Ten Conclusions About the Effects of Violent Video Games in the Real World

What effect does violent video games have on children, teens, and adults? Although many assume that computer game violence causes people to behave aggressively and violently in the real world, does the research actually back up this claim?

The answer is not as clear as originally thought.

Despite the fact that researchers have been looking at this question for over thirty years, the answer really depends on:

A. Who asks the question
B. How “violence” is defined
C. How strong the effects need to be before they are considered clinically significant
D. The population being studied

On one extreme are those who argue that computer games actually cause more aggressive and violent behaviors in those who play them. For evidence of this, look no further than individuals and groups who blame games whenever there are school shootings.

On the other extreme are those who completely deny that violent computer games have any effect whatsoever on those who play them.

Depending on one’s motivations and goals, it is extremely easy to find published studies, websites, case studies, and experts in support of either position.

As is often true, the real answer appears to lie somewhere in between these two extremes.

By reviewing published journal articles on the effects of violent video games it is possible to come to some general conclusions.

1. Television violence may be more harmful for children than exposure to violent computer games.

2. Physiological measures of arousal such as heart rate, brain activity, and skin conductance do seem to be activated by violent games.

3. For adults, there is almost no evidence that video game violence increases the likelihood of aggressive behaviors in the real world.

4. In free-play situations immediately after exposure to violent computer games, there is evidence that children show a short-term increase in physical aggression.

5. It is possible that there is a bias towards publishing research demonstrating negative effects of video game violence, compared to studies finding that there is no clear connection.

6. In studies that do find an effect of computer game violence, boys generally show a stronger effect than girls.

7. A person’s natural trait aggression is a better predictor of real-world violence than how much he or she plays video games with violent content.

8. Most players deny that playing violent computer games has a negative effect on them.

9. Studies completed in tightly controlled laboratory settings (compared to those in natural settings) seem to increase the odds that a negative effect of video game violence will be found.

10. People who are more aggressive by nature are more likely to play violent video games – suggesting the relationship between games and aggression is not simply “cause and effect.”

The Gaming Classroom: The Overly-Hyped Educational Video Game – Part 1 of 3

Video games, video games, video games. Everyone plays video games. On the TV, on the computer, on the iPhone, iPad, and basically any device that has a screen. I see it everywhere. In New York City where I live, I see adults playing video games on their phones in the subway going to and from work. You can’t text or make phone calls down in the subway, so you might as well play video games to pass the time. Or so that’s the way it appears to me.

We are creating a species of the human race that have learned to spend most of its leisure time, and time in between other more important responsibilities, to playing games. What about a conversation with your neighbor, or paying attention to your surroundings, or “collecting” your thoughts? These simple aspects of life have been replaced with a new past time called gaming.

Gaming is so ubiquitous that it has already entered the education system as a technique for learning and improving student’s test scores.

Gaming In The Classroom

It’s not new that video games have entered the education system. But the tide has certainly turned and is beginning an uncontrollable flood into our classrooms. Children are growing up in a supposedly high tech classroom in which they are going to be increasingly more and more surrounded by games. It seems like it’s the only thing that grabs their attention these days, so the education system has decided to go with the flow and bring gaming into the classroom.

One gaming system in particular, DimensionU Educational Game Suite, created by Tabulus Digita, has made enormous strides in entering the education system and has achieved some attractive results. Or so it seems…

This article will be a 3-part series discussing the results of three different studies done using the DimensionU game suite on students K-12.

Study #1: Increased Test Scores And A Play On Words

  • A University of Central Florida study found that students who played the games demonstrated greater gain scores from pre-test to post-test (mean increase of 8.07) than students who did not play the game (mean increase of 3.74);

Wait, Not So Fast!

Certainly, I support any technology that can help students achieve higher test scores. The United States is so far behind in Math, Reading, and Science that even a small improvement is welcome.

But, I’m not satisfied with the results of the studies found above.

Let’s read into the studies more deeply. First, the University of Central Florida study used the word “mean” to describe the “average” increase in test scores. Though statisticians debate that there is a huge difference between the meaning of the two words, I will replace “mean” with “average” to make my points more clearly. By using the word “mean” in this study infers that the calculation was made by the total sum of all test scores divided by the number of tests taken. We’re basically talking about the average test scores of all the students. It’s Division 101. So, the average test score increased by 8.07% for the students who played the educational video games compared to a 3.74% average increase in test scores for the students that did not play any games.

Let’s put this into more practical terms. If we assume that students had an average test score of 75 out of 100, then the students who played the games increased to an average score of 81 compared to a 78 for the students that didn’t play games. Not bad but not great either. The truth is that most of the students had very below average grades in Math before the study even began. So in my opinion, at best the results took a “very low” student in Math and raised him/her to just a “low” student in Math. Still below-average. I would have liked to have seen the study done on students who already achieved passing grades in Math to take part in this study.

Why Video Games Are Not The Answer
Are we really going to put our faith in the future education of our children in video games? That study was done over two 9-week periods. And what the results don’t tell you unless you read the full report is that a majority of the students had extremely low grades in Math. 64% were considered “very low” in mathematical skills prior to the study. Only 4% were considered high. That means an 8% increase in math scores would still have kept these students in the “low” part of the skills category.

Teaching Laziness In The Classroom

I support any technique that increases Math scores. Certainly, these below-average students need as much help as they can get. What I fear, is that they will only learn “how to learn” with video games. I don’t want video games to become a replacement to other forms of learning that are effective but necessarily in vogue. Plus, technology has already proven to make us lazy. Do we want to teach laziness in the classroom too?

