Worried about violent video games having an adverse event on American youth? Worry no longer; a study done by the University of York has found no links between violent video games and violent behavior. So far, at least; as with most actual science, there are conditions. Science is, after all, tentative. Excerpt:
In a series of experiments, with more than 3,000 participants, the team demonstrated that video game concepts do not ‘prime’ players to behave in certain ways and that increasing the realism of violent video games does not necessarily increase aggression in game players.
The dominant model of learning in games is built on the idea that exposing players to concepts, such as violence in a game, makes those concepts easier to use in ‘real life’. This is known as ‘priming’, and is thought to lead to changes in behaviour. Previous experiments on this effect, however, have so far provided mixed conclusions.
Researchers at the University of York expanded the number of participants in experiments, compared to studies that had gone before it, and compared different types of gaming realism to explore whether more conclusive evidence could be found.
“The findings suggest that there is no link between these kinds of realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on their players.
“Further study is now needed into other aspects of realism to see if this has the same result. What happens when we consider the realism of by-standing characters in the game, for example, and the inclusion of extreme content, such as torture?
“We also only tested these theories on adults, so more work is needed to understand whether a different effect is evident in children players.”
I’m not a huge gamer but have played some; back when it was live I loved the old City of Heroes MMORPG, and I’m a fan of Skyrim and the excellent Witcher franchise. CoH was comic-bookish by design, but the other two games are violent; swordplay figures heavily in both, with decapitations, flying gore, and in the Witcher series, prostitution and sexual acts.
Now I can only speak for myself, but I’ve never felt inclined to go out, take sword in hand, and start hacking away at folk on the street. Nor have any of my kids, and three of the four are pretty hardcore gamers.
There’s another problem, though, and the same problem exists as when someone blames a crime on anything other than the perp: It’s bullshit. The only person, the only thing responsible for a crime is the person that committed that crime. When we lose sight of that, the criminal justice system becomes… well, something like it is today.