The New York Times Technology Section looks into violent video games impacts in “Shooting in the Dark“
Violent video games and children is something we’ve focused a lot of time on since launching MediaViolence.org. The reason behind that is that the video game industry is continuing to grow at a staggering pace. Earlier this year, research from Gartner, an influential and respected technology researcher, estimated the industry to grow to $112 Billion by 2015.
As the article goes on to say, the fastest growth category within the already incredible pace will come from mobile gaming – which is outside the gaming taking place of iPhone’s and other smart phones.
With a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops selling over $650 Million in just five days, and games like it growing in popularity, overlayed with the growth of mobile gaming, two multipliers are in place that make it more challenging for parents. More games, that are more realistic, seeking to outdo one another in the level of graphic violence, coupled with increased access, and that access being mobile, means that parents must be even more vigilant than ever to prevent their kids from playing the games that they deem inappropriate. Of course, this is all assuming they have an opinion on the subject, and want to prevent their kids from playing a certain game.
And, that’s the major impetus behind our effort with this site. We seek to inform parents about the real risks, so that they can be armed against the increasing demand they’ll have directed toward them. A $74 Billion industry well on it’s way to $112 Billion is certainly filling the airwaves with messages that seek to downplay any risk. We just want to be a voice of subtle opposition. The stakes are our children, and we think there’s no stakes higher.
After another tragic incident at Virginia Tech last week, investigators are once again looking for answers to determine what turned the eyes of the nation to Blacksburg for all of the wrong reasons. While there’s little connecting the two incidents besides the location, any time a seemingly arbitrary act of rage takes place, the media and the public immediately begin comparisons with incidents that have come before it.
Like the most notorious recent mass killings in Tucson, Norway, and Columbine, and many other tragic killings that get less exposure, one of the trends between many, if not all, of these incidents is the perpetrators significant exposure to violent video games.
Now, before we get derided by gamers across the world, we are not saying now, nor have we ever stated, that there is a direct correlation between violent video game play and mass killings. Nor would we say that violent video game play directly leads to any specific acts of violence. We will unfortunately likely always live in a world where deranged madmen will commit horrific acts of violence like those mentioned above.
While giving the caveat above, gamers and non-gamers who reflexively call those that even begin question the impacts of such games anti-First Amendment or heretics, should at least acknowledge that ignoring the consistent violent video game play would be negligent on the part of authorities.
But, instead of entering into a public discourse with those who have researched evidence that their are indeed impacts to the brain, and adverse effects of video game violence in aggressive behavior, there is consistently an effort to ignore differing research, and build a case against a straw man like in this Time article stating video games don’t make kids violent. Mr. Ferguson has clearly done his research, and probably would enter into a meaningful discussion among researchers given the opportunity, however when all that is put out there is dismissive, at best, it makes that viewpoint somewhat suspect.
Nonetheless, we look forward to seeing what the investigation reveals about the latest tragedy in our country. We hope that for the victim and his loved ones, some closure can be found. For our country, we hope that if once again violent video games are part of the equation, we can have a true public discourse about the topic, and what steps should be taken as a result.
We at the Media Violence Resource Center have just recently become aware of an effort by the International Committee of the Red Cross asking the question above about violent video games that depict acts of war.
As the group indicates on their site, at “the 31st International Conference that met Geneva in November 2011 participants also explored the role that the law of armed conflict plays, or does not play, in simulations of war. They considered various ways in which the rules applicable in armed conflict could feature in simulations. The side event was an informal discussion; no resolution or plan of action was adopted.”
The mere idea that such a prestigious and influential organization is hosting such a discussion is great news. We hope that it doesn’t end here. More than an internal discussion, the Red Cross can be just the beginning of an important public discourse about the impacts of video game violence.
Today at the annual meeting for the Radiological Society of America in Chicago, landmark research is being presented on perhaps the most conclusive study to date between violent video games and agression.
The study was conducted by Indiana University researchers in Indianapolis, where “a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) analysis of long-term effects of violent video game play on the brain has found changes in brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control in young adult men after one week of game play.”
From the release:
The controversy over whether or not violent video games are potentially harmful to users has raged for many years, making it as far as the Supreme Court in 2010. But there has been little scientific evidence demonstrating that the games have a prolonged negative neurological effect.
“For the first time, we have found that a sample of randomly assigned young adults showed less activation in certain frontal brain regions following a week of playing violent video games at home,” said Yang Wang, M.D., assistant research professor in the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. “These brain regions are
important for controlling emotion and aggressive behavior.”
For the study, 22 healthy adult males, age 18 to 29, with low past exposure to violent video games were randomly assigned to two groups of 11. Members of the first group were instructed to play a shooting video game for 10 hours at home for one week and refrain from playing the following week. The second group did not play a violent video game at all during the two-week period.
Each of the 22 men underwent fMRI at the beginning of the study, with follow-up exams at one and two weeks. During fMRI, the participants completed an emotional interference task, pressing buttons according to the color of visually presented words. Words indicating violent actions were interspersed among nonviolent action words. In addition, the participants completed a cognitive
inhibition counting task.
