A new study explores the possible connection between violence and video games by looking for increased aggression in teens who play them.
Video games have clawed their way into mainstream media in a way that few could have imagined, with many titles now being considered legitimate works of art deserving of the same level of acclaim afforded to novels and movies. But others still have their reservations.
Video games are frequently blamed for violence enacted by teens and young people – with even the president of the United States recently indicating the industry may be a factor in recent tragic school shootings.
Concerns have also been raised by parents who fear that life-like graphics and increasingly violent content may be causing teenagers, in particular, to become more aggressive.
What does science have to say about this possible connection between video games and violence? Do they make teens more aggressive? Are these concerns legitimate, or are video games being unfairly demonised?
These are the questions that a pair of researchers from the University of Oxford and Cardiff university attempted to answer in a study recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
The research is not the first of its kind, but previous studies have been somewhat inconclusive. What this study adds, that others have overlooked, is the opinion of parents in addition to that of 1,004 14 -15-year-old boys and girls.
Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein asked the teens questions regarding the kind of games they play, how long they play for and the age ratings of the games that they play.
They were also asked if they believed that the games had made them more aggressive, particularly immediately after playing. The parents were asked similar questions regarding perceived aggressive tendencies.
Performing multiple analysis techniques on the survey results they found that neither the teens nor their parents reported a significant increase in aggressive behaviour that could be associated with the playing of video games. They also failed to note an increase in antisocial behaviour.
What the researchers did note is that there does seem to be a rise in angry outbursts during game-play. These were directed towards the game or towards an opponent either in-person or online.
The researchers believe this was normal behaviour related to competitive play. They conclude their analysis by stating that they found no evidence of increased aggression in teens that could be linked to playing violent video games.
It is unlikely that this will be the last study of its kind and critics may well point out that the nature of the data collected is somewhat subjective. Despite this, these findings may help persuade at least some parents that 45 minutes on Fortnight will not turn their child into a deranged, teddy-bear suited killer.