Video games are very common in today’s world. In a world where technology, especially smartphones are an integral part of human life, video games are also close in that respect. Whether be it on the smartphone or a console or anything else, almost everyone plays or has played some sort of video game in their lives.
Video games are most common among adolescents and students in general, be it high school students or university students as they can help provide relief from the stress academic institutions bring with them. The different effects video games have on individuals has been highly debated.
One main effect which is heavily discussed is the effect video games have on aggressive behaviors and violence among individuals because violent video games are really common nowadays with brands such as “Call of Duty,” “Battlefield” etc. selling millions of copies around the world. Although it can be debated that video games have their benefits, it may be possible for them to have negative impacts such as violent behavior which outweigh their positive effects.
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There has been a lot of research that has been done regarding the effects of video games. Many researchers have used the general aggression model (GAM) in their research. The GAM explains the interaction between the environment and the person. It uses variables such as aggressive personality that can affect behavioral decisions that may then influence current cognition or affective state.
A change in one will have an impact on others, and it will eventually affect one’s internal state. “For example, uncomfortably hot temperature appears to increase aggression primarily by its direct impact on effective state” (quoted in “Causal effects of violent sports video games on aggression: Is it competitiveness or violent content?“). The GAM can be used to assess media violence or in this case: video game violence because video game exposure can affect all the factors affecting the internal state.
The GAM states that the effects are not long-term, but instead the person will use the repeated knowledge or stimuli they gain from repeated exposure to video games in later situations. Overall, the model predicts that constantly playing violent video games increase one violence-related aspect of the brain in the short run after which that short-term effect starts affecting other variables of the internal state, and it becomes a long-term effect.
According to the GAM, it predicts that video games that reward the players for violent behavior will increase aggression. However, it is unclear as to the effect of video games that punish violence. Experiments were then conducted by Anderson and Carnage to check the overall effects of video games on violence and the effect of getting rewards for being violent (such as killing people) and punishments in video games on aggression.
They tested for blood pressure, asked the participants how they felt, conducted surveys of their participants and then quantified the data they’d obtain. They would compare their results before and after the experiments to compare. They also did a word fragment test in which the participants were given a timer in which they had to complete as many word fragments as possible.
Aggressive cognition was calculated using this by seeing how many violent words such as “kill” etc. were used by the participants. The results of all the experiments showed increases aggressive behavior and cognition amongst the participants. They found that although rewarding video games do increase aggressive behavior, even video games that punish increase aggressive behavior relatively more than non-violent video games (Anderson and Carnagey).
A meta-analysis done by Anderson and Bushman addresses the question of video games and their link to violence by examining the existing research on video games and violence. They only looked at studies that dealt with the direct impact of video games on violent behavior and cognition. In their analysis, they found that in over thirty tests involving over three thousand test subjects, there was a significant average increase in aggressive behavior.
“Indeed, this effect of violent video games on aggression is as strong as the effect of condom use on risk of HIV infection”.
They found some non-experimental tests resulting in aggressive behaviors as well which led to them concluding that violence in video games has a link with aggression in everyday practical life as well. They checked over twenty tests for aggressive cognition involving 1495 participants which also saw a significant increase in aggressive thoughts among males and females. Most of these studies included experiments as well, therefore showing a causal relation of video games with aggressive cognition.
Other effects discussed were an aggressive effect, prosocial behavior, and physiological arousal. It was found that violent video games reduce the prosocial behavior, increase the aggressive effect and increased physiological arousal. Thus, the results of the research support the claim that video games have a direct correlation with violent behavior and therefore, they can be harmful. This meta-analysis also supported the predictions of the GAM.
A research done on school students was done to test aggressive behaviors linked to video games. Several variables were taken during the research such as the participant’s favorite game; average weekly hours played on video games, the amount of time they’re allowed by their parents to play video games, their grades and much more. It was found based on the responses that the students spent an average of nine hours per week on playing video games and an overwhelming 62% of their favorite video games were rated a 7 or above out of 10 in the “violence scale.”
Boys were more likely to play violent games. The hypotheses as predicted by the GAM was confirmed as a positive link between video games, and trait hostility was found. Video game violence was also found to have a positive relationship with aggressive behavior such as arguments with teachers, physical fights, etc. The results were also consistent with what the GAM predicted as long-term effects of prolonged exposure to violent video games.
Other factors that were measured such as school grades or parental limits did not have any effect or real correlation with the video game choice and quantity of the participants and thus no real link between violent behaviors caused by video games due to these factors. The many variables used in this research provide a thorough insight as to the effect of prolonged exposure to video games.
A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) analyzes the causal link the media has portrayed between video games and violent behavior. Quantitative studies made after the APA’s older resolution have found a direct relation with violence induced behavior with video games as a contributor.
A decade later, they published a new report. The APA used the existing literature available on video games to make this report. The report by the APA concludes that a causal relationship exists between violent games, aggressive behavior, and reduced prosocial behavior. It finds after reviewing experiments and observational studies lasting over two years that video games and the effects caused by it are long-lasting.
All existing quantitative studies were found to have a direct relation of violent video games with aggressive behavior. However, it does state that no sufficient research has been made in other factors such as family, ethnicity that can also contribute to aggressive behavior. The research they used also did not include samples of children below ten years, all the effects described by the studies the APA reviewed were on children above ten years of age.
A new hypothesis regarding video game violence was brought forward by Anderson. “The competitive hypotheses” claims that it is not the video games that may be causing aggressive behaviors but the competitiveness of the video games that might be the leading factors. The hypotheses linked competitiveness to aggression. Experiments were conducted to test this hypothesis along with the regular hypothesis of video games causing aggressive behavior.