The results showed that after one week of violent game play, the video game group members showed less activation in the left inferior frontal lobe during the emotional task and less activation in the anterior cingulate cortex during the counting task, compared to their baseline results and the results of the control group after one week. After the second week without game play, the
changes to the executive regions of the brain were diminished.
“These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning,” Dr. Wang said.
Will this empirical data begin to make policymakers and parents take notice of this growing public health issue? We at the Media Violence Resource Center certainly hope.
I read the recent article on Yahoo that talked about a wife that put her husband on Craig’s List because she was “tired of waiting” for him while he played video games. This was supposed to be a funny bit to try and “warn” her husband that he plays video games too much, but what is it really saying? That we are a society of mindless activities? That adults are now suffering from the same video game addiction that I have been talking about for awhile now? Could it be displaying that adults are just as guilty of irresponsible behavior as children? or could the article have been a warning to other women out there that when deciding on a husband, make sure you are looking at his hobbies because, contrary to popular opinion video games and video gamers can be addicted to their hobby.
I am unsure as to what I would do if my husband were truly addicted to video games, but I think it could really affect our daily life. If you play video games all of the time, when does going out on dates with your wife go on the calendar? When does family time, or family dinner take place? Where does your job fit in, or exercise, or socializing, or going to your children’s activities, or family functions, clubs or organizations, housework, outside time, etc?
I think one of the comments that I would like to make is that the article itself was kind of sad, however, it was the comments that made me think. There were at least 1/3 of the comments that were other gamers that were cheering on the husband and there was another 1/3 that were other wives complaining of THEIR video game addictions. This means that 2/3 of the comments written are either addicted to video games, or married to adults that are addicted to video games. This is a sad commentary of the current adult population. When are we going to stop and take this situation seriously? Whether it is providing more opportunities or options for those who are addicted, and/or providing support or services to those that are affected by the addicts in their lives.
I was recently talking with a 1st Grade Teacher and she was discussing with me that on Monday mornings the kids in her classroom are asked to share with the rest of the class one thing that they did over the weekend. She sets the perimeters that they can’t say that they ate, slept, watched TV or played video games. I asked her why she tells them they can’t talk about the video games, and she told me it was because that would include most of her class, and they would state that almost every time. I was in disbelief that this was for kids that were six and seven. She said the scary thing is not THAT they are playing, it is WHAT they are playing and that they are playing them unmonitored, and for however long they want, without much input from the parents.
Because of this conversation with this particular teacher, it has me wondering about video games and children even more. I think we need to beg parents to take more interest in these things. The kids that are playing these video games endlessly are the ones that are not spending enough time doing their homework, who aren’t interacting or fully engaging with others. These are the children that aren’t experiencing things and aren’t outside enjoying what the world has to offer.
As I have stated before, video games can help certain children, and in certain situations, but those are not the majority of users, nor are they the “normal” consumer. The “normal” consumer is not using video games once a week as a family activity. The “normal” consumer is not playing phonics games on their XBOX. The “normal” consumer is not playing sensory stimulating games with their therapist. The “normal” consumer that the gaming industry is hoping to target is one that will buy the top of the line games, and play them so much, that they will need to go and buy another game because they have already conquered the last game.
I am just wondering who sticks up for the kid who has parents that don’t care about them and let them play Modern Warfare at 6 years old until all hours of the night. I am wondering at what point is that considered abuse or neglect? I am just posing the question of when do we cross the line as parents from being passive parents to being hurtful and neglectful or even abusive parents to our children by letting them watch terrible, horrible, inappropriate things that will hurt them, in this case certain video games?
The massacre at Columbine High School, one of the most infamous moments in recent American history, happened over a decade ago. It’s impacts continued to be felt at schools all over the country, with the increased security measures that have been taken as a result of that, and other school shootings.
While the wounds have healed for many, a play based upon the tragedy at Columbine beginning today at Oklahoma State University will invariably bring some controversy, as it seeks to dive into the psyche and some factors leading to the shooting.
Perhaps most interesting and potentially controversial about the play it’s take on the perpetrators, “Throughout the first act, “Freak” and “Loner” are bullied to the point of madness that leads them down their dark, infamous trail of killing.” Potentially taking a sympathetic view of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold is a bold move, even in an artistic setting. Especially as facts of the situation don’t support that either were bullied nor outsiders among their peers.
It will be of interest to us at MediaViolence.org to see if the influence of violent media will be at all explored within this narrative. While that USA Today article linked above states that violent video games were not involved, and paints the pair as psychopathic would-be terrorists, it can’t be overlooked that the two were gamers who regularly played first person shooter games. And, with brain research showing that regular exposure into these violent fantasy worlds can have adverse impact, it shouldn’t be completely left out of the story as America continues to grapple with school shooting incidents each with it’s own nuance to that of Columbine.
