First off, there are real studies and not just “studies.” Violent games have consistently shown an increase in aggression for those partaking. It does not generally last very long and aggression is not always a bad thing, but it is a real if temporary effect. Same goes for someone playing team sports or even chess (albeit to a lesser degree). The experience can actually provide some real benefits, including team building and positive social interactions if done with friends, confidence building, and even enhanced analysis and decision making skills. Oh, and it can be fun. Those who have normative influences and are not at risk for severe mental illnesses will generally revert to their typical behavior patterns and will suffer no long term detrimental effects, largely just retaining the positives they obtained along the way.
That said, no matter how much of a majority of the population falls under that description, there will always be some who do not. You also have a situation where those who are more predisposed to a particular behavior (aggression in this case) will be more likely to seek out a socially acceptable outlet for it (violent video games), so every time I see some murder and video games being connected I find the lack of nuance in such an assertion to be quite troubling.
More studies still need to be conducted to firm up decade-old conclusions, refine theories, and address how the medium has changed. I suspect we’ll be seeing another wave of publications just like we did in the years shortly after Columbine. /research scientist. The rest is all conjecture.
Here’s something else to think about: murders were committed before guns were invented. However, with guns there is an increase in both the potential lethality of an individual and the speed with which such an action can be carried out, removing time during which the murderer may think twice about it. In a somewhat similar manner, activities encouraged aggressive responses and created a dangerous environment for a small minority long before video games were invented. However, the high level of immersion and intensity (ever increasing, one might add) in video games is potentially much more potent to those who are at-risk. Technology and advances in any medium lend themselves to those searching for more extremes.
As the writer points out, there’s also the cultural impact to consider. The more mainstream that socially acceptable virtual violence becomes, the larger diversity within that segment and a greater number will find the extremes. More begets more: as virtual violence becomes more of a hobby for more people, it becomes something to market to and that creates a cultural momentum. It wasn’t that long ago in the scope of history that we had gladiators shedding blood to delight the audience, after all. While our sensibilities may have evolved, it’s important to remember that we’re still the same base animals that thrilled to that spectacle. I don’t see us ever going back there (barring a Fallout scenario), but it’s good to humanize these things instead of just chalking it up to “crazies” out there.
I personally find that the greatest way to address any possible problems with gaming is to get to the reason why you want to experience the violence in the first place. What compels you to want to face down waves of demons, nefarious mobsters, hordes of alien invaders, or masked super villains? Certainly nobody wants to do that in real life, but we get something out of doing it on a screen. Once you identify whatever it is, figure out why that may be increasing in our society and work to address that issue. I would suspect that would go a long way towards shaping our society into one that more of us would be comfortable with and would create a better environment to address at-risk individuals. No solution will ever be perfect and people will still fall through the cracks for any number of reasons, but at least it would be nice to see some movement in a positive direction.
Now I’ll let you guys continue at it while I count the hours until I can get home and continue my conquest of the globe in Civ.