Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Gratification

Taste My Steel, Evil Zombies

Videogames, as we all now recognize, are bigger than the movies.

They are also different from the movies, since, as everyone also knows, popular flics are there purely and simply to turn young people EITHER into delusional superhero wannabe fantasists OR into sexually inept stoner slackers with permanent arrested-development problems – think characters played by Seth Rogen and Owen Wilson.  (Pi doesn’t think teens can turn into both types at the same time, but hey, let’s keep an open mind here.  Delusional superhero wannabe stoner slackers, anyone?  Let’s devoutly hope that Hollywood trend analysts are not reading this....).

Unlike movies, however, the popular wisdom is that videogames exist to turn young people into stone-hearted sociopaths and perpetrators of violent mayhem against their fellow human beings, at least in the virtual world of their choosing.

A study conducted in Canada now lends a certain believability to that last diagnosis.  In-depth research into the behavior of about one hundred 13- and 14-year-olds found that over-exposure to violent games “weakened their capacity for empathy” and “delayed the onset of moral maturity”.  The findings were more pronounced among those teenagers spending more of their time on violent videogames.

How violent?  The researchers isolated those in which participants’ on-screen avatars acted out killing, maiming, decapitating or mutilating other human or humanoid characters.  Over half the teens studied were playing video games every day, with violent games the most common.  The combination of graphic violence and the amount of time spent playing seemed to have a compounding effect on teenagers' antisocial attitudes. 

Alternatively, it could be argued that kids with the lowest capacity for empathy, trust and concern for others would be those most drawn to graphic portrayals of violence in the first place.  By definition, those spending the longest number of hours massacring zombies, T-men or ’ragheads’ would be those with the least time available for normal human interactions.

Pi does not want to sound too alarmist here.  The Canadian study found that many teenagers could play videogames games without any evidence of a shift in their attitudes. Non-violent games appeared to have no adverse effects on "moral reasoning", no matter how much time was spent playing them.

But teenagers who spent more than three hours every day in front of a screen, continuously playing violent games to the exclusion of normal real-life interaction with other people... well, they were the ones who emerged as the most vulnerable to attitude problems.

Pi says:  there’s more to life than dismembering the Virtual Undead with a chainsaw, kids.  Go back to the cinema, and work on your superhero delusions...

Zone: Self-Gratification Country: USA / North America Product – Leisure