I have been looking through the new games that are coming out for upcoming Holiday Season, and it still intrigues me that almost all of the games that are being promoted this season are rated M for maturity or T for teen. I read the new Batman video game, and it says that it is rated T for teen due to tobacco use, alcohol use, mature themes, violence and more. I am just wondering how many parents really understand the rating system for video games, because obviously the video game industry is banking on the fact that we don’t understand, and are just disregarding the system entirely.
Early Childhood (EC): Early Childhood rated games have content that may be suitable for persons ages 3 and older. Titles in this category contain no material that parents would find inappropriate.
Everyone (E): Everyone rated games have content that may be suitable for persons ages six and older. Titles in this category may contain minimal violence and some comic mischief and/or mild language.
Teen (T): Teen rated games have content that may be suitable for persons ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violent content, mild or strong language, and/or suggestive themes.
Adults Only (AO): Adults Only rated games have content suitable only for adults. Titles in this category may include graphic depictions of sex and/or violence. Adults Only products are not intended for persons under the age of 18.
Rating Pending: Used only for advertising and/or marketing materials created for titles that have been submitted to the ESRB and are awaiting a final rating.
Content Descriptor: Over 30 standardized phrases that indicate content that triggered a particular rating and may be of interest or concern, so it is different on each and every game, so make sure you read the entire label, not just the letter rating. For example, one video game for T could have tobacco use, and a completely different one marked T has alcohol use, and no tobacco use. These are just ways to make it harder for the consumer to understand. The over-all feeling is that you need to play the game in it’s entirety before you can make an educated decision in regards to your child. That is fine and all, but as a parent, I have more pressing things on my schedule than sitting down and playing an entire game of Grand Theft Auto. I just wish that the video game industry would take after the movie industry and make everything uniform and concise so that we don’t have to look so hard to find out what is in each game. I hope that this has helped some parents understand the rating system better.
A new study demonstrates that parents may have good reason to be concerned about how much time their kids play video games.
Investigators found evidence that video game “addiction” exists globally and that greater amounts of gaming, lower social competence and greater impulsivity were risk factors for becoming pathological gamers.
The two-year longitudinal study of 3,034 third through eighth grade students in Singapore found approximately nine percent of gamers to be pathological players, according to standards similar to those established by the American Psychiatric Association for diagnosing gambling addiction.
Dr. Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State associate professor of psychology, and five researchers from Singapore and Hong Kong collaborated on the study, which will be published in the February 2011 issue ofPediatrics.
The researchers report that the percentage of pathological youth gamers in Singapore is similar to other recent video game addiction studies in other countries, including the United States (8.5 percent), China (10.3 percent), Australia (8.0 percent), Germany (11.9 percent) and Taiwan (7.5 percent).
“We’re starting to see a number of studies from different cultures — in Europe, the U.S. and Asia — and they’re all showing that somewhere around 7 to 11 percent of gamers seem to be having real problems to the point that they’re considered pathological gamers,” said Gentile.
“And we define that as damage to actual functioning — their school, social, family, occupational, psychological functioning, etc. To be considered pathological, gamers must be damaging multiple areas of their lives.”
According to Dr. Angeline Khoo of Singapore’s National Institute of Education, who was principal investigator of the overall project, “This study is important because we didn’t know until this research whether some types of children are at greater risk, how long the problem lasts, or whether pathological gaming was a separate problem or simply a symptom of some other problem — such as depression.”
The researchers gathered data from students attending 12 Singapore schools, including five boys’ schools. The subjects were surveyed annually on their video game play and behavior between 2007 and 2009. Surveys were conducted in classrooms by teachers who had been trained by the research team.
The study had a 99 percent response rate.
Using the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a guide to define the addictive condition, the researchers found between 7.6 and 9.9 percent of the student sample could be defined as pathological gamers over the two-year period.
Eighty-four percent of those subjects who were first classified as pathological gamers were found to still be classified that way two years later. Yet in that same two-year window, only one percent of the sample became new pathological gamers.
Through their analyses, the researchers conclude that video game addiction is a serious behavioral problem that is separate from other afflictions.
“Once they become addicted, pathological gamers were more likely to become depressed, have increased social phobias, and increased anxiety. And they received poorer grades in school,” Gentile said.
“Therefore, it looks like pathological gaming is not simply a symptom of depression, social phobia or anxiety. In fact, those problems seem to increase as children become more addicted. In addition, when children stopped being addicted, depression, anxiety and social phobias decreased as well.”
Among this sample, pathological gamers started with an average of 31 hours of play per week, compared with 19 hours per week for those who never became pathological gamers. But Gentile says those thresholds don’t necessarily translate across all cultures, particularly in American children.
“In general, Singaporean children spend more time playing video games than American children,” he said.
“In the U.S., we didn’t follow the kids across time, so we don’t know where that threshold is across each culture or if there is a certain amount that is too much. We do know, however, that playing a lot is not the same as being a pathological gamer — the gaming must be causing problems for it to be considered pathological.”
Source: Iowa State University