The violent character of some video games out there is often heavily criticized in relation to the impact it has on players’ psychological condition.
However, the entire debate lacks fundamental arguments and statistics on both sides of the barricade. The literature concerning the impact of violent video games on the build-up of an aggressive behaviour, affect or cognition of the player is ample. Yet, it always returns to one point: there is not one single factor that may lead to aggression, delinquency or criminal violence.
Recently, the American Psychological Association released a Violent Media task force report compiled after the thorough review of a large body of specialty literature published between 2005 and 2013.
The conclusion was the same: playing violent video games is linked to higher levels of aggression with players:
“The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression”.
Once more, it was reiterated that rather than just violent video game playing, there a wealth of risk factors leading to violent and potentially criminal behavior.
The American Psychological Association Violent Media task force report recommended to the video game industry to pay more attention to the content of video games produced. At the same time, the report recommends the addition of increased parental control over the violent content of the video games.
Meeting in Toronto, on August 7th, the Council of Representatives of APA adopted a resolution containing a recommendation for the Entertainment Software Rating Board, pinpointing the need for the video game rating system to be refined.
Considering that there are still gaps and incongruences in the research, APA also asked that until more research is conducted, game developers restrict video game content to appropriate psychological development of their target audience.
The task force report conclusions and recommendations are well-intended. However, there are voices that raise question as to the validity of the literature review and ensuing research. One such voice is that of professor Chris Ferguson of the Stetson University, who, in an open letter to the APA stated:
“Indeed, the evidence linking violent games to aggression is honestly a lot less clear than the APA report would have one believe. There are an increasing number of studies coming out now that suggest there is no link whatsoever. Further, the task force appeared to have been selected from among scholars with clear anti-media views”.
The APA Violent Media task force report recognizes its own shortfalls. Among them, that there are too few studies looking at how violent video games are affecting males and females. Moreover, the majority of studies have looked at boys up to the age of 14. And last but not least, other risk factors for aggression and violent behavior haven’t been studied in connection with playing violent video-games.
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