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Violence in Games, Once Again, Not That Compelling 191

One of the great arguments of the digital age has been over the effects of video games on aggression — especially if you have ever heard the name Jack Thompson. A recent study suggest the counterpoint once again, that violent video games really don't have that much impact. "The authors performed six studies in total, but they were in broad agreement, so we'll only discuss the more compelling ones here. For the experimental portion, these involved playing an essentially identical game with different degrees of violent content. One group of participants was randomly assigned to play the game House of the Dead 3 on the different extremes of its gore settings, while a second was split between those who played the normal version of Half-Life 2, and a those who played a modified version that turned the adventure into an elaborate game of tag. In both cases, the primary influences on enjoyment were the sense of competence and satisfaction, along with the immersive nature of the game. Generally, females rated immersion as more important, while males went for competence (and consistently rated their own expertise very highly). Violence didn't register when it came to enjoyment, even for those with pre-existing violent tendencies."
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Violence in Games, Once Again, Not That Compelling

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  • by mfh ( 56 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:16PM (#26490605) Homepage Journal

    I hear what you're saying but I think they are looking at gender roles in games. Physical gender, and mental makeup are two separate things that should be addressed separately.

    For the purpose of understanding gaming, understanding the physical gender is less important than understanding the mental states a particular player will gravitate towards.

    Separate the terms masculine and feminine from men and women.

    In World of Warcraft, both masculine and feminine players trend in the direction of an eventual end-game raiding PvE experience, while only typically masculine players trend towards PvP. A mixture of players trend towards goofing around in the game and not aiming towards the competitive raiding or PvP environment.

  • by skyride ( 1436439 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:17PM (#26490629)
    Well, Im a fairly keen player of Team Fortress 2 (an HL2 mod) and not one for violence in games. All of the quake based games are the properly violent ones, and even then, they aren't really what you'd call violence in comparison to many films today. So lets take the properly violent games, for example, Mortal Combat. If you aren't familiar with the game (even with its extremely catchy theme tune from the original) then it bassically consists of smashing as many virtual bones as possible in your opponent through means of some extremely reddiculous kung-fu style moves and then "finnishing them" by some extremely gruesome means involving the map. For example one map involves kicking them off the side of a rock a couple of hundred feet and them landing speared on rock. And despite its rating, its clearly aimed at rowdy 8-12 year old boys, AND their parents are happy to buy it for them. Now please explain to me what makes games such as HL2 (which is actually one of the more inteligent and thoughtful games currently out) are a disaster for children to have?
  • by Estanislao Martínez ( 203477 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:18PM (#26490635) Homepage

    Come on, folks, admit it. You only believe this study because it concludes what you want to conclude. If it concluded the opposite thing, you'd all be selectively trotting out that good old line, "correlation doesn't imply causation," and holding it up to standards that you won't hold this one up to. (Because, after all, what kind of evidence does imply causation? Don't all experiments, because of their own nature, demonstrate nothing more than correlation?)

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:18PM (#26490637) Homepage Journal

    If it were sex, it would be males who were more concerned with immersion, and females more concerned with competence.

    This statement was obviously written by a man.

    Women are more interested in immersion into a mental state of connection, while men are more interested in how well they performed the act, and the joke is that these desires are completely incompatible with one another, and therefore we have the war of the sexes still raging today, getting worse and worse until the women win. Do not kid yourself -- they will win.

  • I don't get it... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:20PM (#26490673)

    From the summary, this study does nothing to address the general issues of violence in games. From my understanding, the issue has never been that video games make children enjoy violence. The issue is that violence in games desensitize children to violent acts as an acceptable form of conflict resolution. Most people don't play violent games simply because they are violent. This study seems pretty worthless to me.

  • Republicans? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 16, 2009 @07:38PM (#26490893)

    Why is this tagged Republicans?

    If you think it's only the Republicans censoring things, do us all a favor and quit voting.

  • by justin12345 ( 846440 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @08:14PM (#26491271)

    I'm not sure if I would agree that either Quake or Mortal Kombat are actually violent games (though I know this is a little out there). They are both certainly gory, but I'm not sure gore = violence. Way back when, I had a discussion with a friend about the difference between violence and "action" in film. I made the argument that most "violent" action movies are actually more choreography and dance then they are violence, even if they are gory. I referred to it as "dances with guns".

    To bring it back to video games, take Mortal Kombat. In Mortal Kombat you can graphically disembowel your opponent, but it is more of a flourish, an exclamation point at the match, a demonstration of skill. The character isn't shown suffering, comes back the next round, and the player doesn't really receive much of a sadistic thrill. Compare this to the original Perfect Dark, or GTA IV where you have the option of slowly torturing the NPCs to death, and they stay dead.

    To take it a step further, imagine a game based on the movie Hostel (which I would argue is an extremely violent movie) where the object of the game is to earn points and unlock levels by torturing your victim to death in ever more imaginative and gruesome ways. That would be what I would consider to be violent as its intent would be to arouse sadistic impulses and draw pleasure from the dominance over another person, or pleasure from causing them to suffer. Another example of a violent game could be a puzzle type game which casts the player as an WW2 SS officer, who's job it is to exterminate the greatest amount of prisoners with the least amount of resources; an act which would require the player to either insulate himself/herself to the deed being done, or take pleasure in the suffering he/she inflicts.

    If you compare the above idea to Quake or Halo, where players just hope around and blast each other, I think you can see the difference. While Halo might awaken tendencies for competition or aggression, its more akin to those awakened by sports such as soccer or football, no matter if the opponent splatters or not when defeated. I wouldn't hesitate to let my (hypothetical) teenager play a game like Halo, Quake, or Mortal Kombat, but I might have reservations if I saw them playing the hypothetical "Hostel" or "Holocaust" I outlined above. The former rewards emotions and behavior that are healthy and useful in society, the later would train them to be actually violent, or sadistic (or maybe would actually be an outlet for natural sadistic impulses, I defer to the experts).

  • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Friday January 16, 2009 @08:59PM (#26491811)

    Something that isn't repeated often enough when this meme crops up: it's ALL about correlation. Only correlation can tell you whether your hypothesis is predictive or not.

    Here's the problem with studies that make violence a cause of videogames:
    - the statistics don't show that
    - the causal mechanism is very suspicious

    The fact that 99% of all videogame owners aren't any more violent than anyone is important, because it means that it has the same predictive capability as saying that eating bread or drinking milk causes people to be violent.

    Seriously. This meme of correlation is not causation is trotted out by people who don't understand how statistics are used to support hypotheses. The meme a complete tautology when used properly, and a straw man when used improperly.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM