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Do Video Games Cause Violence? Data Points in the Opposite Direction

The opposite could be the case in gamers’ behaviors.
ILLUSTRATOR Roland Mae Tanglao
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Do video games cause violence? This is just one of many stigmas gamers have had to cope with, such as ageism ("You're too old to still be playing video games!"), gender stereotyping ("You play like a girl!"), and the classic non sequitur ("Video games cause killings!"). Gamers have always had a good rebuttal for each of these assumptions, including a study that shows gamers are better learners.

The stigma was so bad that in 1981, on the merit of Space Invaders and Asteroids, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos banned video games in the country because parents claimed they “wreaked havoc on the morality of the nation's youth.”

Another issue that added weight to the stigma was when the World Health Organization added "video game addiction" to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the reference book of all diagnosable diseases in the world. It officially classifies video game addiction as a disorder.

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What is Video Game Addiction?

According to the ICD, video game addiction occurs when a person cannot stop playing video games even when it already negatively affects personal and professional life.

Symptoms of video game addiction include spending up to 20 hours a day playing video games, prioritizing games over sleep or meals, and compromising studies or work because of gaming.

The ICD does not list violent behavior as one of the symptoms of video game addiction.

Only a Small Percentage of Gamers Affected by Video Game Addiction

It is important people are aware of the symptoms, or, emergency hotlines could be flooded with parents’ calls to rescue their children from apparent video game addiction.

The World Health Organization's expert on mental health Shekhar Saxena clarifies that not all gamers are addicted to video games. In fact, only a very small percentage of gamers will develop the mental health disorder and their condition will only be considered an addiction if the symptoms last for approximately a year. "This is an occasional or transitory behavior," Saxena said.

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Dr. Joan Harvey of the British Psychological Society also warned the designation could cause unnecessary concern among parents. “People need to understand this doesn't mean every child who spends hours in their room playing games is an addict, otherwise medics are going to be flooded with requests for help,” she said in an interview with CBS News.

Do Video Games Cause Violence? Not Really.

A thorough study on the relationship between violent video games and aggression showed no concrete proof video games cause violence. The Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Oxford concluded violent video games are not associated with adolescent aggression. The study is one of the most comprehensive done on the topic because it used a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games. It also used a large sample of 2,008 subjects with an equal number of parents and guardians.

“The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time,” said professor Andrew Przybylski, who is the lead researcher of the study. “Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated there is cause for concern.” The summary of the study can be accessed here.

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Another study by professor Whitney DeCamp of the Western Michigan University discovered that playing video games, no matter how bloody, did not predict violent or aggressive behavior. The study used data from the responses of 6,567 eighth graders.

Crime Rate Decreases During Video Game Releases

In a funny twist of circumstance, it was discovered that popular video games may actually be helping reduce general societal violence. An economic study published in 2016 in the U.S. found that general societal violence decreased in the weeks after the release of popular video game titles or editions.

The study tracked video game sales and crime rates, and found that a statistically significant decrease in crime rates occurs whenever video game sales are higher. According to the study, a doubling of video game sales is associated with a two to three percent decrease in crime rate.

The study’s authors admit they are not ruling out longer-term effects of playing video games, but they are emphasizing the cathartic effects of playing video games, which could serve as an outlet for aggression.

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High-profile Personalities Who are Hooked on Video Games

If you ask these high-profile personalities, “Do video games cause violence?” their answer will probably be, “No.”

Megan Young: The Miss World 2013 is hooked on role-playing games or RPG. “I think I’m an RPG-kind of girl,” she said. “But I grew up with Super Mario and Pokemon.”

Pia Wurtzbach: Miss Universe 2015 is also a gamer, and she is hooked on the popular massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) DOTA. “It’s a DOTA kind of night,” said a caption on her Instagram post.

Andy Murray: The British tennis superstar is obsessed with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The Wimbledon runner-up plays Modern Warfare during his spare time.

Jeremy Lin: “Me, my brothers, my friends, we play DOTA 2 when we have the time, all the time,” confesses Toronto Raptors point guard Jeremy Lin. He says the teamwork needed in basketball is the same needed in DOTA. “The higher level you go, the more it is about teamwork,” said Lin.

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Final Verdict: Do Video Games Cause Violence? No.

Numerous studies report video games do not cause aggressive behavior. In fact, some even conclude playing video games has clear cognitive benefits. According to DeCamp, the inaccurate assumption video games cause violence could have been reinforced by the possibility people who have a predisposition to violence also play brutal video games. In his study, DeCamp also considered gender and family relations, and natural attraction to brutality with the propensity to play violent video games. So do video games cause violence? The answer is a resounding no. Playing video games, no matter how bloody, does not predict violent behavior.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
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