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Study finds no links between videogames and violence – Just in time for Hatred?

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A long-term United States (US) based study into violent videogames, has been conducted by a group led by psychologist Christopher Ferguson. The study found no links between violent games and behavior, questioning the methodology of previous studies that suggested the two were related.

The results come just in time for Hatred, a highly debated game about playing as a mass murderer, which has recently been Greenlit on Steam.

The research results – A decrease in violence

I have long been a proponent of the idea that games or films do not cause violence. As someone who has four years of study into forensic investigation and three in psychology, I have my own theory. I believe youth violence can be attributed to larger sociological issues, a person’s childhood, education and deep psychological issues / imbalances. Not video games or film.

The study into game violence used data from the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to estimate the violent content of games between 1996 and 2011. The data was then compared to youth violence during the same years, with the study finding a shocking correlation. Instead of a correlation where youth violence increased between those years, a correlation was found where youth violence actually decreased.

The research states:

Youth violence dropped precipitously, despite maintaining very high levels of media violence in society with the introduction of videogames.” - Source

So game violence did not increase youth violence in society. Games, although they can be violent sometimes, probably stopped youths from going outside more often, joining gangs or making friends with trouble makers. Sitting at home driving over people in Grand Theft Auto might have actually saved some youths from getting in touch with larger sociological issues.

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In a statement to the press, psychologist Christopher Ferguson noted:

"Media narrative surrounding violent video games and youth violence may be due to the ‘limited amount of resources and attention’ that society can devote to ‘the problem of reducing crime’.

He adds that if the wrong problem is identified, it may: "distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health." - Source

Ferguson writes: "This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value." - Source

I completely agree with Ferguson on the matter. Society should stop focusing on game and film violence as a cause of youth violence and rather focus on the real issues at hand. Mental Health, poverty and educational issues should be the main focus, not some violent entertainment from the living room couch.

The research team also pointed out that laboratory-based studies in the past used flawed methodology by stating:

Many laboratory-based studies into the effect of media violence have measured aggression in test subjects through less aggressive outcomes ranging from filling in the missing letters of words through delivering nonpainful noise bursts to a consenting opponent.

These studies also commonly provide exposure to brief clips of media, rather than full narrative experiences and that the resultant aggressive behaviors are also outside a real-world context in which the aggression appears to be sanctioned by the researchers themselves.” - Source

Studies using the methodology as stated above do seem to be rather misleading. The only way to really get the complete picture is by doing real-world studies or in the case of the research by Ferguson, looking at the whole picture through a long-term study.

Just in time for Hatred

There has been a lot of debate surrounding the game since it was pulled from Steam and then subsequently put back up. Even in the MWEB GameZone camp, opinions are split between various writers. MWEB GameZone’s Zaid Kriel argued that the game had a right to exist as it did nothing that other accepted games have not done in the past, while Han Cilliers felt the game promoted murder without morality.

Despite the debate, the gaming community has spoken and Hatred has been Greenlit on Steam less than a week ago. With the new research study results, the proponents who suggest the game has a right to exist and believe that video game violence does not translate into real-life violence have just receive a lot of debate ammunition.

Closing Thoughts

I am a firm believer that video games, no matter how violent, do not cause real-life violence. Although it is still up for debate even with the long-term study results, one should realize that when violent acts occur, it is due to a wealth of much deeper, underlying issues. The human mind, especially that of a developing youth, is yet to be completely explored. Maybe one day we will have all the answers. For now, society should focus on larger issues than a few excessively violent games like Hatred.

Do you agree with the study or do you believe games cause youth violence? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

Sources: Journal of Communication, Independent

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd  

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