Study: Violent games can desensitize players

New research finds frequent exposure to violent games can have numbing effect on teenagers, though no cause-and-effect relationship proven.

Frequent exposure to violent games can desensitize players to brutality, according to the results of new research.

The study, as explained by Health Day, focused on 30 teenage boys, aged 13 to 15, divided into two groups. One group played violent games for three or more hours a day (high exposure), while the other played such games for less than an hour (low exposure).

Researchers then tracked the boys' attitudes after playing a violent game (Manhunt) and a non-violent game (Animaniacs). Each game was played for two hours on separate evenings.

"Differences between the boys' reactions emerged later in the night after gaming. During sleep, the boys in the low-exposure group who played the violent game had faster heart rates and poorer quality of sleep than those in the high-exposure group," Health Day writes. "The boys in the low-exposure group also reported increased feelings of sadness after playing the violent game."

The study, published in the May issue of Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine, concluded that both groups of boys exhibited higher anxiety and stress levels after playing the violent game.

"The violent game seems to have elicited more stress at bedtime in both groups, and it also seems as if the violent game in general caused some kind of exhaustion," said Stockholm University researcher Malena Ivarsson. "However, the exhaustion didn't seem to be of the kind that normally promotes good sleep, but rather as a stressful factor that can impair sleep quality."

The researchers concluded that the disparity between the two groups' responses suggests continual exposure to violent games could have a "desensitizing effect" on players.

Notably, however, the study did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship between exposure to violent games and desensitization to brutality. In addition, researchers explained that adolescents with "certain traits" may be more attracted to violent games than others.

Violent games have been a heated topic in the wake of the December schoolhouse massacre in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead. The shooter was reportedly a "deranged gamer."

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and is a big UCONN athletics fan.

Discussion

1086 comments
JulyAeon
JulyAeon

Lord of the flies...let a bunch of children take care of themselves and all hell breaks out, boys or girls, makes no difference.  It is the parental guidance  and to a certain extent of grandparents and other responsible adults in their lives.  Which is the crux of today's life...nobody is to talk to their little angels; here is a new game to keep you quit and up to date with your friends (never mind it is violent and marked 18); here is your Facebook and Twitter account to keep up with all the other "angels"....today's parents created all the downfalls of today's social life! 

As a teenager I loved  Horror and SciFi stories, yes BOOKS and films, and after that the computer games.  That did not change my moral compass in the real world and after all those years I still haven't attacked a living being in all my long life (expect for the occasional snail in the garden and even than I felt sorry for the poor squashed bugger). 

thorn3000
thorn3000

"The boys in the low-exposure group also reported increased feelings of sadness after playing the violent game."....well duh! of course they did! you did not let them play for as long as wanted, of course they were sad because of that...

Mercgamer74
Mercgamer74

Games desensitise young people you say. Maybe we should test this out. I am going to Damascus in two weeks because of a contract maybe I should take those particular youths used in the study to test the hypothesis with me.

Palantas
Palantas

More studies about "violence" done on kids who have never been around real violence, conducted by a bunch of researchers who have never been around real violence.  Suck my balls.

Edg3k
Edg3k

Funny thing, I'm 29, been playing video games for in and around 19 years now, Ive been playing violent ones since I was in my mid teens. I see more realistic violence on the TV when I watch the news, when I go onto youtube or watch the Euronews channels at night when they show actual bombing victims moments after the bombs exploded.

Heres the funny thing, I'm "desensitized" to violence for one reason only, other then being beaten up Ive never actually had any real or direct contact with it, I cant be sensitive to something I've no experience with. I still hate seeing people hurt, the thought of people being bullied annoys me greatly, the idea of children being raped or violently beaten angers me, yet I feel nothing when I punch a guys head off in a game, you know why? Because its a big old bunch of pixels on my screen, why would I feel bad for them? What they should be worried about are people who get upset when the things on screen get hurt, when they are relating to and having feelings for computer generated beings, isnt that a little more annoying, when you care MORE about a pixelated character then you do about other people. Maybe these people are good at drawing the line between gaming and real life, isnt that what we want??

