#5

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#5

Do videogames make people violent or merely attract violent people?

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Excellent post Dr. Mark, I have to agree to some degree about violence not being as much of an agression enhancer as some people claim it to be. I for one have been gaming since I was three years old (born 1992(woo super mario 3)) and I have only once in my life punched a guy in the face

p.s. the bastard deserved it

Another great article Dr. Mark. Nice to see somebody with some basic forms of reasoning attempt to dive head first into the issue at heart rather than point a finger. =D

Going to agree with viggih7 here. I've been playing videogames as long as I can remember. I've only ever gotten into 3 fights, none of which had anything to do with gaming nor was I the person who initiated the fight. And I hate fighting, I find videogames as a way to release stress rather than taking it out on people, so I guess I could say I'm a violent person at heart who hates violence?

Great post Dr.Mark. I Think that gaming can play a small part if someone is already having the problems that may lead to sociopathy (a very very small part) It can also be an outlet to release anger (i had a bad day once, the modern warfare 2 airport level worked wonders.)

I have been gaming since i can remember (my earliest memory is either CTR: crash team racing or Final Fantasy 9) and i live in the 8th most violent school in scotland yet i have only been in a proper fight once in my 14 years.

Good article. I really like how you used FBI's crime rates to put support your point, and it brings up a lot of interesting ideas. Could it be that crime rates are dropping because the youth have an outlet for their aggression in games? Could it be that youth longing to belong to a group have an outlet beside gangs? hmm...

"So you could wonder if gaming saps excitement and joy out of real life, which may seem dull by comparison."

I thought this was the most interesting observation, and it doesn't seem to come up very often. I've had my share of excitement and joy, but I really noticed it more during parts of my life when I wasn't plugged into gaming (you know, between crap computers and skipping a console cycle or two). But I think you run into the same correlation-causation issue...do we game because we are emotionally flattened, or are we emotionally flattened because we game? It doesn't seem so clear cut.

Zerbye:
"So you could wonder if gaming saps excitement and joy out of real life, which may seem dull by comparison."
[skip]
But I think you run into the same correlation-causation issue...do we game because we are emotionally flattened, or are we emotionally flattened because we game? It doesn't seem so clear cut.

I think this is a very important point. I've read a couple of articles(can't remember where, sorry) that say that depression in 20's to 30's is increasing, and a lot of that is down to having unachievable expectations. From the moment we are aware of what's going on around us we are told that the Good will Triumph over Evil, that the hero will always get the girl and live happily ever after, that honesty and truth defeats selfishness and lies. We are brought up on these stories throughout our childhood, in the form of TV, movies, books, comics, and games.

The sad truth is that life isn't like that. Life isn't fair, the hero doesn't win, and the Bad Guy gets the girl. Or even worse than that, nothing interesting happens at all. No wonder people are turning to games. It allows them to be the hero or anti-hero, and to be in charge of their lives for once. Games are built around the idea of regularly rewarding the Player. It could be that games are filling the holes in their lives, holes that society has created, not the person.

Mark J Kline:
Ask Dr. Mark #5

Do videogames make people violent or merely attract violent people?

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Yet another good column. I like what you write. Sometimes I might disagree with what you are saying, but today was not one of those times.

I think I might agree with most of what you were saying.

Discussing this column with a friend we came to the conclusion that its not only being disturbed while gaming that can make people aggressive.

Personally I got rather irritated at work today when one of my coworkers kept asking about what I was working on, while I was trying to solve a problem. It felt very frustrating to have to explain the problem to him, when I was right in the middle of a mindset.

Good of the doctor to mention atleast that violent crimes have been decreasing all the while gaming has been on the rise.

Dr. Mark, I greatly appreciate your perspective and expertise! But what is the deal with those SCVs, and their anal-fixation?

My question is how can you perform those studies in the first place? There is to many variables since no 2 people have had the exact same life experiences which has to play some part in their mentality.

Another in-depth article with another prying question answered. I can personally reflect to this as these fights and discharge of emotion would happen quite frequently when I was cut off from my pleasant gaming all of the sudden.

Either way, more please!

That was the most coherent 15 year old writing I've read on the internet! Please tell me you didn't have to edit that mail, it gives me hope for humanity to see something like that when these days the internet tends to be full of overused memes, excessive shorthand and endless insults.

