In the never-ending battle over whether violent video games incite impressionable gamers to commit unspeakable acts – or, at minimum, become obnoxious – hardware-wielding brain boffins have pried into young men's heads and discovered that, yes, digital mayhem alters your brain. "For the first time," said researcher Dr. Yang Wang …
>>After not playing for the second week, the effects were diminished, but not eliminated entirely.
"These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning," Wang concluded.<<
Since when has one week been defined as long term. Did Dr Wang stop the study at two weeks just in case that the effect would vanish completely at three weeks? The answer, folks, is yes.
how many people do you know that play games 1 week on, 3 weeks off?
People who can go 3 weeks without gaming will generally go months or decades without gaming.
Exactly. I thought this was a much better look at that study:
The corollary to that is.....
For idiots who play shooters over a longer term than one week, the half-life of the effects would be much longer than that.
I'm surprised you didn't draw that conclusion. Have you been playing a lot of games lately?
A bit pre-emptive to draw that conclusion. You try and base behaviour of the brain on rules related to physics. I doubt it works like that, but if you have the numbers to prove it then by all means share it.
Oh, insulting people does not improve your argument in any way, shape or form.
I can hapily binge game for a while, then totally ignore the thing for a few weeks... all depends on the weather, work, social life and the next shiny thing that attracts my attention...
It's just good to know that Wang cares.
makes me question what effect long term exposure to actual violence does to the brain? Soldiers, Police officers etc.
Also, if the effect is just that of gaming in general or specific to violent games. More information needed here.
As far as they've been studied,
The effects are very much not specific to gaming. Priming and adaptation effects, like this, have been shown in numerous areas. Essentially anything that you see or do repeatedly will prime you to think and act in similar ways. Effects can be muted by contrasting stimuli, however. But essentially, if you watch lots of violent movies, or play violent video games, you're going to be more likely to condone or act in violent ways. Likewise, if you watch lots of Care Bear movies or play touchy feely games, you'll be more likely to act out what you saw. Really, it's a complicated version of "monkey see, monkey do" or "you are what you eat."
I don't know that anyone has tried to study long term exposure to violence to anyone besides soldiers. In veterans, the problem is complicated by the fear of being killed and the stress from seeing buddies and comrades die in action. These effects seem to swamp out anything more subtle such as simple exposure to violence.
Note: Most movies and games are not easily categorized and often have many conflicting elements to them. Also, as mentioned, people tend to get many contrasting stimuli on a day to day basis. So, violent movies and games alone are not going to make someone go on a killing spree.
A title is optional
"Likewise, if you watch lots of Care Bear movies or play touchy feely games, you'll be more likely to act out what you saw. Really, it's a complicated version of "monkey see, monkey do" or "you are what you eat.""
Actually, that's something I noticed while reading the article and the study; this study specifically is NOT controlled for non-violent video games.
Which kind of invalidates the conclusion, I feel. It could very well be that violent video games cause this kind of prefrontal inhibition, sure. But without a control group, the data don't support that conclusion; what the data support is that spending ten hours in a single week on a specific type of repetitive task will cause that inhibition.
That the key causal factor is the violence is an inference, and not necessarily a good one. Video games of all kinds, whether Doom or Tetris, cause heightened types of cognitive processing, as well as changes in stress-related hormones, focus, and concentration. The data from this particular study might suggest that violent games cause inhibition of the left inferior frontal lobe...but it might ALSO support the conclusion that elevated adrenaline causes inhibition of the left inferior frontal lobe, or that prolonged periods of eustress causes inhibition of the left inferior frontal lobe, or that prolonged pattern-recognition, spatial mapping, and real-time strategic mapping of the type required to play a 3D first-person causes inhibition of the left inferior frontal lobe.
By not including a control group that spends a similar period of time playing a video game which requires similar levels of focus but isn't violent, the authors produced a study which does not (necessarily) support its conclusions. Frankly, I wouldn't expect this level of research to pass muster in a second-year university class.
"this study specifically is NOT controlled for non-violent video games"
Exactly. Very disappointing (and very obvious, I would have thought).
They didn't repeat the tests with the groups swapped or with the groups split half of each swapping tasks.
It's annoying because if this is really true it's possibly quite important and enlightening but this is too half-arsed to judge on.