How has mankind expanded knowledge through the millennia? From learning math fundamentals through a video game system? Let’s not forget how we all arrived to this point in history. It was because some really smart people contributed ideas to society that we now get to enjoy in this modern civilization that we habitat. These “smart people” weren’t born with intelligence, they developed it through work and study.

Where Are The Hard Facts To Backup Gaming In School?

I will also mention that it has been difficult to get hard numerical data for the benefits of gaming on test scores in Math, Reading, and Science. We are still in its infancy. Let’s move forward carefully, skeptically, and deliberately. We want to remain mindful that the well-being of future generations is at stake here.

There’s Another Solution That Few Want To Pay Attention To

We’re searching for solutions in technology for all of our problems including our education system. Well, there is a solution that has been in existence for thousands of years and its benefits can easily be traced as far back as the Renaissance Period.

The solution is to learn a musical instrument. Learning how to read and play music does not break down math and reading into separate video games to learn each subject or task one and a time. Learning music stimulates both left and right hemispheres of the brain at the same time, which accelerates the building of mathematical and linguistic intelligences. I’ve been reading about how video games improve multi-tasking skills which is great, but, music has been doing this for hundreds of years. It just doesn’t have the “sexy” appeal of newer, more technological ways.

In Part 2 of this article, I will discuss in more detail the second study of DimensionU on students’ test scores, and also begin to compare the results of studying music on test scores, using hard facts and numerical data to make a clearer comparison.

Fantasizing About Violence: Violent Video Games Promote Aggressive Behavior In Youth

According to recent research, it is clear that teens (as well as adults) are spending more and more time immersed in video game worlds. These virtual worlds of fantasy can challenge our minds to be creative, solve problems, and learn lessons like no other tool in history. Many of the games are produced so well that you can actually feel as if you are driving a racecar, flying through space, or feeling the recoil of a high powered rifle.

I started playing video games when pong first came out in the ’70s. I thought it was cooler than even my 8-track tapes! When Pac-Man came out shortly after my 16th birthday in the early ’80s, I could not imagine a better way to spend my time between classes at high school. In the late ’80s, strategy/role-playing games like Ultima and Balance of Power challenged me to think. I loved the thrill of winning after hundreds of hours of struggle.

However, in the early ’90s, action games like Dune and first-person shooters like Wolfenstein emerged. More recent games like Quake, Half-Life, and System Shock are so graphically real and mentally absorbing in their storylines, you don’t just play the games anymore, you are part of the game.

These game worlds have very few laws (if any!) governing what goes on inside them. It is a dynamic that is limited only by the imagination of the designer and the desire of the game player to be absorbed in the fantasy. No holographic policeman exists in the virtual world to enforce what is right. Gamers are left to do what is right in their own eyes. This freedom to influence our children has many parents concerned.

Two studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology on April 23, 2000 (Read the article yourself at Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggression ) This article clearly demonstrates that violent video games do negatively affect the behavior of those who play them. One study demonstrated that graphically violent video games produce an immediate increase in aggressive thoughts and behavior. The other study found that violent game play not only increased aggressive behavior, but also produced a long-term, real life impact on the behavior and relationships of the players.

Psychology professors Craig Anderson from the university of Missouri, Columbia, and Karen Dill of Lenoir-Rhyne College, conducted the study on 227 undergraduate college volunteers drawn from the introductory psychology courses. They found that violent computer games affect the player in the following ways:

1. The player identifies with the aggressor. In “first-person” video games, the player assumes the identity of the shooter and sees the world through the character’s eyes. In effect, the game puts the weapon in the hands of the player to heighten the game’s impact as the player kills the enemy. They found that players became emotionally involved with their character and “enjoyed” killing the bad guys. (It is one thing to watch the “Terminator” work, it is another thing to be the terminator.)

As a result of identifying with the aggressor:

a) the player develops positive attitudes toward the use of violence;

b) the player develops expectations that others will behave aggressively;

c) the player assumes that others have similar attitudes of aggression;

d) the player comes to believe that violent solutions are effective and appropriate for solving problems in life.

2. The player actively participates in the violence. These studies found that playing violent video games is a way to rehearse violent behaviors and makes it easier to bring that behavior into real life. If you practice shooting basketballs thousands of times, you get better at scoring. If you practice killing thousands of times, you get better at that as well. The Columbine shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, had been playing “first-person shooters” for more than a year before that fateful day. When the time came to “play the game” in the real world, they were ready.

As a result of actively participating in the violence:

a) The player develops a total disregard for societal norms, property rights, and even the general value of other lives;

b) The player see the world as a violent, unsafe place (everyone is out to get you);

c) The player learns that aggressive actions against others, such as fighting and shooting, may be appropriate, even necessary.

3. Violent video games have an addictive nature. For aggressive performance, players receive constant and immediate reinforcement in the form of visual and auditory (sensory) stimulation During a kill. With special effects such as exploding body parts, blood, gore, and general mayhem it provides an excellent environment for learning aggression.

As a result of the addictive nature of violent video games:

a) Excessive exposure contributes to aggressive personality traits in the player, and further playing can make an already aggressive person even more aggressive;

b) The player becomes more aggressive, changes his outlook on life and socializing, and tends to socialize with others who demonstrate similar attitudes of aggression;

c) The players socialization with teachers, parents, and non-aggressive peers are likely to degenerate.

The more realistic the games are, the stronger the negative impact. If you observe your child developing aggressive attitudes towards others, you may need to make an evaluation of his or her video games and other forms of entertainment. These two studies validate the probability that your child will become more aggressive, irritable and possibly even violent if he or she plays violent video games.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Paul warns us that submitting our minds to that which is counter to Scripture will undermine our Christian life.