Thinking about video games causes violence

Playing too much Call of Duty, Halo, and Mortal Kombat could affect your attitude. Those violent video games that you can’t get out of your head might be messing with your mind.  In a new study, professors from Ohio State University and Central Michigan University found that violent video games encouraged aggressive behavior in men, particularly if the player thought about the game long after the play session was over.

The study consisted of 126 college students: 69 males and 57 females.  The students were randomly selected to play one of six violent or non-violent video games against an opponent of the same gender, with each student playing their video game for 20 minutes.  After the play session, they were asked to rate the game based on certain qualities such as excitement, fun, action, stimulation, and violence.  Half of the students were told to think about the video game and how to improve their strategies during the next 24 hours.

In the second portion of the study, the students who contemplated about the video game wrote a list of ideas they formulated about the game.  Next, all of the students were randomly assigned to play a competitive game against an opponent of the same gender.  The player who won the game was allowed to punish their opponent with a noise through their headphones that ranged from 60 to 105 decibels, as well as choose the length of this punishment.

Experts measured aggression according to the intensity and length of the noise the participants chose for their defeated competitors.  The group who had thought about playing violent video games displayed more aggression toward their opponents.  The men that didn’t think about the violent games for 24 hours after playing, didn’t display high levels of aggression. Notably, the female students did not display as much aggression as the male students whether or not they thought about the game.

These results are not surprising because violent video games have long been considered one of the main culprits of aggressive behavior in children.  A study conducted in 2006 at the Indiana University School of Medicine provided proof that violence in video games caused negative emotional arousal in children by including MRI images of brain function.  However, that study, along with many others, only focused on short-term consequences by evaluating the effects of violence immediately after violent content had been witnessed.  This new study strengthens the argument against violent video games by being the first  to assess their long-term behavioral effects.

Video gaming should be an enjoyable pastime, not a stress inducer. Take breaks between game levels to relax your mind and your body. If you notice changes in mood and behavior, pick up new hobbies that will take your mind off of the game. According to the research, persisting thought about violent video games even after they are over is the cause of aggressive behavior, not the game itself.

Most importantly, when you are done playing, don’t think about the game.