All posts by Becca

Playing with Fire: How do Computer Games Affect the Player

This study regarding the affects of computer games on adolescents was published in the Report for The Danish Media Council for Children and Young People by Simon Egenfelt-Nielsen and Jonas Heide Smith.  These researchers were an interesting combination- while both were PhD candidates, Egenfelt-Nielsen had an MS in Psychology, while Smith had a MA in Media Studies.

This study sought to prove the question that most other studies have attempted to answer before: do computer games affect adolescents negatively? It began plainly, stating two basic research questions: “what do people do to media?” And “what does media do to people?” To answer these questions, Egenfelt-Nielsen and Smith drew from the most prominent literature surrounding this issue to answer their own questions, such as Game Studies. Predictably, the study focuses on games structured around the First Person Shooter model, such as Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Kombat. Unlike other studies I have observed in the past, Egenfelt-Nielson and Smith realize that many studies and opinions are based on articles surrounding public debate rather than actual scientific studies. They even included a quote from a Danish newspaper in an article referring to marketing and children: “Contrary to what has preciously been believed, that children’s imaginations have been destroyed by video games… However, international research shows that they adopt a far more strategic way of thinking”. They also cited a 2000 study from the Danish Media Council saying that violent movies and TV were far more damaging to adolescents than “active media” (computer/video games). They also expounded several other theories surrounding active media, such as the general Social Learning theory, how children develop social skills, as well as the General Aggression Model, a theory stating that violent media creates violent behavior by “influencing the person’s internal state by cognitive, affective, and arousal variables” (Egenfelt-Nielsen, Smith, 2003). After analyzing several other studies, the study concluded  by saying that though much of the literature insists that violent media leads to violence within people, there is still too many other scholars fighting this claim to be completely conclusive, even regarding the claim that younger gamers are more susceptible to violent tendencies.



The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance

This study was done by Douglas A. Gentile, Paul J. Lynch, Jennifer Ruh Linder, and David A. Walsh and was published in the Journal of Adolescents. This study’s research topic was to document the patterns and video game habits of adolescents, as well as to draw a connection from violent exposure in games to violent tendencies in life, such as arguments with teachers and parents, playground fights, and performance in school. The study also chose to focus on the efficacy of mediation tactics derived from the video game habits. There were 607 8th and 9th grade students from four different schools interviewed for this process. The results of the data showed that students who were more interested in violent video games were also more often prone to violence and aggression in school, as well as lower educational performance. According to those who carried out the study, the results of the study supported the general aggression model.

This study was particularly interesting because it focused on the age group I am also interested in for my proposal. What I didn’t like about this study was that it linked the idea, that violent video games cause violence, to an already suspect age group. Though it’s true that these students may have been linked to violet video games, I think it is unfair to assume that already obstinate teenagers are made that way due to video games. 8th graders have been annoying and violent way before video games existed. All I think this study proved was that video games may be a symptom, but hardly the cause.

Do Violent Video Games Lead to Criminal Behavior?

As I’ve been exploring the media surrounding research connecting violence to video games, I was interested to find a mainstream article from a well-known media source. I found this article on CBS news’ website from 2015, following the wake of the several different mass shootings in 2015. I found it very interesting the way that the article was structured. While the article did admit right away in the first couple paragraphs that there has been very little correlating research between video games and violence in the past couple decades, the short article went on to point out that the shooter involved in the Sandy Hook shooting was highly interested in violent video games. Of course, the fact that millions of other Americans are also interested in these same games was left out.

At this point in my research from reading various articles, it is very interesting that even though there is very little research backing up this claim, articles are quick to jump to the common scapegoat of blaming video games for violence.



Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings?

The article Deadly Dreams: What Motivates School Shootings, describes a psychological analysis done of various school shooters and their motivations behind their actions. My research project is based in how adolescents bring violence to their games rather than violent games causing violence. One of the most popular arguments against violent videogames is that the graphic nature is blamed for teenagers committing violent acts; the most popular being school shootings. As part of my research project, I wanted to find a study that disproved this theory.

