Gamers living in Germany are finally able to purchase (legally) Doom and Doom II, a pair of software titles previously placed in an index of banned titles by the Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons (Bundesprufstelle), the same index reserved for pornography.
The South Australian government is introducing legislation that would make it illegal to post violent or degrading images on the Internet, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald. Having seen so many similar outcries before -- though usually associated with violent videogames -- you would think that Australia's jumping on the bandwagon that such images might turn today's youth into walking clones of in-game bad guys, but that's not the reason Australia is proposing such a drastic measure.
We did a triple-take when we saw that U.S. researchers were trying to separate aggressive behavior from violence in videogames, yet that's exactly what Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M International University and his research team claim. Hasn't Ferguson been watching the news or listening to political speeches during election runs?
As crazy as it may seem to those who wish to blame wicked behavior on violent videogames the way the townspeople in Footloose linked dancing to bad karma and all sorts of other ills, Ferguson says that depressive symptoms are a much stronger predictor of aggression.
The study focused on 302 youths ages 10-14, mostly Hispanic, and all living in a city on the border of Mexico. According to the study, 75 percent of the youths played games within the past month on PCs, consoles, or other devices, while 40 percent played violent videogames. After a year passed, 7 percent reported one or more criminally violent acts, and 19 percent reported one or more non-violent crimes.
Ferguson ultimately concluded that exposure to videogame violence, or even violence in television, failed to predict aggressive behavior 12 months later, but depressive symptoms did.
Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine in West Haven, Connecticut, surveyed 4,028 adolescents about "gaming and reported problems with gaming and other health behaviors." A little over half (51.2 percent) reported gaming, and of those nearly a third (29.2 percent) were girls.
Nothing surprising so far, but get this:
"There were no negative health correlates of gaming in boys and lower odds of smoking regularly; however, girls who reported gaming were less likely to report depression and more likely to report getting into serious fights and carrying a weapon to school," according to the survey.
What's more, 4.9 percent of respondents reported "problematic gaming," which the survey defines as trying to cut back, experiencing an irresistible urge to play, and experience a growing tension that can only be relieved by playing.
We do, however, have to the give the study's authors credit for not making any wild claims about violence in videogames or twisting the results of the survey.
"The prevalence of problematic gaming is low but not insignificant, and problematic gaming may be contained within a larger spectrum of externalizing behaviors," the study concludes. "More research is needed to define safe levels of gaming, refine the definition of problematic gaming, and evaluate effective prevention and intervention strategies."
Maybe it all started with the 1997 Atari 2600 title Combat, in which you were tasked with blowing up your best friend (or whoever you invited over) with a tank, bi-plane, or jet. Or maybe it was something else, but no matter what videogame first began shaping our feeble minds, one thing's for sure - violent videogames increases our violent thinking, attitudes, and behaviors, says a new study. Oh, and those shoot-em-ups you've been playing do absolutely nothing to promote positive social behaviors.
To come to the above conclusion, psychologist Craig Anderson of Iowa State University and his team combed through the results of existing studies of 130,000 people from the U.S., Europe, and Japan. Anderson says he found an association between exposure to violent games and aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive "affect."
"Videogames are neither inherently good nor inherently bad," the study says. "But people learn. And content matters."
Naturally, not everyone agrees with Anderson's findings. Two such critiques include Christopher Ferguson and John Kilburn of the department of behavioral applied science and criminal justice at Texas A&M International University. Ferguson and Kilburn point out flaws in Anderson's study, including what they believe is a selection bias, as well as a weak connection at best. Furthermore, Freguson says that violent crime in the U.S. and other developed nations has decreased over the decades, even though videogames are becoming more popular than ever.
The exact nature of the impact that video games have on humans is a contentious issue among researchers and any possibility of a consensus seems inconceivable. It is almost like an incessant war between the myriad of video game researchers across the globe with contradictory video game studies being continuously exchanged by them instead of lead.
The founder of the Smith & Jones Centre in Amsterdam - Europe’s very first and sole video game de-addiction clinic - Keith Bakker has downplayed video game addiction, which he believes is immensely exaggerated. Only 10% of all compulsive gamers, according to Bakker, are actually addicted to video games, while the rest are riveted to video games as a direct result of social problems confronting them.
His postulate is remarkable in the sense that it views social isolation to be a cause of compulsive gaming in most cases rather than an effect, as is commonly perceived.
“If I continue to call gaming an addiction it takes away the element of choice these people have,” says Bakker. “It's a complete shift in my thinking and also a shift in the thinking of my clinic and the way it treats these people. In most cases of compulsive gaming, it is not addiction and in that case, the solution lies elsewhere."
Mr. Bakker’s views must have come as a huge disappointment to Hollywood stars, who have been planning to use video game addiction as a pretext for future rehab visits after having expended all other plausible excuses.
The most popular game in the social activist fraternity and political circles currently happens to be “blame the videogames.” However, there are ardent gamers and researchers galore to even out the scales. Once again, fresh studies have reinforced the value of games in enhancing cognitive and perceptual skills among children; creating a breed of hyper-dexterous surgeons; and bolstering scientific reasoning capabilities in gamers. All said, there is a slight blemish with one of the studies having found that violent games lead to more violent behavior among gamers. Make the "jump" for all the justification you need to keep playing games.
Have you heard the one about the 3,500 research studies that show a positive relationship between media violence and violent behavior? It’s an old cudgel often used to bludgeon the gaming industry in the debate about violent games.