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.