Video games and violence have a pretty spotty history in the media. There have been plenty of people and outlets that are quick to place the blame of violent attacks on video games, often times citing studies that showed increased aggression lighting up people's brains after playing games.
Now, these studies investigate the short-term effect of playing violent video games, where participants were examined immediately after playing video games. A new study has taken a different approach, studying the long-term effects of playing violent video games.
The study, published by Frontiers in Psychology (via ScienceDaily), lead by Dr. Gregor Szycik of the Hannover Medical School and colleagues, investigated the long-term effects of playing violent video games.
"The research question arises first from the fact that the popularity and the quality of video games are increasing, and second, we were confronted in our clinical work with more and more patients with problematic and compulsive video game consumption," explained Szycik.
The study recruited 15 male violent video game users (around 23 years old) and 15 male control subjects. The gamers played violent video games daily, but refrained from playing for a minimum of three hours prior to the experiment, although the majority refrained for much longer than this.
To evaluate whether or not the gamers were more prone to aggression, they were scanned in MRI machines while being shown images that provoked and emotional or empathetic response. In addition to this, they were given psychological questionnaires.
The psychological questionnaires revealed no differences in measures of aggression and empathy between gamers and non-gamers. This finding was subsequently backed up by the MRI data, which revealed that both gamers and non-gamers had similar responses to the images they were shown.
This finding was not expected. Prior to the experiment beginning, it was hypothesized that violent video games would illicit a more long-term aggressive response.