"NOT controlled for non-violent video games"
This is the single most important take-home message from the results. I'd also like to see a comparison with, say, brain activity in people who play team sports, especially of the aggressive, contact type... and perhaps comparing solo games with adversarial ones where there's a clear winner and loser.
All this study shows is that video game violence is a sexy topic for study and results will be widely publicised regardless of their worth. Its very tedious.
Don't "feel," THINK it!
Your criticism is valid and rational. Don't couch it in touchy-feely jibberish!
A load of Wang....
I believe that the frontal brain regions which are, "are important for controlling emotion and aggressive behaviour", are also tested during other activities such as gardening or DIY.
Video games are not the only ones on trial here. Whatever the outcome of video games needs to be extended to films, music, plays, social holidays such as Halloween and Bonfire Night, how to mow your lawn, etc, etc.
Also, can we have some statistics on number of perceived, "video game nasties", against violent crimes. Then put that up against alcohol induced violent crime?
So I ask the question: When do we become responsible for our actions?
What's next? Statutes enforcing breastfeeding because Hitler, Pol Pot and Idi Amin were famously bottle fed? Get Wang on that one...
(I don't know whether those three were actually bottle fed. I used that statement as a hypothetical. But I'm sure I could find something equally banal but true if I had to.)
I have no strong feelings one way or the other about this test.
It's probably because I play a lot of violent video games and therefore have no empathy any more. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to torture small children and cute fuzzy animals.
Really, that's the traditional free will vs. determinism question. From a philosophical point of view, if you are merely the sum of your experiences and do not have any real control over yourself, then you're not responsible for your actions.
This is, of course, a useless position to take. Many people would argue that your pet dog does not have free will (cause only humans were granted the gift of free will by their creator), but would not hesitate to discipline the dog for peeing on the carpet or digging up the flower bed. Even if we discover that people are not philosophically responsible for their actions, we would still punish them the same way as we do now... Well, maybe we'll have found a more effective means of discipline by then.
What do Atilla the Hun, Alexander the Great, and Oscar the Ground have in common?
THE SAME MIDDLE NAME.
Clearly there is a pattern here. All three are known for acts of senseless violence. Ban the definite article!
If we banned anything that ever made people feel somewhat more violent we'd quickly run out of things to do. For a start, people who run around banning things that make people violent, probably make people feel violent...
"So I ask the question: When do we become responsible for our actions?"
This is Never a question, you are Always responsible at All times.
Shoot em up's are banal, couldn't think of anything more boring, well maybe David Cameron.
"This is Never a question, you are Always responsible at All times."
As well as being irritated by the wrongness of this statement I found the capitals anoying.
The problem is, the statement should not be wrong. The entire "mentally fit" thing is a load of crap invented to let people get away with murder. Literally.
It's akin to hate crimes. The WHY does not matter, only the fact that it was done should be of any consequence.
The sports scientists did a lot of the work required many years ago...
Look up visualisation: mental techniques where, by repeatedly imagining yourself in a given situation, achieveing a goal for instance, it makes it easier to achieve...
Its very hard to believe that similar effects don't occur when you imagine yourself in other situations... Personally I've largely given up reading certain kinds of literature and playing certain computer games because I find it adversely affects my mental outlook.
Of course I might be unusually weak minded - one experience is not evidence - but it is my experience that very many folk grossly underestimate the power of the subconcious on their behaviour.
and when was the last time you saw a film that didn't suck dick
When I stopped watching pornos and went out to the cinema
well. There's some.
I knew a guy in Bosnia, he used to drive his wife mad by playing half-life 2 for days on end after he demobbed. Serious PTSD case, he used to find that it gave him an outlet, something to think about.
He stopped playing when his kids came along, two years later lost it and set fire to the family house. Always did have a fire thing going on though. Even I barely recognize him now. Prison wasn't kind to him but at least they gave him psychiatric care that he couldn't get in civvie street.
A few of the old crew still team up on various versions of Halo and Splinter Cell. I join in for SC (and love the Assassin's Creed series) but can't play true FPS because they make me puke within 5 minutes of playing. Go on, read something psychological into motion sickness, I dare you.
