Violent video games linked to risk of crime, alcohol abuse

Picture expired. A poster promoting Grand Theft Auto V is attached to a wall at a video games shop in New York City. AFP

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  • 6

    Jennifer Richardson

    I am not unwilling to believe that playing lots of violent/anti-social videogames may affect behavior somewhat, but I do wish that when studies like this are reported, the writers would more explicitly address causality and the structure of the study--for instance, is it the video games that cause behavior change, or is it that teenagers who are becoming more rebellious/taking more risks/hanging out with jerks/whatever are more likely to find these types of games appealing, or maybe that these sorts of games are heavily marketed to kids in particular demographics who are already at high risk, or maybe just that kids whose parents let them play violent video games for many hours per day in many cases don't have the most supportive and involved family environment? I mean, when I was a teenager, I'm pretty sure studies would have found a correlation between cutting yourself and listening to CDs purchased at Hot Topic, but I'm not at all convinced that the Hot Topic music section was directly responsible for the cutting, y'know? The study design may have addressed this (I hope so) but these sorts of news articles rarely do, and it's irritating.

  • 4

    combinibento

    Is it the violence in the games or just the glorifying of antisocial characters committing violent acts? There are plenty of violent games out there, such as the superb recent installments in the Metal Gear franchise, that are very violent but don't glorify crime (think GTA). I don't think the study should throw all violent games into one category, as it's unlikely they all have the same effect on teens.

  • 7

    sighclops

    Ah yes, that old chestnut...

  • 6

    yildiray

    Oh look, the buck is being passed yet again.... let's never point fingers at parents who buy age-restricted games for underage kids.

  • 3

    Crush Them

    It was not violent Hollywood movies. Could not have been. It must have been the games. (sigh)

    You know, humans are naturally violent and sexual, and cigarettes and alcohol are tied to social pleasures that humans also love. Its not so much that games exposed them to any of these, or that wild characters became role models. Its that no one taught them any sort of context or self-control concerning these things they will be exposed to eventually anyhow.

    Video games are not babysitters. Neither is the TV for that matter.

  • 0

    Akemi Mokoto

    So I have 50 studies that says there is no connection, and one that says there is....

    I play GTA V Online, but I have no passion to act anything I see out and I hate senseless real life violence.

  • 0

    Adi YetMeang ClearWater

    Why only study "violent game" what about bout game that you can find and almost any arcade game like Whack a Mole or the ever so popular fruit ninja. Those are made available to kid much easier then games like GTA and such, but yet you don't see a kid wanting to go around trying to find moles to whack or grabbing a sharp object and throwing fruits in the air and trying to slice them. I been playing these so call "violent" type game for years, and not once did i ever feel the need to drive around carelessly or high risk taking behavior. These studies are just way for mainstream media to find something to put a blame on for people bad behaviors and such.

  • 1

    Frungy

    yildirayAug. 09, 2014 - 08:25AM JST Oh look, the buck is being passed yet again.... let's never point fingers at parents who buy age-restricted games for underage kids.

    Yup. and...

    Crush ThemAug. 09, 2014 - 09:33AM JST It was not violent Hollywood movies. Could not have been. It must have been the games. (sigh)

    Yup.

    Poor home environment with lax parents who allow the children to play mature games, surrounded by violent stimuli from videos, TV shows and movies... but they play an hour of computer games a day and it MUST be the computer games' fault.

    These kids shouldn't be playing mature content games, that much is true, but it is not the underlying cause. The underlying cause is a home environment that ALLOWS the kids to play mature content games and sees nothing wrong with kids being exposed to graphic violence, scenes of a sexual nature, etc.

  • -1

    gaijinfo

    Step One:

    For the study, researchers questioned 5,000 randomly chosen US teenagers over a four-year period by telephone.

    Right off the bat this is flawed. Any study worth the paper it's printed on is DOUBLE BLIND. Calling people up on the phone doesn't even come close to being a scientific study. Not to mention the wording of the questions can sway the study any direction the "researchers" wanted to.

    More nonsense:

    The study then found links between games of this nature and changes in a broad range of high-risk behaviors.

    So they are confusing variables. Meaning they AREN'T separating out the natural increase in anti-social tendencies that nearly all teenagers experience.

    Ideally they would need to choose AT LEAST four groups of kids, Two groups that they would expect (based on single or dual parents, income level, neighorhood) to become more violent, and then split them into gamers and non-gamers, based on their natural behavior.

    Another two groups non-violent types (e.g. religious, dual parents, nice neighborhoods, good grades, etc,) and then split them into gamers and non-gamers.

    But they didn't do ANY of that. They just chose people at random, and called them up on the phone.

    This is junk pseudo science with the intention of FORCING an outcome that the researchers likely set out to prove in the first place, for political purposes.

