I am nearing the end of my research process and my paper is starting to come together. Before I look for the last few articles I will need I wanted to sum up what I have found so far.
The consensus between researchers who are not being funded by either side of the argument is that the research findings that seriously prove video games do or do not cause violent behavior are skewed for a few reasons. The first is a lack of control for third variables. Many researchers have not controlled for variables such as gender, personality and genetics. This has been such a hot button topic among the research community, that there have been research articles devoted to analyzing data that has already been found and attempting to hash through that data and control for poor research methods and methodological problems and publication bias. Once adjusted to fix these issues, researchers found that violent video games’ effects on violent behavior is so small its hard to consider it a factor at all. The small influence they could find, however, tipped in favor of violent video games preventing violent behavior.
There are three theories involved with violent media’s relation with the publics violent tendencies. The first is called the “agression theory”. The premise behind the aggression theory is based on psychological theory called the “General Aggression Model” (GAM). The GAM theorizes that violent video games increase aggression. The idea is that gamers develop mental scripts based on their video game experiences which essentially program them to be more aggressive as they begin to act more like they are in a video game then in the real world. GAM suggests that more exposure to violent video games over time continues to increase violent tendencies, but the researchers state that most experiments done involving GAM are done over a short period of time.
The second theory is called the “incapacitation theory.” This is based on the simple principle of time use that people who play video games and spend time indoors simply don’t have as much time to spend outdoors committing violent and aggressive acts. This theory dictates that while there is a short run increase in violence as the individual spends time indoors, there is room for a long run increase in violent and aggressive behavior as they lose interest in or complete the violent game that took up their time. One of the consequences of this theory is that while it takes away from time that could be used for aggressive acts, it also takes away from time those individuals could be spending in school or studying.
The final theory is not one accepted in the scientific community, but one that gamers believe to be true. It is called the “catharsis theory” and states that violent video games act as a release for the gamer, thus limiting the violent acts they will commit in the real world. There is little scientific support for this theory although one study states that aggression in video games can reduce further aggression when it fulfills a goal, but the researchers are quick to say these results do not justify violent media. One possible cause for this theory is that internet gaming has been found to be associated with dopamine release which serves to sate the player. There have also been studies that have found video games as a form of self medication for children with ADHD.
These three theories illustrate just how complicated results on this topic have been and how torn the research community is. Many reputable researchers have conveyed their lack of faith in the way research in this field has been conducted and that many of the results found thus far are not reliable because of the lack of consistency in research methods bias.