"Nobody who had been to a real war prior to gaming would want to come back home and play the game. How many WW2 vets do we have playing Call of Duty for 9 hours an evening and slavishly buying every new version for a price that they admit is more overpriced than a movie ticket "
I shouldn't think there would be many WW2 vets out there playing these games, as the youngest of them would probably be about 82 years old.
However, I know plenty of ex-forces (US and UK) who do "slavishly" purchase these games and play them every night. They are all family men and women, and are all very pleasant people.
As is mentioned elsewhere in the comments, what the study is lacking is breadth; is it just violent games, is it all games, is it violent movies/tv, is it violent books, ... We need some more information before judging anything.
I imagine a lot of things. I imagine doing horrible things to mental slackwits whose entire existence seems centered around annoying me.
Funny thing, despite all the imaginings I've never actually DONE anything like that.
Studies... err, sorry, "studies" like this one just give people excuses to do horrible things to each other. "It wasn't my fault, xyz made me do it!" The sooner we stop wasting time making excuses for people, the sooner we can get back to holding people accountable for their actions.
Then again, accountability is such an unpopular word these days...
I was talking to a vietnam vet the other week who was a massive fan of the Battlefield video game series. Using WW2 vets as an example, given that they barely had TVs let alone games consoles, is a bit silly.
In other news
Watching a lot of violent films has shown to have a long term effect on brain functioning.
Watching a lot of news stories has shown to have a long term effect on brain functioning.
Where does it all end?
Could we do a similar test on people who have to queue behind old people in the post office, or the supermarket? How about people held up in traffic queues due to speed limits designed to protect workers who are at home tucked up in bed?
@ Chris Harrison
A bit off topic, but traffic queues are not caused by speed limits. They are caused by traffic lights showing red to all directions for minutes on end (I presume to allow a non-existent severely crippled pedestrian to cross) and by drivers hesitating at Give-Way signs in case that car approaching along the main road might be doing more than the speed limit.
Traffic queues caused by various things
And of course driving too fast. Keeping a slow but steady speed in heavy traffic actually gets everyone home faster as it reduces stopping and hence limits the delays of reaction times.
Might be preaching to the choir on El Reg but it's knowledge worth spreading. Check out "Shockwave jams" on Youtube.
"[Traffic queues] are caused by traffic lights showing red to all directions for minutes on end"
Traffic lights showing red in all directions is probably a health and safety precaution to make allowance for the number of motorists that jump the red light at every change.
"A bit off topic, but traffic queues are not caused by speed limits. They are caused by traffic lights showing red to all directions for minutes on end (I presume to allow a non-existent severely crippled pedestrian to cross)..."
Don't know how you guys do it on your side of the pond, but here in the States traffic lights that show red in all directions are sometimes used as an intentional "traffic calming" methodology, supposedly to reduce collisions that occur when a yellow-light accelerator meets a green-light anticipator (yeah, that's actually what civil engineers call 'em), and to reduce the overall incidence of speeding. At least that's the theory. Anecdotal evidence when I'm trying to get across town at rush hour might show something else...
(Yes, I live with a civil engineer, what of it?)
All traffic queues are caused by people STOPPING. Usually fools.
On a motorway there is almost never a valid reason to stop, unless a serious incident occurs immediately in front of you blocking the entire carriageway.
Not so much stopping as braking.....
If you have to brake on a motorway, it's because you, or someone else, are driving incorrectly. The mark of a good driver is not speed, it's anticipation - which also saves you money, as unneccessary braking is a waste of petrol.
If people just watched the cars around them and matched their speed (not too slow either, which can be worse than too fast), and left a suitable distance between them and the car in front for the road conditions, there'd be a lot less accidents, we'd all get home quicker, and use less petrol in doing so.
The worst slowdowns are at junctions (try the M5 or the M6 in Staffordshire any day and you'll see it at it's worst)- why can't people join/leave the motorway without making other people brake? It's that anticipation thing again. Get up to speed, and filter in, simples.
Living changes brain function .. At least for most of us. Wake me when someone demonstrates that the changes are bad.
So they picked people with little to no experience playing "violent video games" for this study. Had they had extensive exposure to other types of video games, just CHOSE not to play FPS titles? Choosing a bunch of non-gamers, and having them play video games 2-3 hours a day when they previously didn't play games will likely result in SOME kind of change in their brain activity. Whether that activity is positive or negative is a completely different question. Repeat this study with a random sample of gamers and non-gamers included, and see if the effects are the same on people who had done extensive game playing previously would be a good place to start.
