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For years now video games have been blamed for everything from learning disabilities to diminished social skills to heightened violent tendencies. Researchers have been able to substantiate many claims about video games (especially regarding children), but there are still plenty of misconceptions out there about them. Let’s try to understand what’s going on by taking a look at some common video game myths.
Myth: Video games are primarily influencing adolescent boys.
Fact: Yes, video games are popular among children, but it may surprise you that only 25 percent of gamers are under 18 years old. And perhaps even more surprising – 26 percent are over the age of 50. The assumption that adults don’t play video games is probably as prevalent as the stereotype that most gamers are men. While the latter is true overall, when you consider gamers under the age of 18, females outnumber males 33 to 20 percent. It’s important to look beyond age and gender stereotypes and consider the whole gaming demographic before drawing conclusions about video game consequences.
Myth: Virtual violence begets real violence.
Fact: This is a tricky one; there’s substantial evidence to support the claim that playing violent video games can lead to an increase in aggression and violent behavior. To be fair, however, we need to examine this on several levels, including age and individuality.
Many studies have been conducted to determine whether violent media such as video games lead to increased aggressive behavior and desensitization. While conclusions vary, scientists have widely accepted that playing a violent video game increases levels of testosterone, leading to more aggressive behavior while playing and immediately after. But this effect seems to be short-lived, much like road rage or playing a competitive sport. Some gamers appear to be more strongly influenced by violence than others, and extensive research still needs to be done regarding a gamer’s age, personal life, genetics, amount of play time, and the types of violent gaming scenarios to which they are exposed.
This isn’t to say that such studies should be discredited, as some have shown that young people will lash out aggressively as a potential reaction to exposure to violent video games. And actually, some famous sociopaths have owned up to using video games to prepare for committing violent acts. The U.S. military even uses video game simulations to prepare soldiers for combat. But the crime statistics appear to debunk this connection; video game usage continues to increase (the industry has grown from $5.5 billion to $9.5 billion from 1999-2007), while violent crime among youth has declined (1,763 youth arrests for homicides in 1999, and 1,063 in 2007).
While video games have rating levels much like movies, parental supervision is still needed. Some suggestions concerned parents have offered to game designers include realistic consequences for violent acts within a video game--for instance showing the heartbroken family of a victim or facing in-game punishments, such as a jail sentence. It’s also been recommended that violent acts shouldn’t be rewarded with points, level advancement, and special effects.