The sleep thing is obvious to, your mind is constantly running, thinking of what you can do or should have done, much like people exhausted after a test, it might be over but they stay up late into the night thinking about what they did wrong, what they could have done better.


Right now,  you bring ALL those 13-15 year olds out and you kick a dog to death in front of them and they will all cry, ok maybe one or two wont but thats a percentage chance you take with groups of people in that age. Jim Sterling made a fantastic video on this subject a while ago, aimed at gamers, where he showed actual video footage of a politician blowing his brains out on TV, the response he got to it was unreal, with people telling him how horrible it was, how terrible he was to show it and how disgusting it was. THAT is violence, we can advanced machines, some of us even know how to split reality from fiction.

You take any 20-25 year olds in and do the same study you'd get vastly different results. I was once a teenager and at that age I barely gave two shits out getting up in the morning, let alone my fellow man, its called hormones. Thats why everyone hates teenagers, they are emotional wastelands, the men are so busy trying to impress the women that they'd strangle a cat if they thought it'd get a girls attention. 

Using video games as a scapegoat is just a new trend, because its easier now to track video game sales then it is music sales due to digital distribution and "illegal" sharing of music. What was once Rocks and Metals fault is now Gears of War and Call of Duties fault. Like I said, you turn on any news channel and you will see way more, and harder hitting REALISTIC violence and I challenge you to show any teenager someone having their leg blown off by a land mine and tell me they are desensitized.

Dragon_Nexus
Dragon_Nexus

I saw a video fairly recently where someone comitted suicide. That crap stuck with me for a month.

Nothing I've seen in a video game has had that kind of effect on me because the violence is exagerated and unrealistic, and also I can tell it's fake.

Daemoroth
Daemoroth

Meh, come on guys, it at least desensitised us a LITTLE bit, I know if I show any non-gamer a  5-minute reel of Tomb Raider (In particular some of the death scenes) they all jump and cringe (Just ask my GF), but I don't flinch.

I don't support using THAT as an excuse, seeing as being a surgeon desensitises people to blood and death, I don't see anyone trying to ban that medical practice for the potential harm. 

PS - I actually think movies/series desensitise us WAAY more than games, being actual photo-realistic depictions of violent acts (SAW anyone, s***, I STILL struggle to sit through one whole movie of THAT crap, and there was an episode of Supernatural which just felt like a snuff film which I did NOT enjoy).

bourne714
bourne714

I completely agree. Every time I put down the controller I can't feel my face for at least an hour...

sezradmark
sezradmark

This is pretty garbage. The title should be "may desensitize". You even say there is no indication of causality, so what's the point? People are taking a really poor approach to researching games.

blackoutmuser
blackoutmuser

oh please, I played violent games all my life and I essed normal, like a normal person and also am not violent, crazy or stuff like that, so please do not f@#k

Harley McDaniel
Harley McDaniel

digital lines of coding and scripted actors don't bother me at all. I do not like REAL violence, but i can handle it because it is an inevitable part of life.

Pigimo
Pigimo

Oh please. I play games like this all the time but when I see real life stuff it makes me sick to my stomach. Just because playing violent games may make some sort of violence tolerable doesn't mean we are going to become killers and shoot up the school or some crap like that. The only reason they researched this at all is because of that school shooting by that kid with MENTAL PROBLEMS. Congress, quit the crap, stop harassing video games.

theKSMM
theKSMM

Every time I read about one of these violence-in-videogames reports I wanna kill somebody just like Sam Fisher would.

Ricardo Martin
Ricardo Martin

I could be reading this wrong, but I say a 7 because I don't watch murder mysteries or slasher films, but I do play games with exaggerated violence.

