Is playing violent video games connected with actual acts of violence?

By Writers Guild Kenya, Writer.

Violence and video games belong to two different genres of words; one is connected with pain and agony and another with fun and amusement. Two of them found their relation, when violence was infused in video games and a new genre of games categorized as violent video games flooded the market and gained immense popularity among teens and adolescent. These games got the attention of researchers, parents and child advocacy groups when acts of extreme violence exerted by teens became a hot news topic. Violent video games do not have a precise definition. Generally those games in which the one character harms other character are considered as “violent” video games.


Extensive research has been conducted to address this issue and researchers have carried out laboratory, field and classroom studies to understand the physiological and psychological changes that occur after playing these games. It has been found that after playing violent video games people experience increased physiological signs of aggression like increased heart rate and adrenaline rush to the brain. When brain scans were carried out of the players there was a steep increase in the activity of the amygdala, which influences emotions and decrease activity in prefrontal lobe which regulates self-control and concentration.

Video games are more immersive than other forms of media; they are interactive and that is why they are more likely to affect their users’ behavior. Prominent researcher Steven Kirsh summarizes, “Violent video games foster identification with the aggressor and reinforce violent behavior.” (as cited in Video Games and Violence,2008)  In the evaluation of cognitive responses of these games it has been found that after playing these games human mind remains occupied with aggressive thoughts.


Adding more to this canon, some researchers have tried to explain that  how  violent video games influence aggressive behavior through General Aggression Model. An increase in aggressive cognitions, affects, and arousal is noticed in the short term effect where violent video games function as a situational variable, but there is insufficient longitudinal data available to support the long-term effects of exposure to video game violence. Need for more research in this area is also recommended by the American Psychology Association. According to APA review, violent behavior of a person is not dependent on a single risk factor and violent and aggressive behavior is the result of accumulation of various risk factors. Violent video games can be considered as one such risk factor. In a press release Mark Appelbaum  task force chair has mentioned, “Scientists have investigated the use of violent video games for more than two decades, but to date, there is very limited research addressing whether violent video games cause people to commit acts of criminal violence”.


To sum up, the research carried out by prominent researchers on the issue indicates that violent video games influence aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition and physiological arousal. The link between violent video games and increased aggression in players is most studied and established, but more research is required in order to understand that violent video games are really turning people into criminals.  A more comprehensive study, taking a bigger sample size of varied age groups and gender is required in this area to overcome the gaps in research.

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