Violent video games and aggression

Grand-Theft-Auto-IV-001Two recent events (the release of Grand Theft Auto 5 and claims that the recent Washington shooting was related to an obsession with violent video games) have led to a number of newspaper articles once again exploring the link between violent video games and aggression.

Two of these newspaper article, published in The Guardian, are worthy of note. One of them starts with the comment that, in the 1950s, people were worried about the effects of violence in comic books. This article provides a quick review (and criticisms) of some recent studies showing (1) evidence of short rather than long-term effects, (2) evidence that it depends on the context in which the game is played, (3) evidence that, if you control for people who have pre-existing problems, then there are no effects and (4) a comment that comparisons between different studies is difficult because they are all measuring slightly different things. This article finishes by suggesting that research should look more at the way games are being played (e.g. on your own or with others).

The second article reports an interesting study by Dr Vance (and colleagues) from the Rapture Institute for headline-inspired science (!). Their seven year longitudinal study found that increases in aggression among gaming communities occurred each time there were media reports that video games cause violence. The implication is that it is the media reports that are causing the increased aggression apparently associated with the video games – because the players believe what they are doing is having that effect. An interesting twist.

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