Video Games and Culture Today

As of late, video games and the effect they have on our psyche and well-being has been a fiery issue.  There has been a lot of research in the past few decades that has suggested video games are the cause for violence in our society and culture.  While this may be true, it may be safer to say that video games are a reflection of our culture.  Our culture is reflected in numerous areas of our daily lives, billboards, books, reference materials, our own socially constructed ideals, etc.  To say that one area is more prevalent in causing our behaviors may be stretching the truth.

Researcher Craig Anderson from Iowa State University has been a main source of the research reporting that video games create violent behavior in individuals.  He has been studying the subject for an extended period of time (since 1995).  Most of his participants have been from the university that he teaches at and with computer games that have been created for his research purposes.  While this seems like a respectable sample, a researcher with an eye for methodology would be able to point out the obvious limitations of this approach.   The college population used solely in the samples, the video games created for the study are not actual games individuals play, and that the virtual games used were specifically created for his research purposes creates a sense of uncertainty when examining his results.  Even our government called for further research in this area and required expansion of the focus population beyond college students.

In cases like this, it is important to look at all of the facts when examining research that may affect a large part of our culture.  A leading competing researcher, Chris Ferguson from Texas A&M, recently published a meta analysis on video game research.  He looked at the recent literature on video games (from 1995 on) and reviewed all of the findings.  Not surprisingly, he founds that video games only had a correlation of .14 to violent behavior.  In non-statistical terminology this is a 2% overlap of violence associated with video game playing.  Interestingly enough, he discovered that a significant portion of the literature had been done with author bias involvement.  Once this was controlled for and the statistics reran; the .14 correlation was reduced to a .04 – not even close to anything significant.

When viewing this area of research, it is safe to say that we fall to either side of the argument.  Either we believe that video games cause individuals to behave violently or we believe that they have no effect.  This article is not here to sway an opinion, but to allow pertinent information to flow to the reader for you to decide.  There is not one article that explains all of the variables of video games, the storyline, the archetypal position you are put in while playing a character, not even the personality elements that have to be considered in any violent situation.  The domain of video game research is vastly unprepared and underfunded to draw any conclusions about the effect on the individual psyche.  There needs to be more research into this realm.

As for the debate on whether video games are the culprit on why individuals commit violent acts, it is inconclusive to state that individuals playing video games are the reason why crimes are committed.  It may be possible to instead of blaming problems that occur in our world that we look to other reasons why an event may occur; take our current culture for example.  We pride ourselves on knowing what other people are doing, blaming others for our own problems, we do not treasure critical thinking, we glorify individuals on TV rather than intellectual thinkers of our history, and even idolize a concept of beauty that is only skin deep.  What message is this giving to our society when we put such things first rather than a more moralistic reality.  In the debate on video games, why do we instantly blame them when there are so many more factors such as parenting, lack of self-discovery, and even the need of interacting with other individuals while not being connected to a piece of technology.  I would impart this idea of introspecting on the concept of why we, as a culture, behave the way we do and not look just at video games, but our current life as a whole to determine if there is any culprit besides our own personal demons in this matter.  Look to the research and drawn your own conclusions rather than be swayed by one source of information.

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