Summer 2012

Violent Digital Games: Are They Just a Game?

Shutterstock/Mikael Damkier
One topic that occupies researchers and parents alike – particularly following such tragedies as the mass shooting by a student assuming the pathological role of "The Joker" in a Batman movie in Aurora, Colorado – is violent digital games and their effect on youngsters. The overarching question is: Do they lead to more violent aggressive behavior among players? Researchers argue both sides of the 'fence.' However, results from a recent pilot study, conducted by Tami Dubi, a Master's student in Education and Learning Technologies, under the supervision of Prof. Yoram Eshet-Alkalai and Dr. Sigal Eden, highlight factors not yet thoroughly examined, and offer relief to worried parents and educators. Violent digital games are just that: games.

The average child spends a whopping 25% of his waking hours killing aliens, driving down the court to sink a basket, engaging in 'hand to hand' combat, battling dragons, racing across a soccer field to get a goal, and playing hundreds, if not, thousands of other games.

They play on their desktop computers, iPhones, Androids, laptops and Tablets. They play in school and at home. They play on their own or against competitors near and far. They are boys and girls, elementary-school aged children and adults, and they represent a wide variety of population groups.

One aspect of digital game playing that concerns parents, educators and policy makers is that a significant portion of today's digital games contain elements of violence.

The questions being asked are: Do these games cause children to become more violent? Verbally more abusive? Physically more aggressive?

There are those who loudly claim that these games do lead to greater aggressiveness and an equal number who say they don't.

In a new research study conducted by Tami Dubi, a Master's student in Education and Learning Technologies, under the supervision of Prof. Yoram Eshet, Head of the Open University's Research Center for Innovation in Learning Technologies and Sigal Eden, formerly of the University's Department of Education and Psychology, addressed these questions. The results of their research indicate that "the issue is not the level of violence of the games themselves, but rather the strategy of game playing that is the crucial factor." This was one factor that had not been examined previously among children (it had been examined among adults.) "In the entire ocean of research studies that I reviewed on the subject," Tami Dubi explains, "I only found one other research study (from Holland) that studied children's aggression level, during and after engaging in violent digital games."

Close to Home

Tami's inspiration for researching this subject came from her own home. The mother of 12-year-old twins, Tami sees how very different their lifestyle is from what her own was at that age. Hours upon hours are spent playing computer games.

As a mother and as a student of education, she began to ask if these games were causing her children to become more aggressive.

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