Research shows that violent video games lead to increased aggression, but if and how this will turn to violence stirs, is to prove. Media and political discoursing frequently association exists between the use of violent video games and aggressive behavior in those who benefit. But what’s true? The violent video games have a direct relationship with the violence or not?

Media and political discoursing frequently association exists between the use of violent video games and aggressive behavior in those who benefit. But what’s true? The violent video games have a direct relationship with the violence or not? What is the link between the violent behavior that you can take in a game and our morality in everyday life?

Research has shown that violent video games lead to increased aggression in players, but if and how this aggression will turn to violence stirs, has everything to prove. Similarly, there are several studies that have sought to investigate how and in what way the moral aspects to affect the gameplay.

According to John Murray, a psychologist at Kansas State University, exposure to violent video games has a greater effect than the violence conveyed by other technologies, such as television, due to several factors, one among all the typical interactivity video games.

Violent video games

For nearly two decades the use of video games is a common activity among adolescents (ISFE, 2010): according to some research, time spent in the’ video game use is increasing rapidly, but the data that worries most scholars of the sector is not linked to the use of massive games, but to the prevalence and preference for violent video games.

According to a recent report of the observatory among the top 20 titles in 2011, it offers half bloody, violent and aggressive. Although in general the research has not been able to establish with the decision which is the causal direction in the relationship between use of video games and behavior, there have been many efforts to get closer to the answer.

Who is violent chooses violent video games?

According to Thalita Malagò, general secretary of AESVI, the link between violent video games and the aggressive tendency is unfounded. According to this line of thinking, the mistake would be to think that the main users of video games are children and adolescents and those who prefer not to consider that violent video games may have a predisposition to pre-existing violence.

Theory of catharsis

An interesting study entitled violent video games and real-world violence: rhetoric versus date, conducted by researchers at Villanova University and Rutgers University in the United States, tried to find out whether there a direct correlation between violent video games and the number of violent crimes. The researchers based their study mainly on 4 comparative analyses that involved the observation of the following data:

  • Changes in the sales of violent video games, and in the number of violent crimes from 1978 to 2011;
  • Monthly trends in sales of violent video games and violent crimes from 2007 to 2011;
  • Amount of online research to guide and solutions to violent video games;
  • Number of violent crimes from 2004 to 2011;
  • Violent crime following the publication of three violent video games very popular Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty: Black Ops.

The results of this research indicate that there is an inverse correlation between the number of crimes committed and the use of violent video games: according to data obtained in fact, to an increase in consumer video games like it, would correspond to a reduction of violent crimes in the 6 months the publication of the video game.

The explanation of this phenomenon has no comparison in the research, but the researchers suggest could be assumed that the use of violent video games to work, for those who benefit, as a cathartic tool: being able to channel the aggression in the virtual world, users would tend to not do in everyday life. The other assumption made, has led researchers to think that 6 months after the release of a new video game, are the ones used by buyers to play, being in front of their home console and not on the streets, to commit a criminal or violent offense.

While it is possible to assume that there is a link between the use of violent video games and the manifestation of aggressive behavior, on the other hand, many studies included within the theoretical framework of the General Aggression Model, speculate that situational variables and individual behaviors interact with each other, generating an influence on the person, which leads to changes in the emotional, cognitive, and physiological. In other words, the decision-making processes that lead to aggressive behavior, turn on the interpretation and evaluation of the situation in which the subject is inserted.

It was found that the use of violent video games leads to an increase in aggressive thoughts and physiological changes (such as increased heart rate and temperature) subsequent to the game, even if the observable data for the study of long-term consequences of use are deficient. To assess whether there are differences in the effects due to the use of violent content through different media, research suggests at least three variables that make it possible to discriminate between violent video games and other media types with the same content, considering the former as more harmful.

  1. Some research showed that the player has a chance to be active in a violent game, have more chances to implement subsequent aggressive behavior to fruition, with respect to the player who it merely observed the violent game. This is understandable when you consider that when you play you are not mere spectators, but you have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the situation, you can make decisions, possessing the reins of the game.

In addition, thanks to the introduction of new control-based paradigms of the game through the movement of the body, the degree of identification increases exponentially.

  1. The greater the ability to customize the avatar with which to participate in the video game -attribute similar appearance to those of the players, the greater the likelihood that the participant puts in place aggressive behavior, compared to the player with an avatar from the generic characteristics.
  2. Often violent behavior or aggressive is reinforced by the presence of rewards and satisfactions. These rewards are also granted in cases where the player puts in place in destructive behaviors play, aggressive or vicious.

Frustration theory

A recent study at Oxford University by prof. Andrew Przybylski, along with some American colleagues of the University of Rochester including Richard Ryan, whose results were published in the prestigious magazine Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, shifts the focus of aggression by repetition, the game mechanics, and the gameplay.

Specifically, the research was conducted on two groups of gamers, who have been asked to use two different versions of a shooter game ‘Half-Life 2’: in the first case the participants were playing the original version of the game, in the second case it had been provided to them a modified version, without violent content. Players who have used the modified version was not given the opportunity to access a preliminary tutorial: scholars have been able to note that in this case the players stated that they feel incompetent and unprepared, showing a behavior and a more aggressive attitude to group to which the original version was provided, more violent, the video game.

