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Archive for April, 2012

I played a horrific amount of Civilisation 5 yesterday. I mean truly horrific. By the end of it, I was seeing the world in hexagons (the map of the world is divided up into hexagons that you can move your farm workers/trains/giant death robots around on). It was probably a really bad idea to play for as long as I did, but the whole hexagon thing did get me thinking about the effect that video games have on people. I play video games a lot and am not particularly violent, even though most of my games involve pulverising anything in my path with the biggest gun I can possibly find, and believe that whilst video games have the capacity to teach violence, they don’t always do so and can in fact help us develop in different areas.

There has always been controversy over the violence presented in video games. With my basic understanding of Social Learning Theory as presented by Bandura, Ross and Ross, I can see how people would assume that if their child plays a violent video game, they would then become violent. The two students who carried out the Columbine High School Massacre make direct references to the game Doom in the video they made before the attack. This if anything would make it seem that video games have a negative effect upon us, and there is substantial evidence for this. Anderson and Bushman (2001) conducted a meta-study investigating (you guessed it) violent video games and violent behaviour, finding that they did make people violent. I don’t think its as bad as this though, I know a lot of people who play video games and are also not particularly violent. So I kept digging and found Ferguson’s 2007 meta-analysis study, in which he found that violent video games increased visuo-spatial cognition whilst also declaring that violent video games did not increase violent behaviours. In the study however he did adjust effect sizes in “biased publications”, so I’m not sure how totally confident I can be of his last statement being 100% true.

Games in general seem to be good for one thing though, learning. Not all video games are violent, and some that are don’t just focus on violence. James Gee gave a keynote address to the curriculum corporation in 2006,  wherein he details how video games can help to teach people skills such as cross-functional teamwork, empathy for complex systems, and self-identity. The address ends with James saying that “video games won’t be able to do all these good things by themselves”, and its something I agree with. Just as they won’t be able to do good on their own (in many games where cross-functional teamwork is an option, you can completely ignore it), they won’t be a ble to do bad on their own. I believe that as long as people know that what they are playing is not real and probably could never happen in real life, it will restrain many of the violent effects that the game could possibly have on them. If you know what you are doing couldn’t happen in real life, you hopefully won’t try to do it in real life.

Video games can be bad, we’ve seen how they can influence people from the high school massacre to the Anderson and Bushman study, yet we can’t say exactly how much they’ll effect people as I believe that its a very individual thing, different people will be effected differently. Some may not even be effected at all, and there can be benefits of playing them, seen in Ferguson’s study and Jame’s keynote show. I think that as long as people stick to the age limits given to each game, and play them knowing full well that they are just simulations and no matter how immersive, still not real, then they can not be as damaging as they have been made out to be, and not lead to increasingly violent or negative behaviour.

http://pss.sagepub.com/content/12/5/353.short Anderson and Bushman, (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggresive behaviour.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/66217176984×7477/ Ferguson, (2007). Meta-analytic study of postive and negative effects of video games.

http://cmslive.curriculum.edu.au/leader/default.asp?id=16866&issueID=10696 James Gee’s keynote address (2006)

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