Aggression and Video Games

Violent Video Games Reduce Brain Response to Violence and Increase Aggressive Behavior, University of Missouri Study Finds from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

It’s an issue that experienced video gamers have heard plenty about. Playing violent videos games has been correlated with increased violence. I have heard enough about this issue, but time and time again it has been brought up by researchers. I’m looking at the video above in particular, which follows a study by the University of Missouri. Subjects were shown images, some violent, after playing different video games. Those who played violent games had the least brain reactions to violent images. Alright, so playing violent games desensitizes people to unpleasant images.

Then, subjects were able to penalize their opponents in a competitive game using loud noises, and the loudest noises were made by the players of the most violent games. This concludes one thing: we care less for another’s well-being after playing violent games, since a sensitive person would try to make the experience less unpleasant for the other player. However, it may be too quick to also infer that violent video games increase aggressive behaviour in players. Callousness does not equate aggressiveness. It may be more accurate to presume that an action-packed game, violent or not, increases aggressiveness.

However, above all, it would have to be competitive games that are the biggest cause. It’s not unlikely to think that a guy would get annihilated in Mortal Kombat, and then be a friendly, personable guy with everyone he meets right after the game. If the said guy played hockey and lost 3-2 in a local league, I probably don’t know enough about sports, but I have a feeling he wouldn’t be pleased.

We can actually see aggressive behaviour from Starcraft players, probably because SC can be extremely competitive. I was a relatively calm SC2 player, but I’ve heard of rage stories, and people have occasionally raged at me! The idea is that losing is rarely appreciated: long, 30-minute macro games that turn into losses can be infuriating for being such wastes of time. Losing to a 6-pool/4gate/bunker rush/any-cheap-tactic sucks because it can feel like losing a coinflip. Only ridiculously good players like losing, because replays of losses are excellent sources for improvement. I don’t think the violent nature of SC is what makes people rage, but rather, it’s the nature of the competitive scene: beat another player, lose the next game, rage, watch a replay of the loss, get better, beat better players. Rinse and repeat.

But I’m going off-topic here. Basically, I see the fears with gaming and violence as something that’s still expected today, but eventually will die out. Every time a new form of entertainment appears, there are always concerns. I’ve seen a sermon on Pokemon, and the pastor was raving about how children who play any Pokemon games become Satan’s worshippers. How is it today? I’m pretty sure no ministers freak out when kids bring Pokemon White/Black to church now? Violent games may take a while to become accepted, but soon there will be close to no people who worry about street criminals made from Grand Theft Auto.

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