According to Prof. Przybylski, this can be explained by referring to the level of frustration felt by the players: the higher the frustration level perceived, the greater the number of aggressive and violent behaviors adopted during the participation in the game.

According to the scholar, the need to master the game controls (through the preparation and then through the use of tutorials) is more important than content, more or less violent, because users need to get out winners by a game session.

A new generation of video games

Over the last two decades, technological advances have led to the creation of more and more realistic gaming experiences. In an effort to develop products that are closer to the real world and lived by users, they have been introduced and marketed video games in which the player’s moral choice plays an important role in the development and direction of the story and the game character himself. For example, both in the game Fahrenheit, that in Fallout III, the player is confronted not only with violent content but also to moral choices forced by history itself. In these virtual worlds, you can experience what the life of every day, would not only be impractical, but it could be considered a crime. In fact, in certain violent video games, the player is immersed in a world in which he can kill, torture, assault, beating, etc.

What is natural to ask is to what extent committing acts considered generally and in the life of every day as reprehensible and immoral, can influence the moral judgment in everyday life. Many scholars of ethics, including McCormik (2001), argue that today humanity is faced with a new set of moral issues caused by new technology.

What is meant by a psychopath?

The term psychopath now in disuse referring to today’s definition of antisocial personality. Which is in principle characterizes those who once were presented precisely as a psychopathic personality. In DSM-V individuals suffering from this disorder are described as cynical, contemptuous of the emotions, of the world and the suffering of others, with no or little capacity for empathy. These are people who struggle to maintain a strong emotional relationship, can become irresponsible and implement violent behavior, aggressive, vicious and cruel. May present dysphonia, nervousness complain and demonstrate the poor ability to tolerate boredom and depressed mood.

Rigney, referring to the theory of Dr. Adam Perkins at King’s College London, has shown that a person who suffers from psychopathy can only superficially to empathize with each other. According to Perkins Stratta precisely the kind of people who are able to do that sort of thing for which anyone would have a guilty conscience, no, in fact, prove anyone. People are able to implement behavior for which most people do not then be able to sleep at night at the thought of completing them, whereas in fact a psychopath would sleep like a baby.

Generalizing, people considerable psychopathic or antisocial personality disorder, are implementing aggressive, violent or cruel without remorse, without any emotion of guilt. Possess a cognitive style that places no emphasis on the value and fair treatment of others. This does not mean that people are more violent than others. It is usual and people accustomed to logical thinking, acting methodically calculating the consequences of their actions, which according to Perkins, recognizes the consequences (even and especially negative).

If there are deterrents recognized by the person psychopathic or antisocial, such as the possibility of ending up in prison, the violent action is more likely to be implemented. According to the author, these disincentives to violent action, however, do not work in the virtual world, the world where, in the absence of empathy, you can feel free to rob and kill.

As expressed by Rigney raises a dilemma, summarized in this way: the actions and behaviors implemented in violent video games are comparable to those that we can imagine, but we would never dare to do? Or in violent video games we act as if there were no real consequences (as is the case in the real world) and thereby, in reality, we act differently (less aggressive behavior) because we have in mind the negative consequences of our behavior?

In a recent study it was assumed that the use of violent video games  in which the player is free to implement unscrupulous and immoral behavior (such as having paid for sex with prostitutes increase the health score tied avatar, GTA IV) may weaken the moral judgment of the people, even outside of the virtual boundaries. To the participants in the study, we were asked to report the frequency with which they used to play the video game GTA IV. Then they were asked to complete a questionnaire to measure the moral disengagement.

The questionnaire is designed to measure three different times of moral disengagement process:

  1. The redefinition of immoral conduct, which tends to minimize the immoral act committed;
  2. The distortion of the pipes immoral act, considered less serious than they are;
  3. The different consideration of the victim or through attribution of guilt or blame is considered worthy offense taken.

The results of the study can be seen as the more recently participants had played GTA IV, the higher the score of the degree of moral disengagement, measured by considering five subcomponents (moral justification, advantageous comparison, diffusion of responsibility, distortion of the consequences, dehumanization).

It is also important to note that the same effects have been traced in the sample of participants, regardless of gender and age. Certainly interesting, the above-mentioned study stimulates a previously mentioned consideration: playing violent video games and immoral, because aggressive behavior and immoral, or persons of aggressive nature or morally more lax with themselves, they choose a game like this?

Future prospects and issues yet to investigate the use of violent video games

In an attempt to answer this question, it will be necessary that the research will focus more on most aspects, perhaps focusing on the link between the moral disengagement and behavioral aspects related to it. To date, some scholars speculate that the moral disengagement represents the halfway stage of the overall process leading to the choice and use of violent video games and the final and subsequent aggressive behavior.

In view of the indicated and suggested a few decades ago by Bandura (1990), you may need to consider not only the aggressive behavior as a result of the choice of violent video games but also the moral disengagement, regarded as one of the aspects related to the aggressive action.

In addition, understanding the duration of the negative effects of the use of violent video games, it might be important to provide a clearer picture than the influence of the real and quantifiable games in real life every day, by specifying more precisely whether and how the perception the world in which we live is changed over time by the use of violent video games.