Video Games have moved from the 70s and 80s arcades to becoming an essential household item across 70% of Britain. With the average player spending 20 hours per week planted in front of their games console, it’s hard to ignore the mental implications such apparently violent games have in the grand scheme of things.
Ongoing technological advancements make it possible for anyone with a television, desktop, notebook, computer or mobile phone to play video games. These developments have given rise to increasing problems within the youth population. Namely: Depression, anxiety and violent behaviour. Although these problems are often imbedded in those that are addicted to gaming at a young age, it has been found that these problems can be prevalent and in fact more damaging heading into adult life.
Grand Theft Auto, controversial for its adult nature and violent themes has been a major success, breaking several records since 2001. Critics cite the remorseless emphasis on crime and violence, whilst fans praise the staggeringly comprehensive game world. Yet, the mental effects of such a series cannot be ignored. GTA has not only seen links with rises in violence and sexual violence with their players but has also lead to the creation of a BBC documentary ‘The Gamechangers’, whereby a young lad commits murder, believing he is in ‘the GTA world’ and that it is ‘ok because it happens in the game’. Although fictional, this emphasizes the psychological issues many gamers face today- the inability to divide the gaming world from reality. Hence leading to people thinking that violence is ok and in fact sexual exploits witnessed in the game are ‘the norm’. This film further explores a court case between Sam Houser and Jack Thompson whereby a legal tussle creates bad publicity for GTA and emphasizes some of the mental health issues surrounding the game. Perhaps this 90 minute film gives us an insight to just how disturbing video games can become, all for the purpose of sales and publicity.
But this is not enough to prove that there are direct links between gaming and aggressive behaviour. The American Psychological Association reviewed hundreds of studies and papers published between 2005 and 2013 and concluded that while there was ‘no single risk factor to blame for aggression’ ‘violent video games did contribute a big part’. The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect. Furthermore, recent research at the Iowa State University has found decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.
The American Psychological Association reviewed hundreds of studies and papers published between 2005 and 2013 and concluded that while there was ‘no single risk factor to blame for aggression’ ‘violent video games did contribute a big part’.
Therefore, despite theories recently proven that video games can improve ADHD symptoms even dyslexia, research shows that they can still inflict mental and psychological danger. With video game sales becoming extenuatingly rapid and younger kids being allowed to play them, whether it be from their older siblings or because they have lenient parents, there is no doubt that the violence, sex, full frontal nudity, drug dealing and torture within them is likely to be destructive. Bottom line: if you are willing to spend the majority of time closed off, planted in front of a screen killing, creating new cities, playing virtual sports, improving your fighting skills, all in your ‘imaginary world’, you’re more than likely facing social phobias which then lead to bigger issues like that of depression and anxiety. And if you opt for the more violent games, then yes, violence will become typical and thus instinctive within your psyche. Therefore, the question then lies not in whether there are links between games and mental health but the time we should spend playing them to avoid these issues.