Video games beget violence


LEWISTON – After having them play either a violent or nonviolent video game for 20 minutes, Craig Anderson shuttered college students in an office with a long questionnaire.

As soon as the door shut behind the study leader, a staged brawl broke out in the hallway.

Actors yelled at each other. One threw a chair, then huffed off, leaving the other moaning on the floor.

That’s when Anderson started the clock.

How long would it take students to come out of the office and help the guy on the floor?

Those who’d just played a nonviolent game took an average of 18 seconds.

Those who’d played a violent game took three times as long.

Anderson, a psychology professor at Iowa State University, shared his research Friday as a keynote speaker at the Society for Applied Research in Memory and Cognition international conference at Bates College.

Bates professor Amy Bradfield Douglass, event host, said the four-day conference drew 200-plus people to 35 sessions.

Anderson has studied aggression for 20 years. He’s also a video game fan from way back, he said. He and his wife got “Pong” as a wedding present.

Games can be great teaching tools, he said. But research has shown people become desensitized after playing violent games, and they behave more aggressively in the short term. Long-term exposure can lead to an increase in aggressive personality, he said.

He doesn’t consider sports video games violent, Anderson said, when the aim is to tackle or beat the opponent on the field or on the court; violent is when a person is breaking the other person’s spine to do it.

Another study in the new book he co-authored, “Violent Video Games Effects on Children and Adolescents,” had kids and college students playing either nonviolent games like “Oh, no! More Lemmings” or violent ones like “Street Fighter.”

Then participants got individual tests in which they thought they were playing against someone. They could choose, on a noise scale, how loud to blast their opponent if the opponent lost.

People who had played the violent games blasted an average 45 percent louder.

Anderson said he sometimes gets nasty letters from gamers upset about his studies and conclusions.

“They apparently fail to see the irony of the threats that come at the end,” he said.