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Study shows violent games have real effects

Study shows violent games have real effects

A recent study has shown that games like BF2142 change your way of thinking, sometimes for hours afterward.

There has been a lot of noise about violence in video games ever since Wolfenstein 3D was released (waaaaaay back when). Many of us gamers have heard just about every idea under the sun, from videogames rotting your brain to them giving you a predisposition towards shooting up a school. Well, it turns out they actually do alter some thought patterns - just not in the way your mother always told you.

A study was conducted by the head of radiology at Indiana University School of Medicine, Dr. Vincent Mathews. In it, 44 subjects were randomly assigned to play either a violent (Medal of Honor: Frontline) or nonviolent (Need For Speed:Underground) video game for 30 minutes. Then, the subjects were given MRI scans and monitored while working on tests of inhibition and concentration.

Results were interesting and fairly definitive. All of the people who played the violent game had very strong emotional arousal, but lowered inhibitions and a much lower ability to concentrate. One could liken this to the "fight or flight" reactions, as the gamers moved toward instinctual playing styles and more predatory and survival based thinking. Effects lasted well after the games ended, slowly returning back to baseline sometimes as long as hours later.

Sadly, the report didn't go into much detail about the effects that the non-violent video game had versus a baseline. This leaves a critical question unanswered: Do certain games improve your concentration ability?

Dr. Mathews is looking to do further study on these finding in an effort to find out if there is an actual long-term effect on the way the brain processes information. Could certain games actually be creating a PTSD-like effect?

Tell us your thoughts over in our forums.

24 Comments

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ElThomsono 1st December 2006, 15:40 Quote
Not surprising, games are just a mental excercise, whether it's minesweeper or CS. Reminds me of this article, giving surgeons computer games to play.

Brain age anyone?
Cobalt 1st December 2006, 15:41 Quote
Woohoo for more biased testing! If they really wanted to study the effects of violent games then they first need to establish that it isn't a general effect of games. By not going into the same amount of detail with the non-violent games it is possible to make the statement "Violent games reduce concentration" without the clarification that non-violent games don't reduce concentration.

Every time I see a study on the effects of violent games I cringe at the testing ethic.
M4RTIN 1st December 2006, 15:42 Quote
so they are saying for example a violent game makes you want to kill people, even though they didnt really prove that. it was just increased brain activity
Da Dego 1st December 2006, 15:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by M4RTIN
so they are saying for example a violent game makes you want to kill people, even though they didnt really prove that. it was just increased brain activity
That's one thing the study did not say, though I didn't know how to write it into the article well. There was no discussion about a person just going off and killing someone because of a game or anything. It just makes you think differently - you become more instinctual, more gut-feeling oriented, and you have an inability to concentrate on tasks that don't play well to that (like a complex math problem)
Veles 1st December 2006, 15:52 Quote
44 people, wow thats a sample that holds alot of weight.

Although, TBH, I reckon he's right, but watching a scary or action packed film will have the same effect, as will reading a scary/action packed book (if you're one of those people who can really get into books).

As for the games increasing concentration, thats what Dr Kawashima's Brain Training is designed for, doing the various things activates parts of your brain, not just improves them over time (just like say, a jog warms up your boday as well as giving it good cardio training).
Cthippo 1st December 2006, 15:58 Quote
Meh, no surprise, really. After a few hours gaming it takes me a while before I settle down enough to sleep.
specofdust 1st December 2006, 16:00 Quote
I have to agree with Veles, this study seems pretty poor. I mean, were the people non-gamers, or gamers? And 44 is a low number, I'd have put a lot more weight in it if they'd done at least a hundred.
mmorgue 1st December 2006, 16:14 Quote
So, a radiologist performed an analysis on how (violent) video games affect people?

Wouldn't the effects he claims to see via MRI after an intense gaming session also be similar to what you'd see if you thoroughly focused on something of a similar nature? Meaning, that all he's doing is merely reporting on the physical brain functionality when exposed to a specific external stimulus?

To me that doesn't say anything about how people "behave" when exposed to (violent) games. Simply saying that the water is boiling when you apply a constant heat source doesn't indicate anything more than it's boiling.

Weird analysis, to me....
SaintJ858 1st December 2006, 16:57 Quote
The study is still very vague at what it shows, but it will encourage anti violent video game activist on "protecting the children."
scq 1st December 2006, 20:24 Quote
More brain activity does not always equate to more VIOLENT BRAIN ACTIVITY.

However, giving them the benefit of the doubt - does that slight increase matter much? Empirical evidence suggests that the bulk of the population can handle violent games and those which did result in tragedies are isolated incidents whose other factors are often overshadowed by politicians, interest groups, and Jack Thompson.

While video games are more emersive than TV, books, or magazines (since one can interact), how is this debate much more different from past criticisms of TV, comic books, and anti-church treatises to name a few?

I can understand how an action game vs. a violent game and a calmer game may produce different mental responses - but are those responses that powerful that they have a good chance of manifesting itself into physical violence?
lepre 1st December 2006, 21:10 Quote
i think it changes to pick random people or to pick abitual gamers.
some random people can't even move the mouse and press the keyboard the same time, and they get fragged and they get nervous because they suck :D
TMM 2nd December 2006, 04:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ElThomsono
Not surprising, games are just a mental excercise, whether it's minesweeper or CS. Reminds me of this article, giving surgeons computer games to play.

