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Health & Parenting

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Psychologists Attack Violent Video Games

But New Study Shows No Evidence Users Become More Aggressive

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."

Williams says his findings don't necessarily mean the APA is wrong to condemn violent video and computer games. But he does say that far too little is known about these games.

In addition, the new study findings don't tell us much about the possible long-term effects of violent video games on children since most participants were adults.

"The APA concern is based on this evidence showing increased aggression after a short play. But there has been no research on long-term play, or play outside labs, which is not representative of normal play," he says. "It doesn't mean there aren't harmful effects, but I am not convinced by the studies so far. And since I did the first [longer-term] study and found no effects, this gives me pause."

Social Effects of Gaming

Williams warns that not all games are created equal. In fact, not all games of the same type offer the same kind of experience. And it makes a difference, he says, whether a game is played in solitude or with others, in an arcade or at home, and whether the game requires players to meet and cooperate with other players.

With AC2, he found that players find the time to play by watching less TV and fewer movies, although they watch the news just as often. Players tend to "cocoon" -- that is, to withdraw from casual interactions with others.

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