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FROM HARMLESS TO VIOLENT:
PSYCHOLOGY'S CRAIG ANDERSON HAS BECOME ONE OF THE WORLD'S LEADING EXPERTS ON VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
At first they seemed harmless. Video games like Pong, Space Invaders, and Pac Man were cute, mindless entertainment.
But now, instead of Pac Man “eating” dots and making its way to fruit symbols across the game board, video games have become more realistic.
And according to studies by Craig Anderson, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology, they have become increasingly more violent.
Youth, particularly teenage boys, now hone their video-playing skills on such games as Doom, Grand Theft Auto, and Duke Nukeum. The level of violence has increased so dramatically that video games are rated much like theatrical movies and television programs.
Research indicates that exposure to violent television and movies causes increased aggression and violence. Anderson’s studies say that violent video games may actually have a greater impact on aggression than television and movies.
Video games have a greater effect than TV or film because they’re active. Plus, the addictive nature of video games also means that their lessons are taught over and over.
“In TV shows and movies, there may be several characters with whom an observer can identify,” said Anderson, who published his first video game study in 1986. “But in most video games, the player must identify with one violent character whose sole goal is to wound, maim, or kill the enemies in the game.”
All of Anderson’s studies on violent video games fit closely with previous research on violence studies of television and movies.
“There’s no doubt that repeated exposure to all varieties of violent media will, over a period of time, create people who become more aggressive adults,” he said.
Anderson says it is time to move onto serious public policy debate.
His studies have been published in some of the world’s leading science journals. He has been quoted in newspapers around the world. He has appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” and testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.
His research and testimony underlies several legislative attempts to increase parental control over children’s access to “mature”-rated video games, including laws and ordinances passed by the city of Indianapolis, St. Louis County, and Washington state.
Despite this active research into violent video games, Anderson isn’t a crusader against the media.
“I try very hard not to take sides in the public policy question on how to deal with children’s access to violent video games,” he said. “But there is a
factual answer to the question, ‘Do violent video games increase aggressive behavior?’ I’m willing to stand up and say this is what the science says, and it says it pretty clearly. There are negative
consequences; there are increases in aggressive behavior, and they are significant enough that people do need to consider how society should deal with them.”
About the Writer | Dave Gieseke is public relations manager for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
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