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

Know what desensitizes people to violence or caring? The news. The fake media and the news and power grabbing sideshows by the politicians, i.e assholes like Pelosi or others who try to ban guns or violence or oxygen, to distract us from how we're living in neo-feudalism. That is what desensitizes people. If anything video games are what controls us and keeps us from paying attention to what matters so that we don't change the world.

birdgang_1
birdgang_1

Violent video games made me who I am today, an angry yeller-at-birds and litterer.  Facts.

jimlad180
jimlad180

I play Dead Island, but ill still faint in a biology lesson if I see a heart, or excessive blood IRL 

Blake Neal
Blake Neal

This argument is still around? If i took my score of things ive killed IN VIDEO GAMES it would well out number more then a billion creatures/humans/goblins/etc. The real world ? maybe about 1000 or so bugs/insects dead by my hand ( Not all on purpose). If thats the cause of me playing violent video games then I recommend them to everyone. The world could do with less mosquitoes.

DantheMan9856
DantheMan9856

we've known this for awhile now, nothing new.  I guess I just don't care that we are desensitized.  I'd rather be desensitized in video games than by a war or real world violence.

zenstrata
zenstrata

The same thing was discovered about television years ago.  And TV is still around.  But yes, this is primarily about parents not doing their job and letting their kids have access to violent stuff too early.  There are age limits on games for a Reason.

Ish_basic
Ish_basic

"higher stress and anxiety levels?"  Just what we needed - another study to prove videogames can affect adrenaline flow - like every other form of entertainment.  Maybe they should have published their findings in the US Journal of No Shit with their conclusion being "we're wasting everyone's time!"

Angelsoft717
Angelsoft717

I could've told you this. However it also has to take into effect movies, music, enviroment, books read, tv watched etc.. Theres too many varibles to run an experiment. There's no telling what they did for the other 23 or 22 hours of the day. One could live in a sheltered surban mansion, while the other lives in the projects.

duncan1745a
duncan1745a

There's an age limit on adults.  We have minds..... We are suppose to have freedom.  Freedom of choice. NO ONE IS MAKING US WATCH THIS.  YOU DON"T HAVE TO WATCH IT.  Skaterboarding is dangerous...you can break an arm or leg..... band that....  rock climbing.... racing on bikes, cars, getting on rides, motorcycles, band sodas, only eat grass... GIVE ME A BREAK.

Taffy872
Taffy872

I think if anything violent movies lead more to this behavior than games. You can play a game and not even flinch, and if you do have an emotional effect from the game, it comes from the cutscenes not the gameplay. I can easily watch a movie like a saw, and  flinch at every gruesome thing that appears, but I would be less likely to do so in a game. The media is capable of portraying more realistic images in the purpose of showing a story, while games can not reach this level of portraying human emotion. When playing games, you do not care about the hundreds of people you have killed in he game, because you know it is all fun, but if a main character dies you are ale to feel emotion and maybe even shed a tear. The same goes in movies, you never care about the enemy, but once a good guy dies you feel sad. In the end I do feel like media has a larger impact on people rather than the games industry.

Noclippin
Noclippin

The whole world is desensitized. It has more to do with us seeing at least 5 murders a day, people dying in the streets, world hunger and pollution so thick you can swim in it, than it has to do with violence in video games.

Craig Cramer
Craig Cramer

Still haven't stopped cringing after seeing Lara Croft impaled through the neck.

duncan1745a
duncan1745a

Why do we pay to ride the roller coaster?  We are going to be scared. Our hearts are going to race and be screaming.   We ride because we know at the end of it we'll be okay.  It exhilarates us and makes us feel move alive and human.  It is part of us being human.    Sick of the political left wing motivated anti-gun/violence things.  Sure okay, lets never have any more violent games or drama.  Let's all watch sheep in the pasture and play sleepy music.  Lets push to have all humans zombie, take away our guns to self protect.....gee Hilter did the same thing.

Kilikan5670
Kilikan5670

Sure. You can say it desensitize gamers, but I'm sure if someone runs up on one with a pistol they'll freak out just as much as any other person.

bat03man
bat03man

The article makes sense, lets be honest when playing a violent game or watching a violent movie what kind of thoughts are going through your head, good upright peacefull thoughts, likely no theirs no way a person can regularly play or watch violent entertainment and not have some kind of effect on him, not saying your going to automaticly go out and kill someone, which in itself could result from regularly veiwing violent entertainment but it will have an effect on you mentaly a person can be more tempermentive,  negative, or depressed  the artical is right on alot of points im speaking from my own experince when i stop playing violent games for a long time i didnt think negative so much and i wasnt irritable when some said  or did something that affended me. See for yourself give up violent entertaiment for one month then judge what kind of effect it had on you.

