I am fairly sure you are all well-initiated to the video games x violence discussion. If not, here's a crash course: Something something Jack Thompson, Mortal Kombat, ESRB, yadda yadda "bad parenting", mumble grumble "desensitization to violence", the "American Psychological Association said it's bad", and lastly "that one shooter played Counter Strike a lot".
Did I miss anything?
The current development is that researchers were studying a group of young men aged around the early twenties. Participants were monitored via fMRI scans to find if the players who enjoyed their violent games were more emotionally desensitized than the others. The control group were the ones with no experience playing violent games on a regular basis. The rest frequently spent nearly 5 hours a day playing violent games such as "Call of Duty and Battlefield". Subsequently, no difference was found between the violent game players and those who didn't play violent games.
The players were shown "emotionally positive, negative, and neutral" photos and their fMRI scans showed virtually no difference between the two groups of players. The researchers found that the participants' reactions to each category of photos were the same across the board. The positive and negative photos garnered much more brain activity than the neutral ones.
Pictured: A room full of people that should be on some kind of watchlist. Utterly horrifying.
Personally, I'm more interested in reading about the effects of playing games five hours a day, once you're out of school anyways, but that's just me. I would also like to know why the study only worked with young adult males and not females. Couldn't they have looked up the actual average demographics? No really, I just google'd "average video game player" and the first link clearly states that males only encompass 52% of players. Unless the relatively recent women's march involved marching out of the country, then I think the statistic is still fairly accurate.
Questionable sampling aside, the findings are fairly convincing that theories about violent games leading to emotional desensitization should be reconsidered.
Despite their findings failing to find a correlation with constant exposure to violent games and emotional desensitization, many studies have found interesting results regarding gaming and changed behavior. I know the incessant stories about the mental effects of modern media can be really tiring, but the human brain is a really complex beast. On occasion, the results of these studies can even be somewhat fascinating. For example, here's a fun tidbit: Did you know that researchers found that children who played "pro-social" games such as Super Mario Sunshine were found to exhibit more pro-social behavior later on? That's pretty nice to hear, a breath of fresh air from research regarding games like Mortal Kombat anyways.
I wonder where Katamari Damacy falls. I blame that game for my minor hoarding tendencies.
Ultimately, this study does not completely refute the APA study which found a correlation to violent games and aggression, but it will no less be used in many a comment thread as defacto proof otherwise. Researchers acknowledge that there's still the possibility that the players may not display different brain activity, but could still act differently. However, it is good to know that the science isn't yet done.
Like many of you, I look forward to when games aren't always getting such negative attention, so it is pretty nice to see that several studies out there are affirming that our games are not secretly Satan causing us to turn into husks. Let's be glad that Jack Thompson isn't on the news every other day anymore either.
Back to restraining myself from throwing the controller while playing Ninja Gaiden.