Even twelve years after the Columbine High School shootings, music and video games
are still under intense scrutiny by the media and public advocates. Just as controversial rock superstar Marilyn Manson was blamed for inspiring the Columbine murders, recent events like the killings that claimed the lives of over 70 people in Norway have caused people to lay blame on violent video games.
The video game genre that is most targeted is the first person shooter (FPS) games, which include smash hits like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
, the Halo
series, Battlefield 2: Bad Company
and Gears of War
. Both Sides of the Argument
Those who oppose violent video games claim that the intense graphic nature of the games end up “desensitizing” the players, and could even inspire them to carry out similar acts of violence
in real life. Those who don't
believe video games have that kind of power over the human mind argue that if a person is that easily influenced by a video game, he was already in a volatile state of mind that could have led to violence . . . whether they had played the video game or not. Could video games, which are no more than lines of coding and clumps of pixels, truly affect the human brain, and possibly desensitize a player to violence?
A new study suggests that violent video games, especially FPS games, can indeed lead to emotional insensitivity
, but only under certain circumstances. The comprehensive study, which was published on the online journal Biological Psychology
, was led by a team of researchers from the University of Bonn, and included epileptologists, psychologists and neurologists. Results from the study show that gamers who play FPS games excessively control their emotions differently
than people who don't play violent video games. Details of the Study
For the experiment, the researchers gathered 21 video gamers who were between 20 and 30 years old, and a control group that contained 19 similarly aged adults who had no prior experience playing violent video games. The 21 subjects who were gamers all played FPS games an average of 15 hours a week. Using a brain scanner from the Life and Brain Center from the University of Bonn, the researchers recorded how the brain responded to different images. These images were a mixture of screenshots taken directly from violent first person shooters and real life still images taken of disaster, accident and murder victims. They were then shown to the subjects in a random order, and their reaction to the images were recorded.
The results showed that while both test groups showed a negative emotional response to the images, the people who did not play violent games had a harder time getting their horror under control. The ones who did play the first person shooters regained their composure much quicker and were not as negatively affected, showing that this group does indeed have a lowered sensitivity to violence.
While this shows that violent gamers are likely to be more desensitized to graphic images and video, it does not prove that it could inspire the player to actually commit an act of violence. Could playing enough violent games cause someone to become violent themselves? Finding the answer to this question will be the next step for researchers who seek to learn if media really does have an impact on our behavior or not.