BattlemageDraku
BattlemageDraku

Enough of this! Violence, brutality, mudrer, beatings, etc, etc. Are part of this dangerous thing called "living" Its survival of the fittest, dog eat dog, adapt or die! Last time I checked! We are not in a ideal heaven now are we...

We are not desensatized, acceptance of violence is in our DNA, its natural... and its totally un-natural to even pretend to be "true pacifists/no harm anything".

Life is harsh, unforgiving, rarely giving you second chances... so we are desensatized a bit to cope... or we would all be insane, depressed and paralyzed by innumerable fears!

Better gun laws some would say...but the problem is actually the current size of the global human populace... more humans = more incidents of mass violence (plus they are a media favorite these days) 

DragonbornBoy86
DragonbornBoy86

@thorn3000 any kid would be depressed if they didn't get a chance to play much. Therefore why I hate playing games at a midnight release party at Gamestop. Seriously parents, if there is an M rating on a game that has sexual themes and strong violence, something should pop in your head, well duh my kid don't gotta worry bout nothing. Sure lady, say that when your kid kills others with an assault rifle when he grows up to be like Adam Lanza.


thorn3000
thorn3000

@Palantas and they probably got a goverment grant for it paid by all those nice and good taxpayers...yes, that is your local politician wasting your money on useless studies so that he can keep saying big words about violence to old people during next elections

jakesnakeel
jakesnakeel

@Pigimo That's like saying, "my dad smoked cigarettes for 60 years, therefore smoking is not bad for you."  What is a "mental problem"?  How do you define that?  ADD?  I don't see the harm in research and knowledge.  And I don't see where Congress fits into this story?

duncan1745a
duncan1745a

While we  at it, band Popeye, BugsBunny (hunter chasing rabbit) ...The Clone Wars,Tom and Jerry OMG  cat wanting to kill a mouse!!!!  Mario Brothers...OMG, he fell off a mushroom, struck with a hammer!!!  Take off Walking Dead.  All the CSI.....All the westerns, All the paid for cable,

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@Noclippin lol at least 5? You know a couple hundred thousand people die per day, right, including murders?

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@bat03man That might be the biggest load of crap ever. When I play a game the sole thought in my head is "Let's get these stupid achievements." Anything else that occurs in the game is secondary, including the main story - whether I've played it already or not. When I'm playing Far Cry 3 I don't think "Those evil slaver pirate drug lords!! I'll kill them all!!!!!!!". I don't think "These god damn zombies! I'll re-kill them all!" when I play Dead Rising, RE, Dead Island, or any of 900 other zombie games.

You strongly over-estimate the capability of a game to actually mentally engage someone. Short of a few games like Portal or Braid or Minecraft or whatever, there is no brain process that is actively in your conscious. Everything is subconscious, once you learn the controls. 

duncan1745a
duncan1745a

@bat03man   Oh, come on.  Really?????  Scary/dramatic movies make us feel more alive.  Why do we ride the roller coasters?  We pay for the thrill of it.  We know we're going to get scared but at the end of it be alright....your heart racing.....the exhilaration.... 

bigruss51
bigruss51

@BattlemageDraku Sure let go of all responsibility and blame everything on this world. Its fact that violence desensitizes people. Our brain receives all information as fact so there's no discerning between actual violence and entertainment. People are not animals we can control our true nature. Also about your "insane, depressed and paralyzed by innumerable fears comment". Lol look around you and read some more medical studies. I don't think you know what normal or natural is.

bat03man
bat03man

@Grenadeh No you understimate the ability a violent game or any violent entertainment can have on a person, everyone is different how something may effect them, but theres no way anyone can play hours and hours of violent games on a regular bases and not have SOME kind of effect on them, like i mention before give up violent entertainment for one month fill your free time with some non violent entertainment then make your judgement, before saying whats a load of crap.