Wang is not required here...
Right, well done Wang.
Now lets try the same experiment on:
1. People watching violent movies
2. Troops in a war zone
3. Aggressive sports - rugby perhaps?
I'd say it's pretty damn obvious it's going to effect your brainwave patterns, however, it's a case of what other activities do the same?
It's also a case of a *tiny* sample group - I mean, 22 people? WTF?
And how long after did they keep reading the brainwave patterns?
It's just not ... science.
No matter which way you look at this, it smacks of "we want to find the results we expected and they better indicate that violent games make you ... violent"
So, then there's me, I've played a fairly massive amount of video games in my time, to the point where, at 44, I'm bored of most of them (except anything Valve or Rockstar create)
I started gaming age 11, 33 years ago.
And hell, I'm the most passive, non-violent, agreeable chap you could hope to meet, aside from that sticky incident with the crowbar, never put a foot wrong. But hey, we all make mistakes... details, details!
"And hell, I'm the most passive, non-violent, agreeable chap you could hope to meet, aside from that sticky incident with the crowbar, never put a foot wrong."
Dr Freeman, I presume?
Why stop there?
Working 40 hours at an assembly line.
Also, so there is less activity in the emotional centers of the brain. Does this mean those areas are now crippled for dealing with strong emotions, or does it simply mean they are having to deal with fewer strong emotions because the gamer is simply relaxed?
Two weeks (twice more than MJ)? Are you joking, mr.Wang? Go have you pint of ale and stop bothering us with such nonsense...
A bit wonky...
"involved '22 healthy adult males' between the ages of 18 and 29 who had little past experience with violent video games."
Eh, yeah, right. As if anyone could find 22 males under the age of 30 who haven't played violent videogames. Or perhaps these were the only 22 that could be found world-wide.
I grew up with a lot of them*. They also used to say quaint things like "my ears are bleeding" when someone cursed. Also decryed caffine and porn. Very nice people overall, but quite weird too...
* I grew up in Northern Utah. Lots of Mormons there that were well insulated from the "horrors" of the rest of the world.
Study's useless unless they compare with a second group playing non-violent games.
Non-violent video games
with a similar set of objectives. Say, comparing a regular FPS with Portal. After all, you can still call bullcrap if the 'non-violent' game being played was (say) Pong and you were comparing it to Deus Ex.
Oh no, not again
There so many flaws in this research (e.g. sample sizes etc..), but even looking beyond that, the basic premise is also fundamentally flawed in so many ways. For example, of course a game alters our brain. Everything we do alters our brain (I hope) because that is how we learn!. You would also expect learning in emotional centers of the brain as violent games are very primal predator/prey interactions.
However a violent person isn't violent because they see violence in a game (or a film). They are violent because they want to be violent because their violence gives them power over others (by inducing fear in others to back down) and lets face it, some people in this world want power over others. People just have to look and read about the world around them to see this is true. Even just look at the rest of the animal kingdom to see this is true.
So to keep arguing games (and films etc..) are a cause of violence is at best profoundly ignorant of Narcissistic personality disorders and at worse stops the world finally seeking to deal with Narcissistic behaviour in society.
So what is it going to take for some people to learn the simple fact that people who are violent, want to be violent! ... It seems unfortunately there is no shortage of stupidity on this planet, so judging by pass failures, I doubt some will ever make the connection on their own. Ironically (and I'm only joking here), perhaps the only way to really teach them, would be to actually beat them up so they finally get the message that the person punching them has chosen to punch them, not because they are aiming for a high score!
... Give me strength, I despair at some people. Stop the planet, I've lost all hope, I want off now, please let me off this planet!
Wang: I've regressed our understanding of the brain 50 years to improve the self-image of HOA board members, politicians without a 'me-too' and evangelicals all over the world.
World: Ahhhhh that feels better.
I once was a teenage lobotomer.
How dare he say playing video games makes people violent
It's just not true, and anyone who does not agree should have their tonsils extracted with a rusty chainsaw.
Grrrr. Never mind FPS, reading this article makes me want to punch people.
On the assumption people posting here are FPS gamers
Then their weakly constructed, aggressively presented arguments seem to back up Mr. Wang.