Study shows violent games have real effects

Written by Brett Thomas

December 1, 2006 // 3:21 p.m.

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?

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