Video games date back all the way to the 1950s, as physicists and the first computer scientists first began to branch away from the various government programs they were attached to during World War 2.
In 1958, William Higinbotham designed what might be the first video game created simply for entertainment, rather than for studying the capabilities of computers, called Tennis for Two. It wasn’t until 1972 that the first video game was released with mainstream audiences in mind, Pong.
And ever since then, researchers and psychologists have been eyeing this newfangled form of entertainment, trying to discern what effect this modern trend is having on the youths. Many have even raised concerns that these video games are causing real-life violence- that online slots will cause kiddies to shoot up their schools.
Bollocks, I tell you.
This aged debate has suddenly become relevant again after two recent American shootings, one in El Paso and the other in Florida.
President Trump has called out video games as being responsible for the increased levels of violence at schools, and when President Trump talks about something, everyone ends up talking about it.
Interestingly enough, it seems that the difference of opinion on this issue isn’t a partisan one, but rather a generational one instead. Boomers versus millennial, and so on. The argument is that exposure to violence in video games increases aggressive behavior in youths and decreases empathy for our fellow man.
And two decades of research would say that’s wrong.
You see, what the studies show is an increase in emotional arousal from playing video games. The research shows that after playing violent video games, there would be a temporary increase in aggression and a dip in empathy, but these effects went away soon after the controller was put down.
Of course, any aggression at all entirely depended on the type of video game that is played and the type of person who was playing them. A generally aggressive person would get more aggressive after playing a violent video game, but someone of an opposite disposition wouldn’t.
And if they decided to play Minecraft, instead of Grand Theft Auto, then a completely different mindset is required and the emotions experienced are vastly different, even though both games do depict violence to some degree. However, even the minute increase in aggression found after playing a violent video game has almost zero correlation with violent attackers.
Psychologist Patrick Markey, from Villanova University, found that men who commit violence actually play violent video games less than the average male. According to his research, about 20% of these violent men were interested in violent games, whereas it’s nearly 70% in the general population.
The point is that video games don’t “create” any more violence than movies do, just like how heavy metal music doesn’t increase suicide rates. Movies and radio and violence have all been around for far longer than video games, and the fact is that violence, in general, is in a downward trend.
Sad as it may be, all that violence we hear on the news is still less than what it once was. Shootings, rape, muggings, robberies – they’re all rarer than ever. So if video games cause violence, it’s doing a piss-poor job of it.
So are video games good for you? Eh, that’s debatable. Like everything else, they should be taken in moderation. Blow some steam off in the latest Call of Duty on Sunday, and go for a walk on Tuesday. It’s all about keeping a good balance.
However, rest assured that little Timmy isn’t gonna go off to blow someone’s brains out because of his time playing Fortnite. It’s the hard truth that these kinds of problems are far deeper than any single factor, so scapegoating the issue will only be kicking the can down the road. Video games don’t cause violence, and it’ll do more harm than good saying otherwise.