In any case, another informed, well written article about games. I do want to mention this:

Mark J Kline:

There were certainly times when elation or irritation colored my mood outside of gaming. It might be as simple as reliving a great victory in my mind repeatedly throughout the day and feeling jaunty about it, or being sour and depressed because of an ongoing frustration. Usually, this all added up to a continuing involvement with gaming long after I stopped a given session of play. Sometimes the thoughts and emotions were quite intrusive. I couldn't stop drifting into them even when I should have been paying attention to other things.

At the moment, I am at work, but I'm spending time looking up my favorite gaming site because, what's on my mind? Games, as usual. I really need to work on this.

I would say that many dedicated hobbyists would probably find success, failure or simple concentrated thought relating to their chosen hobby would carry over to the rest of their lives when they were doing something else. This may seem to appear more often in gamers but I doubt they're totally alone in that regard.

As far as the link to real world violence stemming from violent game play, that's pretty much what I've believe all along. The act of playing a violent game will not cause your every day average person to become a violent lunactic. It may, of course, temporarily increase their excitement level and make a few notable marks on certain charts or scans but I doubt this is much different than the arousal one experiences when watching an exciting movie scene or dancing in a club to one's favourite song. If someone is already pre-disposed to violent behaviour for whatever reason then, yes, playing a violent game may have more of a tangible impact on their actions, but that same impact could also come from many other sources that have nothing to do with videogames.

This column is so interesting! Keep up the good work! I'm starting my first year as a bachelor student of psychology next week; can't wait!

My response to parents who say videogames make their children violent or depressed has always been, "Try parenting." It's a lot easier to point the finger of blame at something (ANYTHING) else than it is to accept little Timmy is making all the wrong decisions because of something you did wrong, or didn't do at all, as a parent. If you're worried about video games, maybe you should be taking a bit more interest in your child's development and emotional and mental wellbeing than letting Tommy Vercetti babysit them to keep them quiet. When I was a kid, I played games a lot, but I had a lot of friends, and my mother, though not perfect, always made a point of setting aside one of her days off as Mother-Daughter time... considering she was a single parent and worked MASSIVE amounts during the week, that meant a lot.

I mean, really? Really? If parents are so concerned about violence and aggression, why aren't they talking to their kids about it? Shielding a child from something is nice, but not as nice as sitting down and talking to them about real life versus fantasy, and what's important about being a caring, genuine human being. The only one responsible for how your child turns out is you.

All I know is a childhood of playing everything from Mario to Resident Evil to Grand Theft Auto has done little more to me than making me more willing to resort to dirty tricks in tickle fights with my husband.

I hate the whole "video games make us violent" thing. The media really loves sensationalist stories and scaring parents. Grand Theft Auto is making hardened criminals and Mass Effect is a sex simulator. Cool story Fox.

Thank you for your contributions to this site Dr. Kline.

No arguments with any point except the idea that video games make people disinterested in real life. Weather that is true or not is up to debate, but even if it is, is it really that different from any other form of excapism? I mean ask Jim the Stereotypical Jock what he thinks of the flu and he'll give so half-assed explanation. Ask him about the game last night and he'll launch into detail about the individual plays and calls.

Video games aren't different from any other kind of escapism, they are just new. Nobody would question a film buff today, but 100 years ago was a different story.

taddmorgan:
Dr. Mark, I greatly appreciate your perspective and expertise! But what is the deal with those SCVs, and their anal-fixation?

...wut?

OT: ...actually, i really don't have much to say; the above has dramatically confused me. I think people are naturally violent and need ways to express there deep seeded, "unhealthy" desires. I put it in quotes because I mean that the desires are perfectly natural, it's just that expressing them in the obvious way would be inconvenient for society. That's why I listen to loud music when I'm upset instead of raping my dog or whatever. They're both expressions of natural, hateful urges, but one is much "healthier." Video games are one of those mediums of expression, I'd say.

Dr Mark, you have a very good point. There were always the sociopaths and such. People will always blame it on something else. I think part of it is the fact that it might have some fault in them they are refusing to accept. Or it might be they don't want to come back with "I just don't know why."

From my experience video games can make someone in some ways more aggressive, but not to the point of murdering someone.. After all, who hasn't thrown a controller?

I use video games as escape too. I use them to make me happy when I'm sad, to let me relax when I'm tensed up or upset. They let me get away from the problems for a little while.