bat03man
bat03man

@duncan1745a @bat03man i like rollercoster too man its exciting, but that not the same as enjoying entertainment were someones is getting killed or beaten to death, the heart is the seed of motivation what you put in it your going to be motivated by it, its no different than your diet if you feed on mc donalds every day or just eat junk food will a person look like beach model no, its going to have a bad effect on your body same with what you put in your mind feeding regularly on violence is going to have some kind of effect you, whether its your attitude, personality or just how you treat people. would you let a 5 year play games like mortal kombat dead space or call of duty if not why not? because alot people know what kind of negative effect it has on them grant ed a mature adult will know that its not real, but does that mean being 18 and up were somehow immune to the effects of feeding regularly on violence no were not, humans are like sponges we obsorb information no matter what age, sorry i dont mean to offend you or anyone reading this but when i read articles like this  and see alot of post constantly deffending violent games saying it doesnt effect them at all or see a person on the news who kills multiple people (again not saying a person is going to go out and kill someone) and to find out he plays call of duty or some other violent games and say it some other problem instead, thats just not true regularly viewing violent entertainment will effect you in some kind of way no matter who you are. ive never meet a person who regularly views violent entertainment  and there this good peaceful neighborly person thats considerate for others, thats just unrealistic

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

@bigruss51 @BattlemageDraku Dumbass responses like this are how you tell someone is a liberal. That's one of the most moronic things I've ever read. There is INDEED discerning between entertainment and reality, every sane person knows how to do it. To say there is no way to do so is to to invalidate all video game debates.

bat03man
bat03man

@Zeran_kariashi Your right on, practicaly 99% of the wars and genocides throughout history, religion has and continue to have a major role in it. from the crusades to world war 2, by religious leaders who disrespect the bible for there own gain, but anyway i like video games too wouldnt post here if i didnt but we cant just ignore the effect violent video games will and can have on people yeah theirs violence everywere anyone can just turn on the news or read the newspaper and see that, the entertainment industry chuges out violent entertainment like candy its everywere but choosing violent entertainment is a choice, playing games were your constantly killing digital images of people can desensitized anyone, and can have an effect on a persons conduct viewpoint or attitude toward violence. its horrible when we watch the news and see some 20 year old come and kill 20 kids and teachers but its ok to kill as much as a person wants on the tv screen. i know thats extreme but how can playing violent video games on a regular bases not have some kind of effect on a person?. We just cant ignore the facts.

Zeran_kariashi
Zeran_kariashi

@bat03man @Grenadeh Books and movies have contributed to more murders and violence then video games likely ever will, by A VERY LARGE margin....I mean hell...the Bible and Koran alone have killed LITERALLY countless people in their history from all the wars started by opportunists, fanatics and terrorist actions on both sides....all the way up to modern day. Those two being the worst contributors to deaths related to literature....but there's many others.

Not that there's anything wrong with religion per say... they provide a strong uniting force that's helped the world survive multiple societal collapses....but they're also prone to being exploited by war-mongers or opportunists.

At the end of the day, it's the person who reads/watches/interacts that causes the issues, because they lack the cognitive ability to separate fantasy from reality...and they can find that inspiration from ANYTHING..even just looking up at the clouds or watching the ripples in a pond.

I'd actually say it's the censors who are ultimately responsible for the problems in the world. Sugar coating any and everything hide from children as they develop, to the point they're finally thrust into society they're unable to cope with their world literally changing in an instant.

For better or worse, violent medias are actually a good thing, combined with strong parenting, and for those with mental issues quick identification and treatment/therapy to ensure they aren't caught unawares by whats to come. Even the most grumesome, brainless violence video games/movies ever made can't hold a candle to the real atrocities in the world today (which are pretty much all the news ever shows).

bigruss51
bigruss51

@Grenadeh @bigruss51 @BattlemageDraku Ur the dumbass. I never said theres no discerning between reality and entertainment. I was talking about the way the brain receives information. The discerning comes after the info was already received. The point is that people are being desensitized the same way with entertainment as if its happened in reality, there is no difference to the brain. This has nothing to do with being liberal(i'm not) but rather the education I've received.