Does Violence in Games Perpetuate Violence in real life?
In most research situations, an ideal experiment is not needed. Normally, many studies on a similar topic will conclude similar results, and a researcher can use those results as a point of comparison to judge other studies by. If writing a paper with a thesis that agrees with the results, it is simple for a researcher to support their thesis by citing these studies. If the opposite, a researcher still has a concentrated group of conclusions to try to find a fault with, and finding studies that don’t come to these results is still a fairly simple matter.
Analyzing the effects of violence in video games does not follow the pattern shown above. It is a controversial subject, and for every study finding a link between violence in games and some negative effect is another claiming that no link exists. Even studies that agree on a general effect differ in concluding on the severity and length of this effect. In a case such as this, an idealized experiment is sorely needed, as it would allow a researcher a sort of template to compare any studies to, consequentially allowing them to separate the strong studies from the weaker ones. This idealized study cannot be found by comparing studies with similar results, for all that would lead to bias by the researcher; instead, only the methodology and the ways the studies interpret the results should be considered. Since the most common study either confirms or disputes the idea that video game violence causes an increase in aggression in real life, I shall be comparing several studies to determine which have the more stringent methods. From this I should be able to find a few criteria to judge studies on, in the hopes of being able to remove those that are obviously biased or otherwise compromised. Though a “perfect” study is unlikely, establishing even one or two criteria to sort studies will be a great help in finding reliable information.
One vital aspect to consider when evaluating studies is how they measured increased aggression. For example, compare the study in Singapore by Sorick et. al. to the study on German adolescents performed by Moller and Krahe. In the first study, four different measurement scales and questionnaires are used; these scales have been in use for years and are thus believed to be fairly accurate (Skoric). These methods of measurement are lists of questions measuring the test taker’s feelings on a variety of hypothetical problems and situations. Each subject’s answers are compared to both the control group and the accepted normal results. In contrast to the first study, not only did the second study only use two methods of measuring aggression, but one of those methods was taken from another of the author’s studies and had not been tested for reliability by an outside source. Both of these experiments used the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire, but the first study used all 29 questions and the second study only uses 7 questions mixed with another 7 questions from a scale used for measuring a completely different type of aggression (Moller).
The conclusions to be drawn from this comparison are fairly evident. A study should use as many tools for measuring aggression as is reasonably possible, for that lessens the chance for anomalous results. Additionally, these tools must be rigorously tested before being used. If one were to use unproven tools, the data gathered is weak due to the possibility of warping the tools to allow the tester to manipulate the results to match with his or her expectations or the tests being flawed in some way. This applies equally to both studies seeking to prove or disprove any negative effects in violent video games.
Another vital variable to consider when judging the worth of studies is the timeframe involved. Studies on aggression in video games can generally be sorted into two categories: those that take place in one session, lasting anywhere from a few hours to a day, and those that test over a longer time period. It would be normal to assume that studies with a longer timeframe, such as 3 weeks in the case of the aforementioned Singapore study or an additional 30 month check as in the case of the German one, would produce conclusions more applicable to average video game use. Even if a short term study conclusively found that playing a video game increases aggression immediately after, that conclusion would be easy to ignore if the effect fades by the time the video game player has had a chance to interact with anyone else or move on to a different activity. [Leaving this spot open for a line with the idea of “Additionally, since aggression tests have been able to attribute an increase in aggression to a variety of activities, showing that one more follows this trend is not very compelling.” But Academic Search Premier is down for me in the past few days, so I’m having trouble finding the source.] Conversely, a long time study that proved the same result would be much harder to brush aside, because it is now proven that violence in video games has a lasting effect.
However, there is a widely held belief in the theoretical model known as the General Aggression model, which states that “media violence exposure not only leads to an immediate increase in aggression in a particular situation but also contributes to the development of an aggressive personality of the game player over time” (Moller). Following the GAM model would mean that even studies done in only a few hours would as effective as long term studies because any increased aggression found there would carry over into a longer time period. The problem is that GAM is not certain to be effective, with one study — “Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test Of Aggression In An Online Game.” – finding results that directly contradict it. Over a month, the testers found that there was no difference in result between the group who played the same violent game for at least 56 hours and the control group that did not, whereas the GAM method would only be validated if there was an increase in aggression observed over this time (Williams).
Conclusions regarding this variable are more difficult to come to. Though the GAM has some studies that find it does predict behavior, the lack of consensus on this issue leads me to believe that the effects of short term studies should not be extrapolated over longer timeframes. Interpretations of results that subscribe to the GAM theory should also be analyzed closely, because it could skew the author’s views. However, it is not necessary to disregard those results entirely; just the specific sections that predict an increase in aggression over time without their own appropriate data to validate this conclusion. This conclusion only applies to the studies seeking to prove a link between video game violence and increased aggression.
In conclusion, though I have not been able to come to any sort of template indicating an ideal experiment for studying violence in video games, I am able to make some generalizations about which studies are superior. In regards to time, due to the uncertainty of the reliability of GAM and goal of finding the overall effects of video game violence, studies over longer periods of time will be preferred to those that only measure the effects of one gaming session. Studies that gather results using well-known and proven tools will be preferred over studies that use personally created or modified tool. In addition to this, studies that gather data based on multiple scales are preferable to those that only use one scale. Though other significant methodological differences exist, assembling a reference base of studies that meet these criteria is the first step on truly understanding the issue of violence in video games.
1. Skoric, Marko M. et al. “Grand Theft Auto IV Comes To Singapore: Effects Of Repeated Exposure To Violent Video Games On Aggression.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior & Social Networking 14.10 (2011): 597-602. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.
2. Möller, Ingrid, and Barbara Krahé. “Exposure To Violent Video Games And Aggression In German Adolescents: A Longitudinal Analysis.” Aggressive Behavior 35.1 (2009): 75-89. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.
3. Williams, Dmitri, and Marko Skoric. “Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test Of Aggression In An Online Game.” Communication Monographs 72.2 (2005): 217-233. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.