Research: Long-Time Users Of Violent Video Games Are More Aggres - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Research: Long-Time Users Of Violent Video Games Are More Aggressive, Angry

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It has been two weeks since the President ordered research into the science of what he defines as an epidemic of violence.

It may be impossible to know what motivates a madman, but the government will be spending your tax dollars to see if there is a link between video games and violence.

Researchers at The Ohio State University studied what happens to a person who plays violent video games hour after hour, day after day.

They used games that are rated "M" for mature audiences, and discovered that over time, players became more aggressive and more angry.

Eric Mohler is a psychology and economics major at OSU. He's not crazy, not violent and certainly not a mass murderer. But he is a gamer, and some of the games he currently enjoys would be considered violent.

There are lots of guns and killings and explosions, and Mohler is more the norm than the exception.

"I would say almost all my friends…you're almost considered an outsider if you don't, because you're kind of viewed as a sheltered kid," Mohler said.

Brad Bushman is a professor at OSU, who teaches a course in violence in the media, and recently participated in the research project on violent video games.

"Violent video games make people more and more and more aggressive over time. They have a cumulative effect," Bushman said.

In the study, Bushman had students play violent video games over three days, then had them compete against each other.

"The winner gets to blast the loser with loud noises through headphones and the noise is a mixture of noises that most people really hate," Bushman said.

What he found was that the more someone played the violent video games, the more they made their opponent want to suffer in another game.

"These games decrease helping behaviors and they decrease feelings of empathy and compassion. For others, they make people numb," Bushman said.

Studies of video game effects are nothing new. There have been hundreds of them over the years, and the results and findings are as varied as the games themselves.

But after the mass killing of children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, people are looking for remedies and answers.

For example, in a nearby town in New York, there is a violent video game buy-back program to get the games out of homes and out of the hands of young people.

There have been published reports that the killer in Sandy Hook played violent video games, but there is no evidence that it had anything to do with the shootings.

Donna McClure is a psychologist and Ph.D. who has worked with both inmates in Ohio prisons, and children.

Her research suggests that violent video games actually change the physical make-up of the brain. The fact that everyone is doing it doesn't make it harmless.

NBC4 reached out to three lobbying groups for video game manufacturers. Daniel Greenberg with the International Game Developers Association said, "Games are a form of protected speech like books, music, and movies. Game developers have a right to explore themes and ideas just like creators in other media. We take this right seriously, and we understand that rights come with responsibilities. For more than 15 years, the International Game Developers Association's Violence and Social Issue Committee has held annual meetings with important members of the game development community to discuss how we elevate video game content with richer themes and how we incorporate pro-social values."

But Bushman said parents can and should monitor their children's media diet.

That is supposed to be happening with the ratings systems that go from "E" for everyone, to "M" for mature, and "A" for adults only, if there is graphic sex, prolonged violence or gambling scenes with real money.

But the ratings are only suggestions, and a 2011 attempt to make it a crime to sell video games to someone under the age for which they are intended was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"The thing we're concerned about is so much of a diet of brutality that are in some of these videos, that's not good for the young people," McClure said.

But it's obvious that the video games are wildly popular, and for most players, the games are just that: games.

"For me, it's more fun than me thinking, you know I'm going to go out there and kill people. It's not, that's not what it's about for me," Mohler said. "It kind of gets you away from everyday life, I guess. Allows you to vent in a certain way."

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