Brain age anyone?
word. Its called adrenaline you silly doctors/scientists :p
Emon 2nd December 2006, 22:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Da Dego
It just makes you think differently - you become more instinctual, more gut-feeling oriented, and you have an inability to concentrate on tasks that don't play well to that (like a complex math problem)
That should be expected. I'd bet a powerful film could have a very similar effect, maybe even a book.
mattthegamer463 3rd December 2006, 04:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Emon
That should be expected. I'd bet a powerful film could have a very similar effect, maybe even a book.
My thoughts exactly. When I walk out of a movie theatre I feel a urge to pick up a gun and shoot (insert enemy here), and the feeling is far stronger than after I get up from a 2 hour bout of CoD2. I'm sure that someone would have the same feeling after playing Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue (but for entirely different reasons.)
sui_winbolo 3rd December 2006, 06:18 Quote
Whenever I get into "Halo mode" I concentrate greatly on shooting anything that moves...including teammates. I'm working on fixing that aspect. :)

Of course your going to have different brain activity, playing FPS games are very fast paced and requires strong eye hand coordination. Very different compared to some games. If you're playing say an RPG, there's points in the game where you don't need to be focused strongly. In FPS games you are always focused because you don't know what's going to happen. It's the unknown factor that gets you.
Sloth 3rd December 2006, 06:48 Quote
Of course they were feeling ready to kill, MoH: Frontline is hard as hell! Also, who wouldn't feel angry and bloodthirsty after having the Nazis kill your squadmate? And Nfs: Underground is very, very easy, beat it the day I got it, doesn't get you twitchy, doesn't make you on edge like a FPS does. Make a tetris game full of blood, gore, and violence and you'll get different results since even though it's bloody you'll not get that twitchiness. Make a FPS where your enemies are rabbits and you have to hug them or they kill you you'll see that "bloodlust" brain activity go up since it's just that extra reflexiveness you get when gaming
wak 3rd December 2006, 15:01 Quote
yeah i agree with the film idea. While watching violent films with some hardcore action scenes e.g. gladiator and the final fight in LOTR i feel my arms twitching wanting to be there helping, my dad is the same and so are many of my friends...
acron^ 3rd December 2006, 17:21 Quote
I think there's a broad line between interactive violence and 'showcase' violence in games. The media doesn't seem to appreciate this and bundles any game with violence in it into the same category. The Germans have got it right though, the way that their censorship board identifies between gratuitous, unecessary levels of violence and realistic or historical representations of violence.

Why can't the rest of the world catch up?
Nexxo 3rd December 2006, 19:23 Quote
The difficulty I have with studies like this is how general brain activity patterns are extrapolated to complex human behaviours. I think Da Dego sums up the findings quite well:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Da Dego
There was no discussion about a person just going off and killing someone because of a game or anything. It just makes you think differently - you become more instinctual, more gut-feeling oriented, and you have an inability to concentrate on tasks that don't play well to that (like a complex math problem)
The problem is again, that what are actually probably quite normal cognitive processes are now extrapolated to "proneness to violent behaviour".

The argument that such subtle differences in thinking could result in violent behaviour or Columbine-style tragedies would be very shakey, I think. For starters, we have recently seen a similar tragedy in an Amish community where, I suspect, they have yet to introduce a Playstation to the household (perhaps in a tasteful wodden enclosure?).

I can also think of other games that are pretty violent, competitive and oppositional, and are likely to tap into that fight-flight, instinctual emotional thinking. Perhaps they should repeat that study with some American football players? Or how about rugby, or soccer? I think they would be amazed by the results. We certainly see enough proneness to violent behaviour on the spectator pitch...

Perhaps it is time to ban competitive sports along with video games. It is the only way to be safe. :p
cpemma 3rd December 2006, 20:10 Quote
One could turn the argument on its head - people who have a deep-seated violent tendency like to play games where they can act out their subconscious fantasies of killing people violently. Gaming is the symptom, not the cause.

I really worry about some of you people... :p
Nexxo 3rd December 2006, 20:20 Quote
OK, let's start monitoring really carefully all: soldiers, armed police, any contact sport players, game hunters, gun enthousiasts... :p
mattthegamer463 3rd December 2006, 21:20 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
For starters, we have recently seen a similar tragedy in an Amish community where, I suspect, they have yet to introduce a Playstation to the household (perhaps in a tasteful wodden enclosure?).
Perhaps the lack of a Playstation was the problem? The amish really don't have very many ways to vent their anger and frustration. That makes more sense to me than a tech-savvy kid shooting up a school.
cpemma 3rd December 2006, 23:35 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nexxo
For starters, we have recently seen a similar tragedy in an Amish community where, I suspect, they have yet to introduce a Playstation to the household (perhaps in a tasteful wooden enclosure?).
Charles Roberts, the killer, wasn't himself Amish.
Javerh 4th December 2006, 09:32 Quote
So you lose your ability to concentrate for a while after intense stimuli. I'd like to know how this affects your normal concentration ability. Does playing lower your daily concentration or does it give it excercise? I see a resemblance here to cardio-vascular traning that strains your heart which leads to less strain when not exercising.

Does playing violent games increase your tolerance to addrenaline and aggression or does it make you more sensitive to them?
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