  • 0

    night knight

    @Crush ThemAUG. 09, 2014 - 09:33AM JST

    It was not violent Hollywood movies. Could not have been. It must have been the games. (sigh)

    Agreed.

  • 0

    senseiman

    I tried accessing the original study, but it is behind a paywall. It is difficult to evaluate the criticisms of it in the comments here without accessing the original- they may have accounted for these other causative variables in the study, we just don`t know.

    It is in a peer-reviewed journal and all of these potential objections would likely have been brought up in that process if they weren`t addressed directly in the original paper. For reasons of simplifying things this AFP news article just gave the basic conclusions without fully describing their methods, etc.

    Abstract of the original study http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/107/2/300/

  • 0

    Jennifer Richardson

    @senseiman

    Yeah, my problem is not so much with the original study (I also hit paywall, so I can't comment on it, but I assume it addresses this stuff...although honestly I have seen some unbelievable things make it through peer review so I never have complete faith) but with popular science reporting in general, which frequently not just oversimplifies but outright misrepresents the conclusions of studies and clinical trials. I have hit a string of misleading articles this week, so I am kind of suspicious of this one...plus I just wish it was common practice to at least touch on these things when stuff is being reported. I mean, I don't need a detailed recounting of methodology, but a couple of comments about obvious confounding variables, significance of results, etc. would not go amiss.

    http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?n=1174

  • 0

    Tatsuwashi

    Here is a nice graph which pretty much refutes the whole study.

    http://casadecass.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/violent-crime-vs-video-game-sales.png

  • -1

    kaynide

    Ya 'dern kids with your loud rock and roll music! And dancin with your hands on each other!

    Truly there is a lot more to the story than just violent video games.
    Consider the following: Japan is an incredibly video-game-tolerant country with quite a lot of violence, nudity and so on in many-a-game. So, comparatively speaking, how violent is Japan to say, America? or a third world country?

    I am inclined to believe violence is more correlated to socioeconomic levels than video games. That is to say, the poorer a family is the more inclined they are to commit violent crime.

    I will grant that Japan has some major issues with suicide and "I killed them because I wanted to know what it was like" cases...but I also put that up more to the mind-and-soul crushing stress that people have to go through in this country than anything else.

  • 0

    alotofthings

    I believe the games help rather than increase Alcohol/Abuse, especially if a gamer who does live streaming (i.e. twitch etc).

    I been gaming for many years, since high school, never once to turn to drugs or alcohol.

    This is just another bash trying to link gaming to say the school shootings in the USA.

    It's the parents own upbringing and those who they interact with that are the problem, not the games.

    This study is goes in the bin.

    There is another study recently that more objective study (UK?) says that if people play games for couple of hours or more a week, then they actually improve their skills, but any more has some negative effects.

    This study, has no positive, only negative impacts of gaming, so obviously trying to make excuses to blame games.

    And too much focused on the Alcohol/Abuse factor and demonize gamers.

  • 0

    Frungy

    senseimanAug. 09, 2014 - 10:47AM JST I tried accessing the original study, but it is behind a paywall. It is difficult to evaluate the criticisms of it in the comments here without accessing the original- they may have accounted for these other causative variables in the study, we just don`t know.

    A fair comment.

    It is in a peer-reviewed journal and all of these potential objections would likely have been brought up in that process if they weren`t addressed directly in the original paper. For reasons of simplifying things this AFP news article just gave the basic conclusions without fully describing their methods, etc.

    I'm afraid your faith in peer review is somewhat misplaced. Unfortunately some issues in academia do tend to attract groups of supporters. It happens in every field. As a result it is possible to read back-issues of journals and see what they've published in the past. You'll find that under the same chief editor journals will tend to publish almost exclusively only one side of a particular debate, with the chief editor either selecting very strict reviewers for articles that contradict their position or reviewers who share the same opinion and are biased against the opposing view.

    When you read as many journals as I do on a monthly basis it quickly becomes clear which editors are "for" or "against" a particular position. I'm not saying these editors are always doing it deliberately, just that even a subtle bias can shape reviewer choices or being unusually critical of an opposing viewpoint, although sometimes an editor has made their career on the basis of championing a "new" idea, and it being discredited could damage their career.

    In short, peer-review is a lot like democracy, it works very well in principle, but in practice it is far from perfect, especially with the newer tendency toward double-blind reviewing where the reviewers can hide behind perfect anonymity and don't have to take any professional responsibility for the quality or validity of their criticism. In theory one can appeal to the chief editor to overrule spurious criticisms of a paper, but if the chief editor is also biased then they can quite easily hide behind the excuse, "I see your position, and I acknowledge that the criticisms may not be well-founded, but unfortunately the reviewers reflect the views of this journal's readership, and so I must take their objections into account. Therefore we will be unable to publish your paper at this time.".

