Sunday 19 November 2017

'Shoot-em-up' video games don't make you more violent

A picture from popular video game ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’. First-person shooters have often been blamed for violence
A picture from popular video game ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’. First-person shooters have often been blamed for violence

Henry Bodkin

Playing violent first-person video games such as 'Call of Duty' does not make people more prone to violence themselves, a major new study has found.

Scientists using brain scans and psychological questionnaires discovered that the levels of aggression and capacity for empathy in people who never play violent games were the same as in those who game for hours each day.

The research debunks years of warnings, partly prompted by previous academic studies, that crime and antisocial behaviour is increasingly linked to the rising popularity of "shooter" video games.

In 2015, one politician even blamed a spate of gun violence in Salford on "a diet of war games and 'Grand Theft Auto'".

'Grand Theft Auto 5', where players can become part of a virtual criminal gang challenged to commit ever more audacious and violent crimes, is currently number one in the Game top 20 chart of most popular video games.

However, the academics behind the new research say previous studies may have been skewed because they often assessed participants' psychological state immediately after, or during, a stint of violent gaming.

By contrast, the new survey carried out by Hannover Medical School waited at least three hours before conducting the tests, in order to determine the more long-term psychological effects.

A group of gamers who had played for at least two hours a day - though in many cases nearer four - for the last four years were compared with a control group of people who did not game regularly.

To evaluate their capacity for empathy and aggression, participants from both groups answered psychological questionnaires.

Then, while their brains were being scanned in an MRI machine, they were shown images designed to provoke an emotional and empathetic response.

The questionnaire revealed no differences in levels of aggression between gamers and non-gamers, a finding backed up by the MRI data, which revealed similar neural responses between the two groups.

Irish Independent

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