Why are video games so bad

Violence in games: higher aggressiveness through "GTA" and Co.?

Since the advent of the first video games, scientists in communication studies or psychology have been researching whether media violence also has effects in "real life". With 2.69 billion gamers worldwide in 2020, an answer will be all the more important.

Long-term studies in which the usage behavior of video gamers is observed over the years provide relevant findings. Sarah M. Coyne and Laura Stockdale of Brigham Young University in the USA published the results of their ten-year study at the end of December, which failed to measure antisocial behavior in children and adolescents who played video games.

What was researched?

"Growing up with GTA" is the name of the study in which over 500 adolescents were accompanied throughout their youth. The participants could be divided into three groups: Around four percent had a great affinity for violent video games and spent a lot of time with action shooters such as “Grand Theft Auto” (“GTA”). 23 percent of teenagers showed a moderate interest in games with violent content and the majority of respondents, around 73 percent, preferred games with very little or no violence at all. Since violent video games are suspected of having an effect not only on the level of aggressiveness of gamers, the study also measured depressive symptoms, anxiety states and general social behavior. The researchers also took into account aspects of the teenagers' life, such as their personality and family, in order to be able to correctly grasp the individual development through video game consumption. How violent the games the adolescents played were judged according to the criteria of the organization “Common Sense Media”, which is similar in function to the USK.

Results of the study "Growing up with GTA"

The study found that boys preferred violent games more often than girls.

In their studies, the researchers found no difference in the prosocial behavior of the children and adolescents. Years of video game consumption had no effect on how positive, constructive or helpful the players were. Likewise, playing violent games did not lead to increased anxiety or depressive symptoms.

Those adolescents who preferred to play violent video games spent a lot of time in front of the screen in their early adolescence, but their consumption decreased somewhat in the middle of their adolescence and slowly increased again towards the end of the measurement period. Coyne and Stockdale suspected that parents sometimes set rules to limit their children's consumption. It is also noticeable that this group showed the most depressive symptoms and the lowest level of anxiety right from the start. The study suggests that the adolescents sought a distraction from psychological problems in the games and at the same time their feelings of fear were dulled by the consumption.

The group of adolescents who were moderately interested in violent content were the only ones to show increased aggressive behavior towards the end. However, it cannot be said that this change was solely due to video game behavior. Because many influencing factors, which cannot all be recorded in a single study, influence a person's level of aggressiveness. However, the authors note that this group showed the most constant gaming behavior of all observed participants. Such gambling behavior is therefore most likely to make you more aggressive.

The group with an initial aversion to violence found a little more pleasure in violent video games over the course of the investigation. Nonetheless, it showed the best overall metrics for mental wellbeing.

The Limits of Studies on the Influence of Violent Games

In their publication, Coyne and Stockdale explain why some studies on the influence of violent video games nonetheless found strong associations between violent video games and increased aggressiveness in most participants: These studies investigate the behavior of gamers under laboratory conditions, which, however, do not necessarily make statements deduce from real life. In addition, in many experiments only the direct connection behavior is researched. But even if a somewhat stimulated behavior becomes noticeable for a short time after playing, games usually have no significant, long-term influence on the players.

The researchers of the "GTA" study also reveal the limitations of their own results: All data were collected through the self-reports of the study participants, which are of course subjective. Coyne and Stockdale write that open surveys in particular could provide even more information to learn about the usage behavior of violent video games and their possible influence.

And Massey University in New Zealand came to a similar conclusion this year. There, 28 studies from the last few years were examined in a so-called meta-study. The result shows that playing computer games does not lead to more violence among young people. A very small, statistically existing correlation was found between violent video games and aggression, but it is almost zero and therefore cannot be considered a relevant, long-term effect. The New Zealand study thus states that current research is currently unable to support the violence hypothesis.

Media effects and violence - what matters

The impact of video game violence on children is complex. The results of the study “Growing up with GTA” show that video game consumption cannot be ascribed to any direct, single-factor effect on the aggressiveness of gamers.

Roland Burkart, an Austrian communication scientist, deals with the important dimensions of media effects. According to him, media content can shape the knowledge, attitudes, emotions and behavior of the recipients. In addition, the motifs relevant to media use have a significant influence on the effect. For example, it makes a difference whether children sit in front of the computer to switch off and relax or to escape from the real world.

In the case of violent games, personal circumstances also play a role in what effect the content has on children and young people. The age or level of development of the adolescent can be decisive. Anyone who already has experience with the relevant game genre will also perceive the respective game differently than children, who are less able to classify the content. Of course, the violence-related values ​​of children also play a role, which they are conveyed through their personal environment. This often includes your own personal experience of violence. These factors are often linked to gender role and the socio-cultural and socio-economic milieu in which adolescents grow up. Burkart even says that direct personal conversations shape our opinions, attitudes and actions much more than the reception of media content.

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discontinued February 01, 2021