Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Damaging Effects of Video Game Violence

Be careful about violent video games and kids. Violent games like the ones used in the study below (Carmageddon, Duke Nukem, MOrtal Kombat, Future Cop) physiologically desensitized players when they they were presented with scenes of real-life violence.

Video game violence also seems to have more powerful effects on children than movie violence - maybe because with video games, they interact with the images more directly. It's a spooky thing, too, that violent television exposure at an early age appears to have a greater effect on later violent behavior than low IQ, abusive parents, exposure to antisocial peers, or a broken home.

Desensitization to Scenes of Real-Life Violence with Violent Video Game Play
Video Game Violence Worse Than Movie Violence for Kids Press Release
Video Game Violence pdf


  1. There are many reasons to think that the results in this study are overblown, including the facts that 1) violent video game players (VGPs) may have been at a relatively maximum state of arousal before watching the video, whereas non-violent VGP might not; 2) the authors didn't distinguish whether this "densensitization" is anything above and beyond simple habituation; 3) the effect sizes are *tiny*, and what's more, the nonviolent VGPs showed no significant change in GSR between playing the game and watching the film. In fact, if I recall correctly, there was no main effect of time on GSR throughout the whole experiment, across groups.

    There are several other reasons to question the methodology here, as described here and here.

  2. It doesn't take big leap in my mind to believe that role playing games involving violent interactions can physiologically desensitize a person to future images of violence. But the bigger questions are harder to prove (are violent video games harmful for kids) - and then where should you draw the line becomes the crucial issue. What is violent - Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote vs. Mortal Kombat?

    Parents have to make decisions like this all the time - based on suggestive, but not definitely proven information.

    In the statistic about children exposed to violent TV at early ages (6-11), could also be critiqued on the basis of "other variables" (e.g. parents who allow their young children to watch violent shows might have other significant differences in how they raise their kids), but I still think it's helpful to think about and file away as possibly useful information.

    Your points are well-taken, though. Thanks, chris.

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  4. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Many video games are learning but others are violent and get kids into alot of trouble. It is our job to make sure that this doesn't happen.