Today, theEntertainment Software Association released findings from two studies by Dr. Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M University. In an interesting twist, Dr. Ferguson's findings suggest that not only are violent video games okay to give to children, they may actually be beneficial.
Video games are often blamed for violent outbursts, as are movies, television and Catcher in the Rye. I lived in the same neighborhood as Columbine High School when the massacre took place. This particular tragedy was the first time I had heard video games being blamed for someone's behavior. Harris and Klebold reportedly liked playing Doom - as did my husband and I. We have yet to go on a homicidal rampage, and so it was hard for me to relate to such a simple connection. I distinctly remember looking from the News to our Playstation with perplexity at such a claim.
In Dr. Ferguson's study entitled, Blazing Angels or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games be a Force for Good? he conducted an in-depth analysis of so-called "proof" that violent video games lead to aggressive behavior. What he found was that many of these studies were based on inconsistent findings. In fact, as he took a broader approach to verifying such an impact, Dr. Ferguson noted that violent crime has dropped dramatically during the same periods in which video games have gained popularity. The study goes on to say that violent video games are associated with improved visual and spatial cognition, not to mention the fact that shy children (or adults) tend to feel empowered by playing such a game, particularly in a multiplayer setting. This study was published in June by the Review of General Psychology.
I, for one, after playing first person shooters and mystery games, have better map-reading skills, problem-solving skills, nunchaku skills and the ability to focus my eyes on a small, moving target from a far distance. (Okay, not nunchaku, I might have made that one up, but you get the point.)
Gamers know that they can vent a lot of frustration by picking up a controller. This theory was proven in The Hitman Study: Violent Video Games Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feelings and Depression. Teaming up with Stephanie Rueda (also of Texas A&M University), Dr. Ferguson gave 103 young adults a "frustration task." These subjects were then separated into four experimental groups: playing no video game, playing a non-violent game, one that played a violent game as the "good guy" and another group playing a violent game as a "bad guy." Their results showed that subjects who played violent games were "less hostile and depressed." suggesting that such games "reduce depression and hostile feelings in players through mood management."
(See my article on Jedi Mind, Inc. to see how a game can sense your mood and help you manage it through brain waves.)
Armed with such research, the Entertainment Software Association plans on arguing before the U. S. Supreme Court this fall in the case of Schwarzenegger vv. EMA/ESA. This case challenges a 2005 law that would regulate the sale and rental of games based on their content. (Ironic, considering most of the Governor's films are incredibly violent.)
To learn more about this case, the arguments presented, etc. visit http://www.theesa.com/policy/scotus.asp
Censorship? Run for de choppah!!!