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Psychologists Attack Violent Video Games

But New Study Shows No Evidence Users Become More Aggressive

Study: Violent Games Not Linked to Aggression in Older Players

Kieffer and Carll admit that not all studies link violent video and computer games to problems. And Kieffer notes that there aren't any studies that look at the effects of playing these games over a longer period of time.

The first study actually to do this got surprising results. A month of playing a particularly violent computer game had no effect on player aggressiveness, finds Dmitri Williams, PhD, assistant professor of speech communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Williams looked at a particular kind of computer game -- a multiplayer online role-playing game (MMRPG) called Asheron's Call 2 or AC2.

This kind of game is quickly becoming the most popular form of online game. The environment is constantly "on," and a player creates an alter ego -- an avatar -- that gains power as play goes on. Huge numbers of players are in the virtual game world at any one time. Cooperating with other players is essential for success.

Violence in AC2, Williams says, is nearly constant. Players must fend off attacks from various monsters armed with different weapons. When killed, the monsters gush blood and writhe in agony. However, players rarely fight against one another.

"AC2 is typical of its genre, but it's pretty middle-of-the-road for its violence," Williams tells WebMD. "The typical MMRPG player plays for 22 to 25 hours a week."

The typical computer game player, Williams found, does not conform to the video game player stereotype. Over 60% of Americans regularly play some form of interactive game. Nearly a third of game players are over 35. Almost half of all Internet users have played an online game -- and this includes 38% of Internet users over the age of 65.

The study did not target children. The 213 participants ranged in age from 14 to 68; the average age was 28. None of these 167 men and 45 women had ever played an MMRPG before; some were entirely new to video/computer games.

Williams' study appears in the June issue of Communication Monographs.

A Month of Violence

Williams gave copies of AC2 to 75 study participants; the others acted as a comparison group. He asked them to play the game for at least five hours a week; more than two-thirds of the players played more. Overall, the players averaged 56 hours of game playing over the month of the study.

Compared to their own test results before they played the game -- and also compared with nonplayers -- the AC2 players did not become more aggressive.

"For aggression, I found really nothing," Williams says. "This is in terms of the acceptability of aggression as a way to solve problems, how often they got into arguments with a spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend, or how often they got speeding tickets. We used both attitude and behavioral measures."

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