Marriage and Family Therapist
Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross is a licensed psychotherapist with almost twenty years of clinical experience in the fields of clinical psychology and organizational management. She has worked extensively with a wide variety of…
Are Video Games Linked to Aggressive Behaviors?
Posted in Video Game Addi... by Cyndi Sarnoff-Ross on Apr 23, 2012
There is a tremendous amount of allure to video games. Adults and kids alike can become obsessed with the world of gaming. There has always been a general belief that a correlation exists between gaming and aggression.

Many studies have been done that reveal the connection between watching violent images and a tendency towards aggressive behavior. It is safe to say that there is at least a loose association. But gaming takes players to a whole new level and requires very specific skills. It is not a passive activity such as simply viewing a video or film.

There are 2 different camps when it comes to this notion. One side firmly believes that the skills required to be an effective gamer are highly developed and useful in the real world. These are skills such as cooperation, understanding complex concepts, and becoming aware of cause and effect relationships. The other side maintains the belief that these games teach violent behavior, which is then transferred to the world outside of gaming.

Ulrika Bennerstedt, Jonas Ivarsson, Ph.D., and Jonas Linderoth recently published the results of a study on this matter in the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.They determined that gamers who were most successful at the process were able to cooperate and had knowledge of complex, highly technical strategies. The gamers, who acted badly within the game by being overly emotional or inconsiderate, didn’t do well.

As a therapist, it is my belief that the effect violent gaming has is somewhat dependent upon the recipient of that stimulus. Kids, who are more prone to aggression, tend to act out after interacting aggressively even if it is only on the computer. Some will come away from the games with the skills these researchers mentioned. All, I suspect, will be affected in one way or another.

What have your experiences been with gaming, either as it pertains to your children, your spouse, or yourself? Do you feel pumped up after battling it out in cyberspace or have you noticed a change of behavior in your loved ones when they do so. It would be interesting to hear about some of your ideas on this subject.

- Cyndi


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All video games can incite violence and in my experience it's the cute games like Mario which incite the worst - not bloodthirsty army games. That's because most gaming violence is about the game and about not being able to do something (ie: complete a level). Some types of games are guaranteed to cause a meltdown.

It's also clear that bloodthirsty video games can get people used to gore and reduce the shock-factor. This doesn't make people more violent however.

I've found that video games don't cause people to become more violent in everyday life however and in many cases, they help to release pent up aggression. They clearly have a role to play with special needs children.

Unfortunately some people are violent by nature. Violent people tend to like violent games, violent films and violent activities. It's easy to draw a correlation between violent people and gaming violence but it doesn't work in both ways.

All elephants are grey animals, but not all grey animals are elephants.
By gbollard  Apr 24, 2012
Both of my daughters were married (and are now divorced from) guys who were addicted to World of Warcraft. They both felt that their husbands were more interested in playing the game than in spending time with them. Both husbands protested that they "needed down time" after a day at work. Neither of the husbands would give up the online gaming, despite repeated fights about it.

I've never tried it myself, but apparently, if it means more to you than your spouse does, it must be pretty powerful stuff.
By madbookworm  Apr 24, 2012
I play video games and so does my husband, but we are both much more into puzzle-like games, side scrollers, and the occasional fighting game than the shoot-em up ones, like Call of Duty. I agree, though, that the effect of the game depends upon the recipient. I think the same thing about television. There is also much to be said about the parenting of children who watch violent tv or play violent games. There is also concern about those who become addicted to online games, such as World of Warcraft (like my ex-husband did). These people probably have "addictive personalities" to begin with - it's not the game that MADE them keep playing...
By ladyla  Apr 24, 2012
Does the gaming make girls who play them more violent? Or do women not play the games men and boys play, unless they are playing in order to be in a relationship?

Men (and boys) tend to be "tool-workers" and manipulators of tools, and more "left-brain" logical as far as cause and effect relations of things for "doing" rather than right-brain subjective "relationship"-focused. Men tend to be less verbal in their relationship with the games; women tend to be more social, which the games do not promote socializing. Women tend to to obsess with Facebook rather than games that require moving "things" and challenges.
By Richeart  Apr 24, 2012
Know your limets. The problem lies within people not doing things in moderation. Also I think people who are already abusive tend to wach and play games that support there wild behavior thus making it worse for themselves and telvision puts some people in a hypnotic state so over time they can begin to transfer ideas from tv or games into there oun thought process. Turn the tv or gaming system off for a few hours a day go have some fun or do somthing productive!
By mamoth  Apr 23, 2012
No. Aggressive behaviours are socialisation issues, which playing video-games not suitable for age can play a part of. If a child plays a game aimed at the 18+ market, then that is an indicator of parenting issues.
It does sell papers and gets people tuned into the news though. I remember the times when it was video nasties, then rap music, then drugs and now Video-games. How appropriate that we live in a society that cannot apportion blame correctly.
By Obeylix  Apr 23, 2012
Video games have labels for a reason. Games like Grand Theft Auto or Mortal Combat are geared towards teens and above. Kids, around the age of 10 or below, don't understand if what they're seeing is good or bad. They just copy what they see. Even if a game isn't violent, they tend to get frustrated because they can't get passed a certain part of a game. I'm like that even with more current games. Unlike a child, however, I know how to control that frustration. Basically, if you're acting out because of a video games, it's time to put down the controller and take a break.
By RedPowerRanger  Apr 23, 2012
Ive played some violent games since I was in elementary school, stuff like grand theft auto where you blow stuff up, shoot people, there's hookers, steal peoples cars, etc. But I'm not at all a violent person. I never acted out in school or home. I'm a pretty laid back kind of person. I actually find it somewhat therapeutic, getting any anger out.
By ashleynicole55  Apr 23, 2012
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