Digital Fantasy No More?

Is there a link between violent video game playing and violence in real-life? This question has been around for quite some time, but as a result of recent gun related violence, it is taking center stage again.  This past week, an article was published in the New York Times titled “Shooting in the Dark.” This article highlights the complexities that arise when suggesting there may be a link between violent video game playing and the manifestation of violent behavior in real life. The author begins the piece by saying that the young men who committed such atrocities as Columbine and the movie theater shooting in Colorado, share the characteristic of acting out a “digital fantasy.” But, is this actually the case?

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The author of the NYTimes piece states that researchers have clarified that “playing the games can and does stir hostile urges and mildly aggressive behavior in the short term.” This is a beneficial finding, but speculation still remains on the subjective nature of ‘mildly aggressive behavior’ and what happens after the ‘short term’.  In fact, Psychologist Michael R. Ward states, “I don’t know that a psychological study can ever answer that question definitively.”

It is intuitive that young kids who play violent video games, compared to young kids who do not play violent video games, will be more aggressive in certain real-life situations. Thus, it is not surprising that the violent video game playing kids may get into more scuffles here and there during recess, as indicated by research results.

So do scuffles at recess potentially fueled by violent video game playing lead to planning and executing mass homicides later in life? This is where the research gap exists, and might always exist, but it doesn’t mean we should stop looking for the answer.