The debate over videogames and violence shows no signs of abating, and despite having grown a little weary of the topic, I'll admit that there's a part of me that remains ever intrigued by the latest research in this area. So in that spirit, here's another scientific article to further fuel the discussion. This one comes from the March issue of Criminal Justice and Behavior and presents the results of two studies examining the relationship between videogames and real life violence.
In the first study, a group of students were randomly assigned to play either Medal of Honor: Allied Assault or Myst III: Exile. (Why these researchers can't find better and more recent games for these studies is beyond me.) A comparison group was allowed to choose which of these games to play based on a written description. After playing, the subjects participated in a laboratory task (description here) designed to measure aggression. From the article:
"Individuals who played Medal of Honor were no more aggressive after playing than were individuals who played Myst III....[A]lthough males appeared to prefer to play violent video games relative to females, there was no evidence from this study to suggest that people who prefer violent video games are more innately aggressive than those who do not..."
In the second study, several hundred students filled out questionnaires concerning their levels of exposure to family violence, past criminal behavior, aggression, and videogame playing habits. The results were then analyzed using statistics to see if any connections or patterns could be found. From the article:
"[O]nce exposure to family violence was controlled, direct exposure to violent video games did not hold any predictive power regarding the commission of violent crimes. The results did suggest, however, that the interaction between aggressive personality and violent-video-game exposure is predictive of violent crime."
What this means is that even though playing violent videogames does not appear to predict violent crime, there is evidence that a certain percentage of highly aggressive people are drawn to violent videogames. This isn't very surprising. It makes a lot of sense that people who are already aggressive, perhaps because of a violent family environment, would be more likely to seek out violent media, whether that be movies, music, or videogames.
Of course, this article won't end the videogame violence debate, but it still makes for an interesting read and a welcome addition to the scientific literature on the topic.