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The Forum > Article Comments > The effects of violent video games > Comments

The effects of violent video games : Comments

By Valerie Yule, published 19/1/2012

Most research on the effects of violent video games is fatally flawed, because it ignores the importance of the contexts and the differences between players.

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An interesting article. I particularly like your point about context.

Art, whether it be video games, movies, comics books, etc has an instrumental value to humans socially, and it's not just as a form of entertainment. It's a medium that allows us, to varying degrees, to place ourselves within contexts we haven't been in before, or haven't been in very often. In other words Art is the testing ground for morality. Most of us learn bullying is bad not just from our parents, but because the bully in movies is the bad guy, and always gets his or her come uppance in the end. We are socialised by Art because we see consequences played out before us, and they serve as warnings to us that in society there will be similar consequences if we behave in such a fashion.

So Art allows us to participate in a kind of moral hypothetical. What would I do in that situation? Who are the good guys, the bad guys in this? Did they behave correctly?

The problem with video games is that more and more those who produce them are providing these moral sandboxes without the consequences. In a game you can run over the little old lady, and you won't be shunned by society, you won't be arrested (you can just shoot the cops and get away), you won't be labelled a pariah and ecluded. The hypothetical is skewed towards a "do what you want without repercussion." And to some extent that has to be ingrained.
Posted by Grayzie, Thursday, 19 January 2012 10:14:25 AM
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The Media Education Foundation in the US has a great film on its site called "Mean world" that looked at the effect of media violence. The research it reported contended that most people do not act out the violence. Instead they are concerned that they will become the victim of violence and therefore begin to see the world as mean and threatening. The film showed how Americans were irrationally supporting the mean, callous and vicious ways of treating others labelled as enemies or bad guys. The film also said that there has always been violence in art but until 20th century it was seen as a tragedy and to have consequences. However the "jokey" treatment of torture and violence now downplays the reality of violence. I am shocked at my teenage kids enjoying such "jokey" violence when I cannot watch. I find US media to be full of pretty awful actions and mindsets that are often based on violence and callousness to the other. I feel this cannot help but have an effect of the collective psyche. Who benefits from people being scared, aggressive and afraid of one another? Maybe one for another discussion.
Posted by lillian, Thursday, 19 January 2012 1:20:19 PM
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While I support many of Valerie's observations about the impacts of violent video games, I am very puzzled by her view that most of the research around violent video games "is worthless, because it is flawed. It ignores the importance of context". I follow the research closely, and believe that many of the contextual factors that she points to are indeed taken account of. And many of her concerns supported by reliable research.

And it's not the case that " ... the flawed research is the basis for legal permission for the most cruel games". That legal permission arises from the mistaken view (incl that emerging from the recent US Supreme Court case) that the research on violent media impacts is inconclusive, there is no harm, and therefore commercial interests can be permitted to keep producing very violent games for the amusement of gamers.

There continues to be unwarranted (and often ill-informed)criticism of the significant body of methodologically sound research in the field of psychology (and more latterly, neurophysiology) that shows harm- from risks of increased aggression, to desensitisation, loss of empathy and increased fear. The media continues to trumpet (because it feeds on controversy)that the research is inconclusive, often without careful review of the expertise of the dissenters. Governments then do not see the need to take action, and parents are given a sense of false security ("it's just a game!").

In the end we need to decide whether it's good for our youth to be constantly practising how to be best at violence and mayhem. Research, if carefully and fairly assessed, provides evidence that supports our unease.
Posted by beb, Thursday, 19 January 2012 2:12:00 PM
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...Thanks Valerie, your article prompted an interesting incursion into a field of endeavour reserved mainly for the I.T. savvy, which is not myself: I long ago abandoned the cathode ray box, as the collateral junk the programs proved to be. Video games to some, offer an outlet to the same psychological obsession that Andrew Wilkie is combating, as the white night of right, in his attempts to save the unsaveable from themselves, in his case, poker machine addicts.

...It is laughable though, in Britain late last year, it was revealed that thirty thousand school age children, some as young as three, were entered on a Government database and branded racist and homophobic, for making schoolyard jibes. But apparently in America, the opposite is true, there, children’s rights are protected, enabling (encouraging) them to participate in violent video games if they so desire.

...Seems the "Life-Games" authorities, world-wide, play with children’s heads is endless.
Posted by diver dan, Thursday, 19 January 2012 4:01:08 PM
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Grayzie, great post.

But, I think really some of this is taken far too seriously. The killing and maiming of innocent civillians in a video game is made all the more fun by the prevalent PC moral guardians jumping on every quote and enforcing people to 'clarify' or 'apologize' because what they said may have been offensive to the disabled black gay whales with a mental illness and special needs.

So, any normal free spirit in this world should naturally relish the opportunity for mindless violence and sex in a video game.

Is there to be no black humour any more? No fantasy that doesn't involve fluffy bunnys? Do we always have to be sweet and nice and bland and Gattaca?

Can we ever dream of straying even ever so slightly from nutritional diets and worlds best practise and OH&S, and are you getting enough fibre?

Hell, I don't smoke and I don't gamble, and I even don't like other people's second hand cigarette smoke, but I am really gunning for the tobacco lobby and the Clubs and Pubs and their pokies because I'm so sick of Do-Gooders.

I don't look forward to a world free of all simple joys that 'may be harmful'.

Let the kids enjoy a game for god's sake, it will keep them from shooting birds with bb guns and air rifles and putting fire crackers inside letterboxes. See, the world is so much safer and in 50 years it will be so much more safe, until it will be so boring and nice I'll be so glad I lived in the day when a bunch of teenage boys could laugh at grand theft auto in the safe environment of sitting in front of a screen.

As long as they got the recommended 2 hours exercise and had the correct ergonomic settings for their chair and took the recommended break times and thought of the environmental effects of their electricity use and considered the themes of the game and their effect on all minorities and ....

No wonder the kids want to top themselves these days.
Posted by Houellebecq, Thursday, 19 January 2012 4:10:23 PM
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The US Army and Marines, who are part of the world's most advanced military force, use computer games to train their soldiers to kill people. That is a fact.

The reason why they do this, is because it has been known for hundreds of years that the overwhelming majority of soldiers who engage in front line combat will not do anything to harm or kill the enemy. Most front line behaviour by infantrymen is in the form of aggresive display. The firing of infantry weapons is usually one of sending the enemy a message to "get back" or "move away". Most of the killing today is done by crew served weapons, who's crews do not see the enemy face to face. It has been calculated that only 15% of men will kill the enemy at close range, and then not suffer from the overwhelming guilt of killing another human being. Such men are the natural soldiers of every community.

Computer games help the military to train soldiers to kill, by overcoming the natural instinct inherent in human beings to not kill members of our own species. The US Army was the first to train their young men to do this, and the original training came began at he time of the Vietnam war. Although since personell computers did not exist at that time, the US Army used other methods to achieve this end.

The training was a success in that it definitely succeeded in making young soldiers kill the enemy, but it had a ghastly unintended side effect. In the twenty years after the Vietnam war, 50,000 US veterans committed suicide as they could not live with the fact that they had killed fellow human beings.

The use of violent computer games to teach young men to kill is now becoming standard training in all armies, and we are allowing our children to play with these things as games?

And Magaret Yule can't see anything wrong with that?
Posted by LEGO, Friday, 20 January 2012 4:16:21 AM
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