Don’t persecute video games

Illustration: Alex Gomez· The Sentry

There has been much debate on whether or not video games incite violence, but the truth is they don’t.

The University of York conducted a study with over 3,000 participants, concluding that violent video games don’t prime players for real-life violence.

Priming is a psychological term used to describe how exposure to one stimulus influences a response and therefore, a subsequent stimulus without conscious guidance or intention. For a participant to be considered “primed,” they would have had to make associations to violence that were present in the game quicker after playing the games.

The study even increased the realism in the video games being tested, but there still wasn’t any correlation of aggression. In one game, players controlled a car and tried to avoid collisions with trucks and other vehicles, and in another game, participants played as a mouse trying not to be caught by a cat. Both games were chosen not only to check for violence but to see whether priming occurred, and if any lasting effects of the games’ violence appeared in the subjects after they had played.

The participants, however, didn’t show any signs of faster connections to violence when exposed to images that had to be labeled as either a vehicle or animal, showing that the game didn’t actually have lasting effects on their brains.

This study also incorporated ragdoll physics, which are basically what makes characters move and react the same as a human in real life would. It is based off of the human skeleton and tends to be more realistic. The study tested out the mechanics in two different combat games, one that used the ragdoll physics and one that did not but, nonetheless, looked realistic.

After the study, word fragment completion tasks were given to the participants, and none of them were associated with violence. The reason why this is pertinent is because, according to priming, the player should be able to categorize any concepts, such as violence or even associations with trucks and animals as mentioned above that were found in the game, more rapidly after having played it. The researchers found no correlation between the two, and thus, no evidence between real-life violence and violent video games.

Perhaps someone plays video games and they are violent, but that doesn’t automatically mean that their violence is a result of video games. According to Kathryn Seifert, Ph.D., and her article written in Psychology Today, “when the accumulation of negative factors (such as maltreatment, chaotic neighborhoods, or psychological problems) and the absence of positive factors (such as opportunities to be successful, adults who provide encouragement, or a resilient temperament) reach a threshold, that’s when violence is more likely to erupt as a means of coping with life’s problems.”

Maybe instead of blaming video games, the real effort should be put into the cessation of so much violence at large.

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