Recent research confirms that violent video games can increase aggressive behavior in children and adolescents in the short- and long-term. Other recent research found that a particular violent video game, "Asheron's Call 2" did not increase violence in people who played it regularly. Why such varied findings?
The first study by Nicoll and Kieffer presented this week at the American Psychological Association Convention reviewed the last 20 years of the literature. They reported that youth who played violent video games for a short time experienced an increase in aggressive behavior following the video game. One study, for example, found that participants who played a violent game for less than 10 minutes rate themselves with aggressive traits and aggressive actions shortly after playing. Another study of over 600 8th and 9th graders found that the children who spent more time playing violent video games were rated by their teachers as more hostile than other children in the study. The children who played more violent video games had more arguments with authority figures and were more likely to be involved in physical altercations with other students. They also performed more poorly on academic tasks.
This research often involved graphically intensive arcade-style games. The researchers noted that violent video game players "tend to imitate the moves that they just 'acted out' in the game they played." They noted that children who played violent karate games duplicated this type of behavior while playing with friends. The researchers warn about more serious violent behavior if children played this type of video game over and over again. A more detailed summary of some of this previous research has been popular and controversial.
The second study, by Williams & Skoric, found that players who played "Asheron's Call 2," an average of 56 hours over the course of a month were not statistically different from the non-playing control group in their beliefs on aggression. The researchers also reported that game play was not a predictor of aggressive behaviors. This is reported to be first longitudinal study of a game. While "Asheron's Call 2" does appear to have some very violent elements, it is a multi-player online role-playing game. Such games are quite different from graphic simulators such as "Doom." The latter type of game is similar to video simulators that train soldiers for battle. In such games players kill simulated enemies over and over again with increasing precision and skill.
Research into the effects of violent video games needs to become more sophisticated and take into account the nature of the game being studied. It appears that some graphically-oriented games where the game's characters model violence and players rehearse violent behaviors can lead to an increase in real world violence. Other video games, such as role playing games, may not have the same effect.
Violence in Video Games: A Review of the Empirical Research. Jessica Nicoll & Kevin M. Kieffer, Presentation to the American Psychological Association, August 2005.
Internet Fantasy Violence: A Test of Aggression in an Online Game. Dmitri Williams & Marko Skoric Communication Monographs, June 2005.