I know this "excuse" is almost cliche at this point, but gaming is, for lack of a better term, cleaner than other "escapes". We don't get drunk, we don't shoot real people, we may do things in the game, but there is a 1/2 inch sheet of glass and hundreds of dollars of technology in between me and my fantasy world. And I certainly haven't hurt anyone because of it.

TheGreatCoolEnergy:
No arguments with any point except the idea that video games make people disinterested in real life. Weather that is true or not is up to debate, but even if it is, is it really that different from any other form of excapism? I mean ask Jim the Stereotypical Jock what he thinks of the flu and he'll give so half-assed explanation. Ask him about the game last night and he'll launch into detail about the individual plays and calls.

Video games aren't different from any other kind of escapism, they are just new. Nobody would question a film buff today, but 100 years ago was a different story.

It isn't different, not at all. He could very well have been talking about books, movies and even too an extent about people tendencies to want to believe in weird, mysterious and spooky things.

It's nothing we haven't heard before, really.

BreakfastMan:
Good article. I really like how you used FBI's crime rates to put support your point, and it brings up a lot of interesting ideas. Could it be that crime rates are dropping because the youth have an outlet for their aggression in games? Could it be that youth longing to belong to a group have an outlet beside gangs? hmm...

That seemed to be the theory that just about every Psychologist at my University had come to.

As far as I know there is little to no credible evidence that violent video games lead anyone but folks already predisposed to be violent to violence. Most studies that support the claim that it does are backed financially by religious groups or folks with large monetary gains to be made by regulation.

In other words, violent people are attracted to simulated violence, but simulated violence does not create violent people. To put it black and white (in other words wrongly). But it gets the point across well enough I suppose.

PurplePlatypus:

It isn't different, not at all. He could very well have been talking about books, movies and even too an extent about people tendencies to want to believe in weird, mysterious and spooky things.

I've been playing games since I was in very low single digit numbers. It wasn't until I started reading avidly that I became less interested in the world around me.

Well ok, that's not entirely true. I became less interested in uninteresting things. Melodrama and gossip have almost no real exciting effect on me. Because of that I lost what was apparently a large part of the conversations going on in my young life.

I still think animals are amazing, that nature is an astounding thing, I love a nice cool day where the sky is bright, I marvel at sights seen while standing at the precipice of a steep cliff, and I fight to understand the infinity that is the universe.

I think most gamers aren't disjointed from life, they just expect more from it, that may be completely wrong but it's just my guess since that's how I feel. Not necessarily explosions and flashing lights everywhere, but substance.

Mark J Kline:
The violent aggression I do occasionally see seems more related to intensive drug and alcohol consumption, and often involves young people from different sub-cultures than the gaming world--athletes are a good example because their activity involves so much actual aggression, which can sometimes boil over into real life.

Penn and Teller said it best, I think.

Another great article Dr Mark! You really are giving us a nice unbiased view into our own minds, which we all appreciate, I'm sure.

coldfrog:
That was the most coherent 15 year old writing I've read on the internet! Please tell me you didn't have to edit that mail, it gives me hope for humanity to see something like that when these days the internet tends to be full of overused memes, excessive shorthand and endless insults.

In any case, another informed, well written article about games. I do want to mention this:

Mark J Kline:

There were certainly times when elation or irritation colored my mood outside of gaming. It might be as simple as reliving a great victory in my mind repeatedly throughout the day and feeling jaunty about it, or being sour and depressed because of an ongoing frustration. Usually, this all added up to a continuing involvement with gaming long after I stopped a given session of play. Sometimes the thoughts and emotions were quite intrusive. I couldn't stop drifting into them even when I should have been paying attention to other things.

At the moment, I am at work, but I'm spending time looking up my favorite gaming site because, what's on my mind? Games, as usual. I really need to work on this.

It was actually my question, I dont know if I'm supposed to say that since he only put the question in his article, no names, but I read his last one on anti-social communication on online games and it made me think of the flip side, what things are like in real life for those types of people. I e-mailed it to him (yeah it is pretty much word for word, I think he only changed the way I said MMOG's) last month and he replied quick, I didn't expect a whole article just on my question though. It's really the first time I've done something like this and it's actually been put out there for people to see

No, if you say otherwise then video games are probably your scapegoat for being so violent.

Awesome read.

If you asked me why I play games my biggest answer would be "because I like them", and then I need to branch out on why I like them.

Games are a great escape mechanism. I can be angry or frustrated about something, then I'll turn around and play games for a bit and forget how or why I was angry in the first place.