The experiments tested violent, competitive video games and competitive games with little or no violence such as sports games, then also the regular violent games. The experiments resulted in violent video games having a larger effect on aggressive cognition than the non-violent ones. The participants were also exposed to violent, competitive games and non-violent competitive games. The competition hypotheses predicted that the two types of competitive games would result in no difference in terms of aggression variables affected.
However, all the experiments rejected this hypothesis, and the results supported the violent game hypothesis. It was found through these experiments that there was a positive correlation of violent video games with aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and aggressive behavior. (Check full hypotheses here).
It is also argued that violent video games can cause desensitization to real-life violence. In a study by Anderson et al. they examined violence rating and conducted multiple tests before and after participants played video games. The results showed that playing violent video games even for a short while can cause people to react less to violence around them. Desensitization can have many negative effects such as:
“When considering several possible behavioral scripts for guiding action, children who have strong negative reactions to a violent script are less likely to use it than those who have either a neutral or a positive reaction to it” (quoted in Journal of experimental social psychology 43.3 (2007): 489-496).
Desensitization can lower people’s awareness of violent incidents around them. Also, due to playing violent video games, a person’s perception of the seriousness of an injury can be reduced which may cause serious problems in the case of a fatal injury or emergency because the person would not be aware of the seriousness of the situation.
Thus, there is overwhelming evidence in support of the claim that video games do have negative effects such as causing an increase in aggressive traits among its players. A lot of primary and secondary work has been done to come up with the results which are clearly in favor of the GAM and the violent content hypotheses.
Some studies as we have seen used multiple variables including the students’ preferences regarding video games which shows that preferences for violent games can also be a contributing factor towards more exposure to violent games and therefore, increased aggression in individuals. The results of all the studies mentioned so far have been similar, all proving the direct correlation of video games with violent behavior to be true.
However, it is also heavily argued about how video games can actually have benefits too. A study examines the impact of video games on stress, whether playing video games can help improve mood and reduce stress. Experiments were conducted in which participants chose from given options on what they wanted to play. Sensors were attached to the participants when they started playing the video games.
The experiment found that changes in the brain were positive in relation to improving mood. Some games had greater impacts than others. However, the overall results of this research support the theory that some video games to help reduce stress.
A literature review by Papastergiou was done in order to find any benefits of computer games which could then help in health and physical education. It was concluded that these video games can contribute a lot to health and physical education. It also talks about the potential of the games to be used as educational tools. The study also claims that increased games that focus on physical activity can boost or help in the physical education of people (found in literature review Computers & Education 53.3 (2009): 603-622).
In relation to games having potential in contributing to education, Daphne Bavelier is a brain scientist who conducted her own research and experiments regarding the benefits of video games. She found that video games can have positive effects such as improved vision, better ability to track objects, better ability to multi-task. Her experiment subjects showed improvements in these characteristics and much more such as better able to resolve the conflict. She proposes that video games can thus be used in educational schemes to enhance their abilities.
Scientists from the University of Rochester have found that video games help people in making decisions faster and increases the sensitivity of an individual to his surroundings. Brain scientist Daphne Bavelier is mentioned who believes that games could be used in training regimens for speeding up reaction times.
The research found that action video gamers brains are more efficient in collecting visual and auditory information and thus reach decisions faster than non-gamers. Although a lot of evidence proves that there is a correlation between violence and video games, there is no doubt that video games can have their benefits as well as pointed out by this article.
In a study done to examine the effects of video games on classroom learning, the researcher used a biotechnology themed video game to evaluate the students’ understanding and science learning. It was found that the video game positively helped the students learn course content as tests were given out to students’ pre-video game intervention and post video game intervention. The results in the tests after video games were introduced were significantly better than the results in the previous tests.
“When done right, video games can provide fresh inquiry-based experiences for students that are both self-motivating and cooperative, providing continuous, just-in-time feedback that allows students to progress through traditional science content in a nontraditional way.”
A study on the benefits of video games on perception and cognitive ability was done in which expert gamers and non-expert gamers were taken in the study as well as some college students. The performance of expert and non-expert gamers was observed as well as the overall effects of video games on cognition. The expert gamers outperformed the non-gamers in many tasks. They showed an improved ability to track objects moving at high speeds, make decisions faster and had improved short-term memory.
According to the University of California, Irvine neurobiologists, playing video games can help boost memory. They tested on non-gamers. The goal was to prove that playing 3-D games can have a benefit as compared to playing 2-D games. After 2 weeks’ time, it was found that 3-D games helped improve the memory of the students. They explained that video games “draw on many cognitive processes, including visual, spatial, emotional, motivational, attentional, critical thinking, problem-solving and working memory.”
Also, in another study by Columbia University which involved the accumulation of data regarding the mental health of thousands of children all over Europe. They found that increased video game exposure helped boost the intellect of children by 1.75%. The students were found to have better overall school competence as well.
There is thus sufficient evidence to also support the claim that video games can have positive effects too as mentioned. Therefore, video games do not only negatively impact individuals but can have a positive relationship with the important characteristics of human beings such as memory, reflex timing, vision and decision making.
To conclude, it has already been established how violent games can have a negative impact, and it can be argued that most of the games used by the researchers testing benefits did not test for violent games. However, Bavelier points out in her Ted Talk that she uses action games for her research which include Call of Duty, a game that includes a lot of violence. Therefore, using a violent game to benefit people, she says that this is only possible through controlled or “right” doses of video games as the excess of everything can be bad.
However, with the given research, it is safe to conclude that the negatives about violent video games which are the most commonly played in today’s era, outweigh the positives of playing other video games given the overwhelming research in favor of the violent content hypothesis and the amount of video game players there are today.