In a news piece that sounds like it’s from ten years ago, a recent study by the American Psychological Association claims to have found a link between violent videogames and violent behavior—or rather, aggressive behavior. With the distinction in mind, I initially had a certain level of interest in the study. I feel like I’m not uncommon among gamers in my belief that violent people are attracted to violent games, while violent games themselves don’t sow the seeds of violence in otherwise mild-mannered individuals. However, could it be possible that violent games cause otherwise mild-mannered individuals to be “more aggressive”?
Reading over the original press release, final conclusions aside, it doesn’t seem like they made a great connection. In fact, the article itself notes that there is a “lack of precision in terminology” between violent behavior and aggressive behavior, giving a wide range of results from studies put out by researchers of varying disciplines each with different goals. Note also that this specific study didn’t seem to have done any original research, instead simply compiling the results of existing studies as recent as 2013 and as old as 1988. It’s difficult to call the results comprehensive.
In a way, I’d really be curious to see an honest, unbiased study into the effects of videogames. At the same time, when the current study here starts off by stating that 90 to 97% of kids and teens play videogames, you have to wonder how much it really matters. As I mentioned before, other factors outside of the games themselves often have a stronger effect on a person’s demeanor, and you’re likely to choose games based on your personal preference. Again, do people become violent by playing games, or do people predisposed to being violent seek out violent entertainment?
There’s even a line in the press release that straight out says “WHEREAS research has not sufficiently examined the potential moderator effects of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or culture”. A study might find that a child who played violent games and also acted aggressively…but it would completely miss that their reason for playing violent games was that they lived in a lower-income household, already being predisposed to violent or aggressive behaviors, and only had access to violent games that the adults they lived with bought for themselves. The games in that case are only circumstantial, but the results wouldn’t accurately show that.
I’d also like to point out that, along with encouraging better ratings systems and more research (neither of which are necessarily bad), the APA supports “funding of basic and intervention research by the federal government and philanthropic organizations”. That’s essentially a polite way of them saying “please give us money to do more research”. Sure, I’m not entirely against researching the effects of games, but I’m not so sure about an article that picks a controversial subject and then asks for more money to look into it.