  • 0

    Daniel Naumoff

    If after playing a certain game "person" expresses an urge to destroy, drink, etc. - do dangerous for society deed, that only means he was already able to do it. Game only "encourages him" of some sort. Such mentally diseased are not the reason to blame the games. On the other hand, it helps others do what they can not in real life, like, "steaming off". Like mentioned GTA V. Conclusion: Ones blaming should already grow up some brain cells and get the real reason for violence after video games.

  • 0

    senseiman

    I'm afraid your faith in peer review is somewhat misplaced.

    Yeah, I dont want what I said to be taken as a defence of the peer review process in general (Ive been through it and had papers rejected by reviewers myself), rather I just mentioned it because a lot of the objections raised towards this specific paper in the comments here struck me as things peer reviewers would have commented on due to their obviousness. I think this would apply regardless of any biases in regard to editorial selection of reviewers (even if they were favorably disposed to the conclusions in the paper they would likely request the authors to address these issues to avoid criticism).

  • 1

    smithinjapan

    Sorry, but this is more BS. How many people have played GTA then gone out speeding and committing crimes? Why do they look at the games as reasons for kids' behaviour instead of simply looking at the obvious fact that some kids who engage in substance abuse and violent behaviour may also play violent games? What about those kids who DON'T play violent games but engage in substance abuse or violent crimes? What are we going to blame it on then?

  • 0

    Novenachama

    Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent relatively narrow school of research. Therefore most of those studies are inconclusive and many are probably criticized due to methodological grounds. In these studies, I believe the media images are removed from any narrative context. The subjects are probably asked to engage with context that they would not normally consume and may not be understood. Thus the laboratory context is most likely very different from the environments where games would normally be played. So maybe a correlation might have been found but certainly not a casual relationship. I would interpret this as the research simply showing that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent games may one risk factor when coupled with other more immediate real-world influences such as violence in media, including television, movies, music which can contribute to anti-social behavior. In the end no research can prove that video games are a primary factor or could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.

  • 0

    sf2k

    Except other countries play just as many games if not more and are not violent. Americans breath and are more violent, so lets blame breathing. I'd question the methodology

  • 0

    sanneh

    violent children have an increased risk of consuming violent media. they've got it all backwards. correlation does not imply causation. this means kids who already have a violent disposition will want to play the violent games, and their violent behavior becomes more apparent as a result.

    my first encounter with a violent game was when i was around 12 years old and i played grand theft auto 2. i've been in love with Rockstar North's games (formerly DMA Design Ltd.) ever since. in my opinion, they make genuinely fun games that deliver an unforgettable experience and are possibly one of the greatest games studios ever.

    in real life i'm afraid of confrontation, fighting makes me sick, and being around guns makes me uneasy. i'm mindful of other drivers, and always wear a seatbelt. i'm the antithesis of a grand theft auto protagonist (especially the seatbelt part). these games i adored so much during the most influential years of my youth did not make me into a violent character at all.

    i imagine some would want to say i'm a 'rare exception' but i don't think that's true. i have no way to explain the lack of link between what games i've played and my non-violent history, since i'm not an anti-video games psychologist who tries to imagine connections that aren't there.

  • 1

    JoeBigs

    Dartmouth is one to talk, with one of their mascots named Keggy the Keg!

    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jacko/v1/keggy/

    Talk about promoting addictions!

    Violent video games linked to risk of crime, alcohol abuse

    Rock and Roll linked to risk of crime.

    Comic books linked to risk of crime.

    Rap linked to risk of crime.

    Hey, what a great idea, blame something for what someone else does! Your kid robs a store, blame a video game, your kid murders someone, blame rock and roll, your kid is a drunk, blame comic books, your kid is a drug addict blame all of the above!

    Who would ever dare to blame a parent or their little thug for being a complete waste of a life?

    Please, every time something new comes around someone decides to do a study and blame it for woes of society. How about placing the blame where it belongs, stupid people who should never be allowed to raise kids and kids who are just bad?

    The blame for your kid becoming an alcoholic, drug addicted little thug isn't because he/she is/was playing video games, listening to music or even reading books. The reason they are a drunk, drug addicted little thugs is because you were a horrible parent who was/is more concerned about having fun than being a parent.

    Take responsibility for your own actions and stop trying to pass the buck onto something else!

    Stupid studies always make bad parents and stupid little thugs feel better about themselves.

    Take responsibility for what you create and stop trying to pass the buck!

  • 1

    bpsitrep

    Just like a food diet, one's mental diet is affected by what is consumed....junk in, junk out.

  • 0

    kaynide

    To those who downvote randomly, please at least try to add to the discussion. "Bad" is not there for "I don't agree" but rather "this is a bad post, trolling or otherwise to be ignored".

    I have no idea why saying "I think violence has more to do with socio-economics than video games" should be considered "bad". Additionally, no response on why you think it's bad? Lame.

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