The Missing Link between Violence in Games and in Real Life is Still Missing
There exists a staggering amount of controversy over violence in recent video games. Despite some evidence to the contrary, it is easily conceivable for one who studies the effects of this violence to conclude that it causes an increase in aggression. While it would be simple to create a rebuttal to this point of view using sources to directly contradict this idea, it would also be nearly pointless to do so – someone determined in their belief could rationalize away the differences, or simply believe that more research will show that they are correct. Instead, Instead, I will proceed upon the hypothesis that video games do cause aggression, and defend against the common following argument that video games are causing definite harm. This also limits me to only the sources that do not directly refute that video games cause aggression. Despite this handicap, it is still evident that many of those studies suffer from a number of faults. There is little consensus on how long the increased aggression last, and if it will build up over time; both of these factors are essential to determining if violence in games will cause any lasting harm. Further, these studies do not control for a key variable that could greatly influence their results. Finally, there is little evidence explaining why this increased aggression from video games is more of a danger than increased aggression from other media and activities.
The first important discrepancy between studies supporting violence in video games is their lack of agreement on the timeframe this aggression lasts. Many studies subscribe to the General Aggression Model (GAM), which states that in video game play that increases aggression in the short term will carry over and increase aggression on a longer timeframe. Some studies that use this interpretation this are the study of video game violence on German adolescents conducted by Muller and Krahe and the “Longer You Play” study by Christopher P. Barlett, though the latter also states that more study is needed to conclusively prove this effect (Muller) (Barlett). Conveniently, Barlett and others followed this line of questioning and published a study titled “How long do the short-term violent video game effects last?” He tests for aggressive thoughts and feelings after playing a violent video game using the standard proven questionnaires, but also employs the hot sauce paradigm at either zero, five, or ten minutes after violent game play has ceased. The hot sauce paradigm is a test of aggressive behavior where a participant is informed that he is responsible for preparing a cup of hot chili sauce for another participant who does not like spicy foods; the level of aggression is measured by the type and amount of sauce given. After 10 minutes the measured levels of aggression spike sharply downward, indicating that the effects of video games only last this amount of time (Harris). While this does not completely disprove the GAM model, it casts doubt on the results of studies which employ it, as well as other studies that cite results from the first set to provide support for their own conclusions.
Another point of contention that weakens these studies is that they do not control for all important variables. One of the most glaring examples of this is shown by Paul Adachi and Teena Willoughby, who conducted a two part study to test the effects of violence in a video game versus the effects of competitiveness, difficult, and pace of action. The first part of the study found that both a violent action game and a nonviolent racing one produced an equal increase in aggression. The second study concluded that between four games, 2 violent and 2 nonviolent, the violent and nonviolent game that were judged to be more competitive showed a much greater increase in aggression than the two less competitive ones (Adachi). Though it may only be one variable, this is of paramount importance. If it is not violence in video games but rather competition that causes adverse effects, then any study that does not take this into account cannot give fully reliable conclusions.
A particularly determined individual may not be swayed by the above arguments. Regardless of the issues with the studies which find violence in video games produces a significant level of increased aggression, this individual may simply assume that more research could solve the problem. However, even if violence in video games is conclusively linked to an increase in aggression, one major problem still remains – a multitude of other things are also believed to increase aggression. Violence in television broadcasts has been linked to increase aggression for years, with many studies, such as one by Paul Haridakis, taking this for granted and instead trying to determine what causes the difference in aggression changes by examining the motivations and backgrounds of the participants (Haridakis). Another study even compared the level of aggression between those playing violent video games and those who ascribe to a traditional masculine ideology and found that both correlate with a higher level of aggression (Thomas). This means that just being exposed to the traditional gender roles has the chance to increase aggression, something that is nearly unavoidable. Despite this similarity in effect, many see males conforming to traditional gender roles as healthy for children while simultaneously deriding television and video games for corrupting youth. Additionally, a study on the release of violent films find that the violent crime rate actually decreases, with the release of a violent movie deterring approximately one thousand assaults on an average weekend. (Dahl) If video games follow this trend, playing a violent video game could actually reduce violence – in fact, the effect might be even stronger, since video games tend to encourage greater player presence and last longer than an average movie.
Clearly, even by only using sources that support an increase in aggression through video game use, the argument that video games cause significant harm is not very strong. There are few studies that prove to any extent that this aggression last longer than a very short time after play. Significant variables, such as the difficulty and competition inspired by the game, have not been taking into consideration when designing a majority of these studies. Further, not only are there a multitude of other causes of increased aggression, but violence in games may act as a cathartic element and in fact prevent violence in real life.
- Adachi, Paul J. C., and Teena Willoughby. “The Effect Of Video Game Competition And Violence On Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has The Greatest Influence?.” Psychology Of Violence 1.4 (2011): 259-274. PsycARTICLES. Web. 2 Apr. 2012.
- Barlett, Christopher P., Richard J. Harris, and Ross Baldassaro. “Longer You Play, The More Hostile You Feel: Examination Of First Person Shooter Video Games And Aggression During Video Game Play.” Aggressive Behavior 33.6 (2007): 486-497. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Apr. 2012
- Dahl, Gordon and Stefano DellaVigna. “Does Movie Violence Increase Violent Crime?” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 2009 124: 677-734. Academic Search Premier. Web. 4 Apr. 2012.
- Haridakis, Paul M. “Men, Women, And Televised Violence: Predicting Viewer Aggression In Male And Female Television Viewers.” Communication Quarterly 54.2 (2006): 227-255. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
- Harris, Richard, et al. “How Long Do The Short-Term Violent Video Game Effects Last?.” Aggressive Behavior 35.3 (2009): 225-236. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.
- Levitt, Steven D, and Stephen J. Dubner. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York: William Morrow, 2005. Print.
- 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.
- Thomas, Kimberly D., and Ronald F. Levant. “Does The Endorsement Of Traditional Masculinity Ideology Moderate The Relationship Between Exposure To Violent Video Games And Aggression?.” Journal Of Men’s Studies 20.1 (2012): 47-56. SPORTDiscus with Full Text. Web. 3 Apr. 2012.