Virtual violence versus reality

Do video game habits have an effect on real-world violence?


The violence in the games depicted above and other similar ones have brought about further speculation on this topic.

Carly Kusich, Features Editor

For years, there’s been a speculation on the potential correlation between the graphic violence of video games and aggression in real life. From time to time, such games have been used as a scapegoat for criminal violence committed by teens or others who frequently play them, but, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), there is insufficient research to link these together.

“Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades but to date, there is very limited research addressing whether violent video games cause people to commit acts of criminal violence,” said Mark Appelbaum, a chair member of the APA Task Force on Violent Media. “However, the link between violence in video games and increased aggression in players is one of the most studied and best established in the field.”

Throughout various tests or experiments performed by psychologists and scientists, there have been differing results, resolving little of the long-held debate. A report detailed on the Association for Psychological Science (APS) website says that their tests reveal that “violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults.”

“Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases prosocial behavior,” Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman stated in their article for the APS.

Alternatively, research presented on suggests that many of these tests showing results of decreased empathy or sensitization and increased aggression have only tested the short-term effects of media violence. A study completed by Dr. Gregor Szycik of the Hannover Medical School and his colleagues tested the more long-term effects of habitually playing violent video games by comparing the behavior of players with those who do not play such games.

However, a report by the APA Task Force leans towards the point that it isn’t just playing these games from time to time that can cause an issue. It must either be highly habitual in a person’s everyday life or paired with other factors that could cause the same aggressive behavior.

“No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent video game use is one such risk factor,” the report states.

Because of this idea of virtual violence and real-world violence having such a relation, APA has brought up the urgency to push for further parental advisory of games, as well as keeping games more befitting of people’s ages. One of the main issues presented in many of these studies is that graphic and violent video games should be kept away from those who are below the appropriate age, as younger minds are more easily affected by media and entertainment than their elders.