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Computer Games Research
When considering the short history of computers, video and PC gaming are very recent on the timeline of technology. This is one of the reasons why there have not been many conclusive studies on the negative and/or positive effects of electronic games on children and young adults -- the most formative years. With the ever-increasing interest and involvement of children in this activity, much concern has been expressed about the impact of these games, especially ones of a more violent nature, on physical and psychological development. At the crux of the debate is the question of whether they are detrimental to a young person's health. There are specific concerns about such factors as aggression, addiction, criminal activity, obesity and reduced academic achievement.
Studies thus far show both positive and negative results from playing video and PC games. Some research finds that the playing or observing of violent games does affect young children negatively, with increased levels of short-term aggressive behavior. Further, some children exhibit addictive behavior and become less sociable and less academically capable. Other studies suggest that computer games have little or no impact on factors such as aggression and can even be a positive educational tool.
A number of problems have been recognized with most of the research done to date. These include concerns with cultural differences, varied choice of games used in the research, the studies' short-term focus and failure to consider whether game-playing has longer-term effects and objections to the research methodology. Such concerns show the need for more research into the long-term effects of computer games on children and youth is required.
This paper will present a review of some of the literature that both supports and negates the use of computer games for children and youth. Because the studies to date have been very broad -- a wide range of games, ages and backgrounds -- the literature review here will be as varied. As noted above, this is a major concern of game playing studies. The report will then proceed in providing the methodology of a possible study to look at the longer term impact of video games. Middle-school boys will play a video game that has been deemed violent (through the rating and number of defined violent incidents) and be tested for aggressive factors immediately after the game and then again at a later time. A control group will also be tested.
VIDEO GAMES AND VIOLENCE
In 1978, the Japanese company Taito & Midway introduced a tall cabinet full of electronics and bright 14-inch screen for the latest offering in electronic entertainment. For years, other companies had played with the concept of the "video game." No one had achieved widespread success. So, there was not much interest in Taito & Midway's latest venture. It was called "Space Invaders" and consisted of a simple black-and-white game where the player shoots aliens in spaceships. It even had disturbing sound effects. Despite its simplicity, the world has never been quite the same since. The space invaders did, indeed, take over the earth. This nondescript game made an everlasting impact on the development of every computer and video game to come. As with some modern games, it invited controversy and was almost banned. Yet, it also created a new cultural event and language, as well as changed generations of entertainment to come.
At first, the video games reflected traditional themes of children's literature including fantasy, horror, and adventure stories or backyard play such as space exploration and sports. Such interests contributed to the popularity of early console games such as "Super Mario Brothers," "The Legend of Zelda," "Sonic the Hedgehog," and "Megaman." However, the success of the gaming companies rose and fell. In the late 1980s and early 1990s firms such as Nintendo, Sega and Sony decided to establish electronic games as a central feature of American childhood and significantly increased their marketing efforts.
The growing popularity of computer games stimulated a certain degree of research interest. Although Funk identified computer game playing as a relatively high frequency activity among adolescents, most studies were related to who played (males over females) rather than why they played. Then, when the gaming companies began their marketing push and fighting games, such as Mortal Kombat and Streetfighter II, became best sellers, more educators and researchers began to take notice of this new form of entertainment.
Little research had been conducted on non-arcade electronic game playing, because it was originally recognized as a harmless and enjoyable pastime. However, with the ever-increasing interest and participation of children, concern increased about the effects of these games on psychological and physiological development. People began requesting some form of empirical investigation and, if necessary, the banning of the more violent games for youth.
Since then, some research has suggested that computer games cause physical or psychological harm. These studies conclude that some form of short-term correlation exists between playing violent computer games and an increase in aggressive behavior. In addition, several studies have provided support for the argument that computer game playing is potentially addictive (Anderson and Ford) or leads to criminal activity. Others have claimed, to the contrary, that such games offer creative and prosocial applications, with emphasis on physical rehabilitation (Lynch), educational value (Silverne) and the improvement of social interaction and growth (Favaro). These researchers argue that the aggressive content of computer games actually provides an outlet for the players to release stress and aggression in a non-destructive way. It even relaxes them (Bowman and Rotter; Kestenbaum and Weinstein).
Ever since children began spending as much time playing video games as watching television, the individuals who were concerned about the growing violence of cartoons and other children's programming also started becoming anxious about electronic games that include violent themes. This led to the hypothesis that children may become more aggressive after playing such games (Koop; Zimbardo). Researchers such as Provenzo began categorizing the various forms of violence that can be used in these games. In some cases, humans must defy and destroy other living beings or aliens and/or avoid being killed. In other cases, humans fight with make-believe or fantasy characters. In a large number of games, the violence or aggressive behavior is in related activities such as sports such as karate and wrestling. Provenzo concluded that the content of popular Nintendo games contained a major violent element in 40 out of 47 games. Kirsh investigated the effects of playing a violent vs. A non-violent video game. After playing these games, third- and fourth-graders were asked questions about a hypothetical story. On three of six questions, the children who had played the violent game responded more negatively about the harmful actions of a story character than did the other children. These results suggested that playing violent video games may make children more likely to attribute hostile intentions to others.
Anderson and Dill recently published the results of two studies that examined violent video game effects on aggression-related variables. Study 1 found that real-life violent video game play was positively related to aggressive behavior and delinquency. The relation was stronger for more aggressive individuals and men. Academic achievement was negatively related to overall amount of time spent playing video games. In Study 2, laboratory exposure to a graphically violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and behavior. These results are consistent with the General Affective Aggression Model that predicts that exposure to violent video games will increase aggressive behavior in both the short-term and the long-term
According to Calvert's arousal theory, players of violent video games become physiologically aroused through exposure to the level of violence presented. They have increased activity in brain waves, heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance. After habituating to that level, the players become desensitized from overexposure to aggression, requiring higher levels of aggression to be aroused. Based on the principals of this arousal theory, Anderson and Bushman developed the "General Aggression Model," stating people who play violent video games develop aggressive beliefs and thoughts that predispose them to future violent behavior in real life.
D'Andrea takes a broader approach to the study of video gaming and violence, noting that Americans are violent in general so that no one should be surprised that this form of entertainment is enjoyed. He notes:
Although it may not be a popular perspective to articulate, the history of the United States clearly suggests that we are a violent nation. Today, new forms of violence surround us. This includes but is not limited to domestic and sexual violence that women and children in all segments of our society experience, violent images that are portrayed in the media and video games and violence that is manifested in a variety of ways in school settings (e.g., teasing, bullying, fistfighting, shootings).
He adds that Walker and Gresham pointed out that "Violence in America is a social toxin that is pervasive in every aspect of our society that has lowered the quality of life for everyone." For the first time since 1970, violent acts against strangers…[continue]
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