It's been great for helping me out with overcoming my Agoraphobia (professionally diagnosed) and Social Phobia & Anxiety. I used to panic whenever I knew I had to leave the house, like days in advance. Gaming was great to distract me enough that I could actually get to sleep without medication.

So in many ways, I was carrying my emotion with me to play, and let the game leech it out of me. Before I know it I'm thinking about how to avoid being killed in game, or how I can better my character, get a higher score or a neat new strategy to win the game/round/match.
The only problem was when I was playing WoW and I'd get too involved and end up not being able to detach myself from the game easily.

As of now I've stopped playing subscription games, otherwise I feel like I need to play. I've brought some colour back into my life by pursuing my interests and hobbies outside of World of Warcraft, and well games in general. In that way I can understand exactly what you mean when you talk about colouring people's mood. I'm so glad I stopped playing WoW to pursue other stuff, it's really shined some light in my direction.

I've filled it with some other mindless life colouring stuff (no, not drugs) but at least I've become a more productive person because of it.

Thanks for the awesome article.

I know I have been critical of almost every column thusfar, but I only see good here. I really enjoyed the read.

RvLeshrac:

Mark J Kline:
The violent aggression I do occasionally see seems more related to intensive drug and alcohol consumption, and often involves young people from different sub-cultures than the gaming world--athletes are a good example because their activity involves so much actual aggression, which can sometimes boil over into real life.

Penn and Teller said it best, I think.

Penn and Teller are awesome. Whenever I have to support the liberty verbally, I just refer the fascist or socialist to a Bullshit episode. If only there was less boobs and bad words. I have nothing against either personally, but many do and so would not be able to watch a lot of their work. For those folk, we have Stossel.

Great article, Dr. Mark. I have personally experienced the "flattening-out" you describe. At times, what's gone in gaming has been far more interesting than what's gone on in my day-to-day existence. (I had to start a game company to overcome this problem!)

Does this tendency spill over into, say, aggressive or depressing music? For example, a lot of people I know who listen to bands like Slipknot or Disturbed are quite angsty , but I listen to a lot of heavy music and I don't get depressed. Am I the exception or the rule? Or is it just that people with emotional issues tend to be drawn towards the music because of its lyrical content, whereas I predominantly enjoy the melodic side of it (such as it is)?
Just something to think about, there's definitely a parallel to be drawn with violence and video games - in fact, extreme music has also been blamed erroneously for violent crime, so maybe the cases are a lot more similar than I first thought.

Grinnbarr:
Does this tendency spill over into, say, aggressive or depressing music? For example, a lot of people I know who listen to bands like Slipknot or Disturbed are quite angsty , but I listen to a lot of heavy music and I don't get depressed. Am I the exception or the rule? Or is it just that people with emotional issues tend to be drawn towards the music because of its lyrical content, whereas I predominantly enjoy the melodic side of it (such as it is)?
Just something to think about, there's definitely a parallel to be drawn with violence and video games - in fact, extreme music has also been blamed erroneously for violent crime, so maybe the cases are a lot more similar than I first thought.

I see where you're coming from with the music bit,
I mean, there may be some connection and you're not alone in the way you listen to it because I listen to so much rock and metal from Slipknot to Fall out boy, MCR, Foo Fighters, Metallica, Every Avenue, and I'm generally not that influenced, I just think it sounds great

I don't think that people "get" depressed from listening to the music, its like the other way around, for example sometimes, quite rarely though, I find that if I'm not in such a good mood, I tend to listen to stuff like Psychosocial, and the heavier songs, usually while I'm thrashing away on guitar to sort of release my anger or any other less-than-positive emotions, but the songs don't make it worse, after that I'm back to normal

If thats what you meant?

Very good article, Dr. Mark, might be one of the best The Escapist has ever seen.

I found the idea of comparing the emotional intenseness of video games and the "real life" interesting, I never thought of that.

I have even wondered if some gamers play out violent fantasies through gaming in ways that make them less, not more, likely to act them out in real life--the displacement may prove to be satisfying enough.

Oh yes. When I'm angry and play violent video games, I end up being pretty calm. Still, I don't know wether it is because of ingame-violence which acts, as you supposed, as a replacement, or the distraction from the anger and the concentration on new goals in general.

There seem to be a lot of studies contradicting each other. Last month, a study claimed that most teenagers are unaffected. A few months earlier, there was a study claiming that violent gaming makes you more aggressive. I wonder when the next of those studies will be finished.

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