Could studies on violent video games be skewing results?

Editor: Tracy Benson

Usually I tend to dismiss articles about violence in video games and the alleged studies that have been done about the topic. As a reasonably well-adjusted adult, I know I’m not affected by it. I also know that the media has a habit of jumping on the “blame violent video games” bandwagon whenever children or young adults do anything wrong. I have no doubt that, psychologically, excessively graphic and violent games will have an effect on the mental well-being of children, and that’s where age restrictions come in right?

Violent Games

So it was with increasing anger that I read this article about how violent video games numb players to brutality. It’s not that I disagree with them on the results of their study, I disagree very strongly on the study itself. Apparently, the research focused on a group of 13-15 year old boys who played violent video games for three or more hours a day, versus a group that played for no more than an hour a day. Researchers then studied the reactions of the groups after playing a nonviolent cartoon game, Animaniacs, and a violent game, Manhunt.

Wait, wait, hang on… Manhunt? The game that was banned all over the place? The game that carries an ESRB rating of M for Mature, meaning no under 17′s? Please, can someone tell me why they picked that game? The conspiracy nut in me is busy yelling that they are deliberately skewing the result by choosing such a notorious and excessively graphic game, but surely there is a reasonable explanation…

Nope. Not that I could find. The article doesn’t link back to the study, and although I found it easily enough here, it was obviously clinical and jargon-loaded, offering nothing in the way of explanation or justification.

When put to my followers on Twitter, I got argument pretty much in favour of mine:

@rincethis “yeah, I just had to leave a comment on there too. If you stick a 13 year old in front of all the SAW movies for hours?”
@raptor2022 “#AgeRestrictions #ParentsResponsibility Violence from games in respect to parent supervision levels should be investigated”.

But I don’t know if I’m just having a knee-jerk reaction. Gaming is obviously something I’m passionate about and I’m quick to defend it. So what do you think? Am I overreacting to the fact that age-restrictions were ignored, or could their choice of game have skewed the results of the study?

Lurker, observer and occasional commenter, don’t question my geek credentials until you’ve seen my Normandy SR-2 replica and my Doctor Who TARDIS mug.