after you will never have a problem distinguishing real violence from simulated violence. If you have ever observed in the average Saturday night Australian pub an act of unfair violence, what we call a “King Hit” from a coward from behind or someone putting the “boot in” when someone else is down on the ground, you have no problem thereafter of distinguishing real violence from simulated violence. If you have ever seen mistaken violence caused by an unthinking act of senseless stupidity or learnt to your cost that before you are 25 years of age you were going to lose three of your friends to a drunken high speed car accident. Particularly if you have had the misfortune of seeing one of these instantaneous mishaps in the real world, distinguishing that from a car crash in a game is most definitely discernible. So does a kid playing nonstop, a first person shooter, a PvP (Player versus Player) game in a fantasy world, eventually become more violent and less caring in the real world? I for one, suspect he doesn’t. Why? Well I for one, was surprised to discover that after 10 years training from a disciplined and dedicated Kung Fu master I became less violent rather than more. No matter what level of graphic card realism we can achieve in computer games I suspect the real smell of blood and fear will forever remain unmistakable.
The obese young man found dead of a heart attack over the keyboard of his gaming computer was so huge the wall had to be removed and a crane used to lift out his body for burial. His small single bedroom unit was stacked with empty home delivered pizza boxes and none of his neighbours had ever seen him. I venture to suggest this guy probably had an obsessive problem with gaming. Had he been the average active young gamer with a multitude of extracurricular pursuits, good social skills and reasonable behaviour no one would have had any reason for concern. This young man’s addictive gaming behaviour was most likely linked to distress originating from a combination of family problems, psychiatric conditions and social issues. Such underlying problems could have made him vulnerable to the negative effects of virtual violence in video games. Young men like this, sharing a similar fate place the media focus on the exception rather than the rule and are a result of lazy journalism during a slow day in a never ending sensationalist news cycle.
A number of studies recently have suggested that violent gaming does not increase violent behaviour. In one study after a 20-minute gaming session, a researcher pretended to drop some pens in front of players and noted how many helped pick them up. The experiment showed that regardless of whether the game played was violent or not, only about 40-60 per cent of participants helped pick up the pens. There was no correlation between violent game play and unhelpful behaviour.
“We fail to substantiate conjecture that playing contemporary violent video games will lead to diminished pro-social behaviour,” – Morgan Tear.
I know what you are thinking; I thought the same, not exactly scientific rigor was it? Forget the pens if the researcher had bothered to observe a group of players of World of Warcraft on a raid against a really tough “Boss” they would have reached the same conclusion. It is all about high speed observation, help and cooperation at the limit of your reaction time in a team effort to achieve that “epic win.” In fact WOW players will tell you the best “Raid” leaders are often the girls. They are measured, patient and non-judgmental even when the same dickhead makes the same mistake that gets everybody killed over and over again.
Just as many other studies contend otherwise. One concluded that although gaming boosts visual attention it may reduce the ability to inhibit impulsive behaviour. This is called “proactive executive control” and they believe its lack increases aggressive behaviour. Consider this however. I’m not fast, I’m old therefore playing a first person shooter is a real challenge for me. I die a lot. In “Battlefield 1942” I couldn’t even outrun the NPC (Non Playing Character) soldiers to get control of a tank or helicopter. When playing with my young nephew he just gunned them down to get control of the tank. I was shocked. “You just gunned down our own men” I said. He looked at me as though I was a total idiot and replied, “They are NPC’s it doesn’t matter.” I never thought of that. I do now. I have no trouble getting control of a tank or helicopter. Did my nephew turn into an aggressive young man? He did not. He is full of love and has a zest for life that fills every room he walks into.
Some researchers link attention problems and aggression to total screen time and violent games. “An individual overrides aggressive impulses with good executive control capability. Violent video gaming with high levels of total screen time reduce proactive cognitive control that can lead to aggression and attention issues.”
I read this and then think Wait a minute! This researcher has obviously never been a junior coach of a contact sport. In real life many a strident parent can be observed marching down the sideline screaming violent encouragement to a pre-pubescent child to inflict violence on an opposing child. Still the Australian Council on Children and the Media conference in Sydney concluded screen violence ”represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Exposure to screen violence in adolescence changed the development of young people’s brains, leading to increased aggression, reckless behaviour and decreased empathy.”
However in contrast the chief executive of the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association of Australia, Ron Curry, said there was no ”strong evidence that violent video games can cause long-term effects on aggressive behaviour”.
Gamers counter claim that as gaming has increased, violent crime rates in the US have dropped. One study tracked retail game sales and reported crime found that a 1% increase in sales of violent games was linked with a .03% drop in violent crime.
“The real question is whether video games have a uniquely negative effect on those individuals compared to the many other activities and scenarios that they would routinely encounter in their daily lives. I suspect that video games would be one of many possible things that could affect those particularly vulnerable people but we would need good evidence to conclude that video games are any more harmful than other activities, such as playing basketball or chess.”– Morgan Tear.
It reminds me of the climate change debate. What side of the debate you are on depends on if you are a gamer or non-gamer. A definitive argument won’t be found anytime soon. Find out for yourself. Drop a pen and find out if your friend is an aggressive don’t care person or a caring, touchy feely pen lover. In the meantime ….. File……. Load saved game.
- How Daydreams and Videogames Can Make Us Confident In Real Life (Yes)
- Australian researchers reveal upside to gaming
- Bad mood not linked to violent video games
- Violent Video Games Don’t Make Us Less Caring
- People who play video games are less able to control impulsive aggressive behaviour, reveals a new study.