Violent video games are back in the news. Playing these types of games may be connected to violent fantasies and actual violence among kids, according to a new study, amid criticism. A report based on a study conducted in Singapore, found that kids who often play violent video end up showing more aggression later on. The report also states that kids who play violent X-box or Atari games are more likely to believe hitting someone they do not like is an acceptable way of handling problems, than do children that don’t play games. The study found no difference in patterns of violence between boys or girls. However, the study remains controversial, as critics claim no direct connection between violence and violent interactive entertainment. Meanwhile the sales growth of violent games in general remain strong, and is expected to continue.
According to studies of American subjects that played video games, the level of parental involvement seemed to have a negative correlation with subsequent violence; more parental supervision equates to less violence, the study hinted. The effect was statistically small, but might be a serious issue for individual parents worried about their kids, according to Douglas A. Gentile, who helped administer the study at Iowa State University in Ames. Gentile commented that in Singapore and other countries where parental involvement is consistently high, finding a pattern of lack of supervision and video game-influenced violence is difficult.
However, some still deny a direct correlation between violent video games and real-world violence. Christopher Ferguson, who researches the effects of media on behavior at Stetson University criticized the report, calling the research inconsistent. While he acknowledges that violent games may offer minor motivation to actually aggression by children, he stated that similar reactions can be caused by different triggers as well, such as kids sticking their tongues out at each other. No pattern of extreme violence such as school shootings has been connected to games based on shooting or other kinds of fantasy violence.
The controversial study follows a number of court hearings discussing whether sales of video games with strong violent content to minors should be banned, or if the current law remain. In 2011 a California high court concurred with an earlier ruling to reject a proposed ban on the sale or rental of violent electronic games to minors. The court stated that the law violated minors’ constitutional rights; the court specifically cited the First and Fourteenth amendments. Current distribution to customers under 18 could continue.
Both sides of the debate have voiced their opinion against a landscape of strong and healthy video game sales. According to a forecast by Forbes, the video game market is expected to reach $128 Billion by the year 2017; Meanwhile research marketing firm, Gamerista, expects 2014 to see $100 billion in video game sales world-wide.
The video game industry has long been a focus of controversy, from discouraging kids from reading and exercise, as has been the criticism of television, to encouraging violence. Despite the continued disdain that some parents and researchers have, video games are likely to remain popular, and record strong retail sales.
By Ian Erickson
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