Jack Thompson is in some little corner of the world, cheering from a windowless, dank room as he watches the news from a black and white laptop monitor, because a new study has finally linked violent video games such as Hitman and Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto with aggressive behavior in gamers. Even though there were studies that once proved otherwise, this heart-stopping study could prove to be a major blow to the gaming industry.

According to a new study by the University of Missouri, the more violent the game the more desensitized gamers become and the diminished brain response “predicts an increase in aggression”. I have no idea how desensitization increases aggression, when in reality it would seem like people would become more nonchalant towards it.

Anyway, Bruce Bartholow, associate professor of psychology in the MU College of Arts and Science commented about the findings, saying that…
“Many researchers have believed that becoming desensitized to violence leads to increased human aggression. Until our study, however, this causal association had never been demonstrated experimentally,”

All right, now I don’t want to mess this next part up so I’m going to quote the test study experiment exactly as it was printed in the findings…
During the study, 70 young adult participants were randomly assigned to play either a nonviolent or a violent video game for 25 minutes. Immediately afterwards, the researchers measured brain responses as participants viewed a series of neutral photos, such as a man on a bike, and violent photos, such as a man holding a gun in another man’s mouth. Finally, participants competed against an opponent in a task that allowed them to give their opponent a controllable blast of loud noise. The level of noise blast the participants set for their opponent was the measure of aggression.

Now the real kicker is that the controllable blast of loud noise was apparently set higher and more aggressively for the participants who played games like Hitman, Grand Theft Auto, KillZone and Call of Duty. Also, participants who played violent games and then viewed photos of violence had less of a brain response than those who did not play violent games. According to the researchers this showcase of desensitization apparently is linked to an increase in aggression. Um, right.

Well, Bartholow had a few more comments to share on the results, saying that…
“The fact that video game exposure did not affect the brain activity of participants who already had been highly exposed to violent games is interesting and suggests a number of possibilities,” … “It could be that those individuals are already so desensitized to violence from habitually playing violent video games that an additional exposure in the lab has very little effect on their brain responses. There also could be an unmeasured factor that causes both a preference for violent video games and a smaller brain response to violence. In either case, there are additional measures to consider.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that subculture, working environment, economic stability (or lack thereof) and relationships also play a big factor in this as well. Violent games are a great way to relieve tension, personally, and the increase in aggression wouldn’t be from the games themselves but more-so from the fact that violent games (per se) have an increased competitive level not found in other games, save for maybe racing sims like Forza Motorsport and Gran Turismo. Also take note that in “violent games” like GTA and Hitman you’re facing off against very aggressive AI that forces a desensitization to violence and requires quick wit to stay alive or complete a mission. Hence, these findings of aggression in violent games feel somewhat subjective.

You can learn more about the study by visiting the Official University of Missouri Website.
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