For years, science has been trying to find a link between violent games and violent people and has thus far been pretty much unsuccessful. The overall trend is that violent people tend to like violent video games, but nobody has been able to prove that violent games make for violent people (even though certain politicians love to say they do in order to deflect blame from even more pressing societal issues).
The latest study once again confirms the overall trend but also finds some interesting tidbits by watching the gaming habits of adolescents as they grow into full-grown gamer adults.
The study, titled “Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents,” looked at a group of children between the ages of 10 to 13 from a “Northwestern city” somewhere in the USA. Participants 65% caucasian, 12% Black, 19% multi-ethnic, and 4% other. All results were self-reported from periodic questionnaires sent out that examined each individual’s personal behaviors as well as their gaming habits, including what sorts of games they played
Taking a “person-centered approach” to the data, the study saw three distinct groups of people emerge: “high initial violence (4 percent), moderate (23 percent), and low increasers (73 percent).” High initial violence had the highest tendencies towards violent behavior and also violent video games, moderates were somewhere in the middle, and “low increasers” started out with a low preference for violent video games that increased ever so slightly over the 10-year study.
Overall, the study found no difference in “pro-social behavior” over time, meaning that playing violent games didn’t make any group particularly more anti-social. Those with low violence scores and low tendency towards violent games did see a slight increase in both over time, but the group was “no higher in aggressive behavior than the high initial violence group at the final time point.”
Curiously, the high and moderate violence groups saw a “curvilinear” relationship with their gaming habits. Their preference for violent games initially decreased over time, bottomed out, and then rose back up at the end. This suggests that even young gamers that started out playing violent games like GTA will still have their Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons phase just like everyone else.
Or it might’ve been their parents stepping in and banning violent games for a time. The study didn’t ask participants why they played the games they did. But we’d like to think it was the siren’s call of Stardew that drew them away from their violent tendencies–at least, for a little while.
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