A recent study suggests that playing mature rated video games may lead to risky, deviant behavior including alcohol use and cigarette smoking. OH HEAVENS!!!
Coming out of Dartmouth College and published this week in the American Psychological Association Journal is a 4-year spanned study that focuses on the effects of violent and mature rated video games on adolescent adults. Are violent video game the gateway drug to worse things, including buying gates and/or drugs?
The researchers contacted a pool of over 5000 young adults multiple times over the span of 4 years and focused on the three video games “Manhunt”, “Spider-man 2” and “Grand Theft Auto”. Although the respondents fell to less than half of the original 5000, over 2000 subjects were interviewed for the effects of having played one of these three games and continued to play similar risk glorifying games. The researchers found that respondents who played risk glorifying games with an anti-social protagonists (Manhunt and GTA in this case) had reported higher rates of cigarette use, and similar patterns were found for other forms of delinquency than those who reported only have played games with honorable protagonists (Spider-man).
Jay Hull, the lead researcher, concludes that playing risk glorifying video games increases the likelihood of performing risky actions in the real world. As Hull puts it
“[In video games]They’re not practicing drinking and smoking and risky sex, but what they are practicing is being a less than good person,”.
We’ve seen similar studies where violent video games have been linked to aggression, cheating, and other less honorable behavior, but this might be the first one I’ve seen linked to risky sex..I don’t know how to take that. Likewise, we have seen studies that suggest positive benefits to violent and all video games in general, so the debate seems to be all over the place.The thought behind why this is occurring is that playing violent and risk glorifying games makes kids more willing to take risks in their own life:
“Once a kid is trying one substance, the odds of trying another one go up…The risk starts piling up much faster, and the outcomes for these children get much worse in a hurry.”
Eh…that’s no good. The researcher endorses the use of the ESRB rating system as a form to combat adolescents from getting their hands on these games prematurely.
I don’t know what to think about this study, as it seems pretty well constructed. Obviously the study is reliant on the respondents to tell the truth and gauge their effects, but I can’t think of a more developed way to do so. There may some causes that are effecting the respondents that the study doesn’t take into consideration, such as reasons for why adolescents are getting their hands on violent video games before becoming of age. For example, I can imagine parents who buy their children a spider-man game (regardless of its ESRB rating) may not be the same level of attentiveness as a parent who is okay buy and M rated GT game….but that could be neither here nor there.
The study itself is, unfortunately, only available to those who subscribe to the APA’s website, but a decent explanation of the study can be found here.