Video Games: Research probed the impact of first-person shooters on gamers, looking at whether they promote violence in people and their circle of friends.
Since their inception, video games have ignited a melting pot of debates on their possible ludic and therapeutic use and the dangers of prolonged exposure to themes such as war and violence.
In Austria, the latter has recently become the subject of a heated debate, trying to understand if it can spread from one player to another as a sort of pathology.
“Our series of studies shows that gamers become more aggressive when they play violent games,” noted the researcher. “The contagion effect is even stronger if people in the immediate environment are aggressive: in this case, my aggression level will also increase, even if I’m just an observer. So, the player’s social environment reacts with increased aggression.
The research team involved in the project points out that the effects on a single individual are minor because aggression is influenced by multidimensional elements and by triggers in daily life, such as partners, children, colleagues, or video games. However, when taking a broader social viewpoint, the effect is greatly amplified because Austria has around five million gamers.
“Interventions to reduce computer play time can reduce gamers’ aggression level. People who do not play themselves, such as brothers and sisters, will also benefit,” said Greitemeyer. “So if you start with the player, you reduce aggression levels across the entire social environment, which has some relevance .”
Regarding the gender difference, women were found to be less aggressive than men. Still, both genders are influenced by video game use in the same way (and to the same extent) by externally aggressive people. Generally speaking, computer games alarm many parents, but Greitemeyer recommends taking a moderate stance. “If I think of cooperative games, football comes to mind. Today, my son plays on the computer with his friends and talks about it, here you don’t feel alone; there is a social bond”.
The study also revealed that playing first-person shooters has positive effects, such as improving spatial orientation. Arguments in multiplayer games are indeed more frequent. However, millions play games of this genre without ever having tantrums. Experts recommend parents pay attention and check the recommended age because many games only allowed from the age of 18 could prove unsuitable for their children, undermining their mental health.