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Violent Video Games Do Not Reduce Real World Violence

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Sunrise 12–16–16 by Dave Carr

Violent Video Games Do Not Reduce Real World Violence

My interest in this subject is to highlight the authors affirmations about the acknowledged problems with violent, interactive video games that are often found after the abstract. There are many mediums of USA society that deliver violence in the name of entertainment, including music and movies, so my discussion is not is intended to diminish the scientific contributions of these authors, but to seek solutions. I have self-published “Virtual Immersion Drowns Holistic Development” which explores a multidimensional human development model, compared to one dimensional virtual immersion.

The 2014 study by Patrick Markey, Charlotte Markey & Juliana E. French titled “Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data” addresses violent “criminal” behavior, not generalized increased use of violence and aggression in life functioning. The authors recognize and cite over two full pages (277–279) of authoritative and “considerable evidence relating violent video games to aggressive behaviors and cognitions” which I will refrain from restating for the sake of brevity.

The authors investigate “Annual Changes in Video Game Sales and Violent Crime: 1978 to 2011” and find “no link between changes in annual video game sales and changes in serious and deadly assaults across 33 years” (pg.283) despite streaming smart phones were not available until 2006, and the aggregate data set appears to includes all adults. The sample maybe skewed since I believe, (but have not researched) most adults over twenty fives years old do not play violent video games.

The study lacks discussion of law enforcement advances including more police officers, increased CCTV, community policing, aging, data driven police methodology, improved technology and improved forensics. Economic and demographic conditions that have contributed to national crime reduction since the peak 1990’s could be expanded upon. According to 1980–2008 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (2011), “the number of USA homicides where the victim and offender relationship was undetermined or were gang related has been increasing from 1999–2008. Between 1999 and 2008, the number of homicides remained relatively constant. Approximately 34% of murder victims and 49% of the offenders were under age 25.”

Juvenile arrests for violent crime have dropped to a 30-year low, and fewer teens are being locked up than at any time in nearly 20 years The 2014 comprehensive survey of the U.S. juvenile justice system by the National Council of Juvenile and family Court Judges paints a mixed picture of troubled youth even as the numbers of teens in the system continued a long decline. “Jeffrey Butts, who leads the Research and Evaluation Center at the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said the figures reflect a long-running decline in juvenile crime since a peak in the mid-1990s, but doesn’t address the reasons behind that fall. (http://jjie.org/2015/02/26/ncjj-report-shows-juvenile-crime-keeps-falling)

The authors note that “after controlling for gender, violent video games have a small but significant concurrent effect on aggressive behavior assessed in the laboratory” (pg.283).

The authors acknowledge on page 287 that “researchers have linked Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto to serious acts of violence in the real world. Some have implied that Call of Duty was a causal factor in numerous mass shootings, while Grand Theft Auto has been associated with both general trends in violence and specific violent crimes.”

In “Analysis Four: Violent Crime Following the Release of Three Popular Violent Video Games” (pg 290) the authors select a time period of only “1 to 12 months after the release of these violent video games.” Comparing national statistics against a small, child and adolescent percentage of the population consuming violent interactive media is difficult. It seems research would have to include historical narratives of all violent criminals to understand the contributing factors precipitating each crime.

In the closing discussion on page 291, the authors observe, possibly in error, that “playing violent video games leads to a catharsis. In other words, when people play violent video games, they are able to release their aggression in the virtual world instead of in the real world.” In a March 8, 2018 NPR interview Host Ari Shapario asks Iowa State University psychology professor Douglas Gentile “ Some people have offered a theory that videogames can be catharsis, and expressing violent impulses in a virtual world helps people not express those in the real world. Has that been disproven?” Dr. Gentile replied “That has been disproven. So how do you memorize a phone number? You repeat it. Does seeing it one more time take it out of your brain? That would be the catharsis idea, right?”

In another study, “Video Game Violence: Is there any Truth to the Catharsis Hypothesis?” Kiranjit Kaur Pawar concludes “Despite the catharsis hypothesis being popular in theory, after reviewing the literature the general consensus seems to be that violent video games increase aggressive behaviour, rather than positively impacting it.”

I find virtual catharsis an optimistic idea, yet am concerned why the identified aggression originates, also how it can be constructively addressed and diffused, instead of internalized, maintained and projected on a screen. Projection does not resolve the precipitants of unresolved anger.

The closing discussion also notes on page 291 “although theories of video game violence operate at the level of the individual, data for the current study were collected at the aggregate level. Owing to this ecological fallacy, caution is warranted when attempting to draw causal relations between these variables, as trends sometimes become altered when subpopulations are aggregated”

The closing discussion also notes on page 292 that “It is important to note that in no way does this conclusion imply previous research examining violent video games is unimportant. There is ample evidence that violent video games do increase aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and some aggressive behaviors. It is possible that although violent video games are not related to severe forms of violence, they may affect other types of less aggressive behaviors, such as bullying, spreading gossip, minor fights at school, pushing and shoving, or hurling insults. This study also does not provide insight into whether certain subpopulations are adversely affected by violent video games”

Moving ahead, as a society of families and citizens, we share a responsibility to prepare a world for our children where they have a greater likelihood to success, than failure, whenever possible. We have technology in 2018 to fabricate virtual reality, so I believe this virtual space should be non-violent, creative, educational, cooperative and sustainable whenever possible. Copyright 2018© David Carr. All Rights Reserved.

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