The article begins with describing various mass shootings, focusing on the Virginia Tech massacre. It talks about the shooters in these incidences and their personality characteristics. It becomes clear immediately that videogames have nothing to do with it. Instead, it comes from a repression of violent thoughts, and a history of “loaner” behavior. As the psychologist says, “a thought of murder a day keeps the psychiatrist away”, referring to the tendency everyone has of fantasizing rather violent scenarios. However, these fantasies can be relaxing to a balanced mind are treated as an obsession in a mentally ill mind. These teenagers keep to themselves and articulate their plans in journals, or sometimes youtube videos. There are even school shooting fan pages online, particularly glorifying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Columbine shooters, as gods.

This god complex seems to be the driving force behind these students’ motivations. Sebastian Bosse, a 18 year old shooter in Germany, considered Harris and Klebold to be martyrs. In his diary before the shooting, Bosse wrote, “Imagine that you’re standing in your old school and that your trench coat conceals all of your tools of righteousness, and then you throw the first Molotov cocktail, the first bomb. You are sending the most hated place in the world to Hell!” This desire to act as a god figure, to take life by choice, is a common thread in most of these shooters’ minds.

This article can be tied to my research project, particularly the idea of fantasies in the mind of a healthy person and a mentally unwell person. Hurting or killing an avatar in a video game can be seen as fun without any repercussions. However, it is only a mentally unstable person who takes this fantasy to real life.


Self-Portrayal in a Simulated Life: Projecting Personality and Values in The Sims 2

This article, found in Game Studies, an international journal of video game research, describes a psychological study based on observations of using oneself as an avatar in the Sims games. The Sims is a computer game with various different modifications (Sims, Sims 2, Sims 3, Sims Pets, etc) that allows the player to create a person and control their lives. The intended object of the game is to build your Sim a nice house, have them succeed in their dream job, maybe get married, have a family, and then eventually die. This article explores the tendency for players to project themselves into their created avatars.

This study was conducted while observing 30 undergraduate students’ behavior while playing Sims 2. Out of this study, two different hypotheses were created. The first hypothesis was that “personality characteristics will relate to gameplay”. For example, if a player is a more organized person, their natural tendency for efficiency will be reflected in the game, or perhaps players who are extroverted will make their Sims more social. The second hypothesis predicted that players pass their personal values to their Sims. As an example, a player who values wealth will make their Sim achieve a high paying job. These theories are based off of famous self-projecting tests, such as the ink-blot Rorschach test.

The results of the study produced many different correlations in several different tables and graphs found in the article. There were many real-life/video game social correlations found depending on the players. For example, women players were more likely to make their Sim have a baby. Players with married parents in real life were more likely to keep their Sim families together than players with single parent/divorced households. This, along with many other observations, prove that players project their values and experiences on their avatars.

For me personally, I definitely relate to this article. When I play the Sims, I sometimes just create myself and pick personality traits that I apply to myself. I can make a dream life and a dream house, and it can feel good to achieve something, even if it is fake.


Violent Video Games and Young People- Harvard Mental Health Letter

Violent video games have been a scapegoat used by parents to explain away adolescent violence since the early 90’s. However, in recent studies, this popular opinion has begun to break down.

In a recent study by Havard Medical School in 2010 a poll was collected to track video game usage. A staggering 97% of teenage subjects said they played video games. However, 75% of those said they preferred puzzle games with little to no violence, while 66% played violent video games. And while the most vocal parents generally preach the need to “protect” their children from the violent influence of video games, 62% of these teens’ parents said the content does not affect their child one way or the other. The article goes on to explain that any studies that claim a correlation between violence in video games and real world violence is unfounded and based in simple observation rather than cause and effect.

This article supported my own theory from my own research already; if video games truly caused people, primarily adolescents, to be more violent, the billions of people who have purchased this game would have made headlines by now.