Are video games to blame for violent behavior?

According to experts, and contrary to what many may think, the association between violence and video games is not supported by science

It is said that one of the greatest risks we take from constantly being exposed to the horrors of the world is lack of sensitivity. Luckily (although someone may say that unfortunately), most of us have not yet crossed that line of no return. Terrible actions such as the murder of Samuel Luiz Muñiz a few months ago often fuel a debate that is never completely diluted: the one that revolves around the culture of violence and video games of this type. Especially if the protagonists are young people, who, by generational logic, have grown up in a culture of playful stimuli much broader than that of their parents.

An example of this was what happened to Samuel Luiz Muñiz, who was beaten to death by group aggression. The press linked the brutal murder of the 24-year-old to the violence “fueled” by Fortnite, the Epic Games video game. Although after the criticism received, the media rectified the headline by eliminating the allusion to one of the fashionable video games, it was clear that the “moral panic” to the gaming industry is still present. Just like two years earlier, when then-President Donald Trump linked the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, in which 29 people died, to video games. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the horrifying and terrifying video games that are so popular, “said the former US president at the time. What is behind this demonization that, however, does not affect other media, such as film or television?

In the opinion of Joan Arnedo, professor of Computer Science, Multimedia and Telecommunications Studies and director of the University Master’s Degree in Video Game Design and Programming at the UOC (Open University of Catalonia), any phenomenon that always causes a furor among young people or the smallest you look at it with a magnifying glass. And that circumstance is not exclusive to video games, since other media have gone through it over time. However, in the case of the ‘gaming’ sector there is the peculiarity that it was born as a product for minors.

«In their conception as a commercial product forty years ago, they were born thought for children, as a toy exclusively, and this vision still remains in society even though it is no longer true. Therefore, there is still a certain hypersensitivity to other media such as movies or series, even when age recommendation mechanisms already exist, ”explains Arnedo.

In fact, and according to experts, the association between violence and video games is not supported by science. Studies such as the one carried out by researcher Christopher Ferguson looked for the connection of violence in the media with real life by comparing this evolution of violence in movies and video games with crime figures. As they have indicated, the result of the research is that, in the middle of the last century, small to moderate correlational relationships can be observed between film violence and homicide rates in the United States, but the trend reversed to early and late last century, with rates of film violence inversely related to homicide rates. Regarding the consumption of video games, the conclusion is that it is associated with a decrease in the rates of youth violence. “The results suggest that the social consumption of violence in the media does not predict an increase in the rates of social violence,” the study notes.

Ripening process

The UOC professor comments, on the other hand, that “no one tears their clothes at the same level in other media such as film or television. But that’s how we are since the nineties, when the hearing in the Congress of the United States of Sega and Nintendo took place because of the video game ‘Mortal Kombat’. That same year, 1992, “Reservoir Dogs” was released and Tarantino did not have to testify before any politician. For the record, I love Tarantino’s films, but people are already clear that they are not for any audience, and no one tears their clothes for it, “he says. He also adds that something similar happened again in 2003, when there was some controversy with the video game Manhunt, the year of the premiere of ‘Kill Bill. Vol. 1 ‘.

“Perhaps we must continue with a maturing process that stops associating the video game with something for children and that assumes that there are no longer just ‘video games’. It is the medium, but not the genre. For each age, the most appropriate one should be chosen, something that the indications of the PEGI (Pan European Game Information) code provide us, ”explains Arnedo, member of the UOC’s GAME (Learning, Media and Entertainment) research group. Today, the data show that it has ceased to be a niche product to become a main product (mainstream): in Spain there are players of all ages, and of both genders, according to figures published in Statista. In addition, their number grows every year, and currently almost half of the world’s population is a player, according to a report by the analysis site DFC Intelligence, which estimates the number of people who play video games worldwide at 3.1 billion.

Teamwork

Less well known than the aspects that associate video games and violence are the possibilities they offer in the field of the skills they promote. But the truth is that there are a large number of studies that have investigated these positive contributions of video games. From research such as’ Girls’ video gaming behavior and undergraduate degree selection: A secondary data analysis approach ‘, which conclude that female gamers are three times more likely to study scientific careers than non-gamers, to studies that state that surgeons who play video games are better at their job.

As Gisela Vaquero, collaborating professor on the UOC’s master’s degree in Video Game Design and Programming, explains, they improve the ability to react and make it possible to learn collaborative behaviors or to work in a team. But video games can also be used to learn history, art, math, music, or languages. In addition, depending on the genre of the video game, you can develop more specific skills. «For example, in strategy games you learn to manage resources and teams, as well as other strategy techniques that can be useful in your daily life; In puzzle video games you learn logic, mathematics and skills such as patience to solve them; in simulation games, to take care of animals, plants and interior decoration; in role-playing games you learn to put yourself in the role of another person, that is, the empathy that is so necessary in our society, “he says.

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