The Blame Game: do video games contribute to aggressive behavior?

Noah Kayaian, Staff Writer

Ninety-seven percent.

Approximately 97 percent of American youth play video games according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015. Within those games, 90 percent contain violence. With the number of mass shootings on the rise, people are desperate to find a catalyst.

“Research shows that the more realistic the violence is the more realistic the effect is. Realistic violence ups chances of aggression. Surrealistic violence looks fake. Watching violence on the news can trigger people into committing these crimes,” Ohio State Psychology professor Dr. Brad Bushman states in an interview with The Evanstonian.

Bushman explains that the more realistic looking games — somewhat mimicking reality — cause members of their audience to feel compelled to commit violent acts, no matter the level. Playing a game such as Rocket League, which escalated in popularity over the past couple years, could still cause aggression but not nearly as comparable to the amounts that games such as Call of Duty might cause.

The usage of violent video games [VVG] has always been a controversial topic. In recent years, the debate has progressively gained more media coverage. Players of these games have been accused of having high aggression levels, being lazy, and being socially awkward. However, many users disagree.

“I enjoy the competitive nature of these games, they are a great way to blow off steam,” sophomore Kyle Flores says. Flores is among many others who use video games to relieve stress and believes it may help him decompress instead of making him more aggressive. Many other ETHS students felt no effect while playing these games or after being retracted from these games.

This sentiment is backed by a 2011 study conducted by Texas A&M professor Christopher Ferguson. He observed the behavior of 165 boys and girls ages 10-14 over a three year period, and found that there seemed to be no correlation between violence and violent video games. This study looked at relationship and general violence when observing aggression. The subjects appeared as normal as any other student.

However, Ferguson’s work isn’t the only — or the earliest — research on this relationship. Historic research conducted by Oxford University professor Andrew Przylbylski found that there was actually a correlation between aggression and the quantitative time spent playing games. Przylbylski added in his research that it is possible children reflect their parent’s treatment of them onto others.

One study conducted by Stanford Professor Albert Bandura found that children tend to learn aggression from their parents, whether this be through their home life being disorientated, being neglected, or the general mood of the household. This study is called “The Bobo doll experiment” in which the ones conducting the study witness an adult play with an inflatable doll then had children play with the same doll.

The reactions of the children almost always mimicked those of adults leading the researchers to come to the conclusion that children will reflect the actions of adults in their lives. This can then be placed in a circumstance of home violence connected to other aggressive behaviors.

2018 saw the rise of the now famous Fortnite: Battle Royale. The game contains what can be described as “watered down violence” while the game does have AR15s and shotguns. You can run around the playing field as pink teddy bear. Fortnite’s ability to reach a wide audience has left many accusing the game of sparking violence in children. However, this has yet to be definitively proven.

According to the Entertainment Software Association [ESA] in an article published this year, 2014 saw video game sales were at almost $16 billion. During this time, the number of violent crimes was at its lowest rate in 16 years.

Bushman also brought up a study conducted by the late Leonard Berkowitz, professor at the University of Wisconsin, who brought in participants and had them watch a broadcast of a war. He flipped a coin to determine whether he would tell them if it was a movie or a news broadcast.

He then gave the participants the opportunity to use a shocking device on another participant. The ones who believed they were watching a newscast actually were more aggressive administering shocks than those who believed they were watching a movie. This helped prove that the more realistic they perceive the violence, the more aggressive they become, which can show why Call of Duty players tend to be more aggressive than Fortnite players.

At the end of the day, video games remain a staple of a modern pastime that many people ranging from 10 year olds to 50 year olds can enjoy as a community. No matter the type of video games played, there can be consequences when indulging upon a late night grind.