A six-month study released by Iowa State University found that video game violence influences players to be more aggressive with proven teaching techniques.
The study, in which nearly 2,500 youth were interviewed, revealed that elementary students whose three favorite video games contained violence were 73% more likely to be highly aggressive than those whose favorites were both violent and nonviolent—and 263% more likely to exhibit hostile behavior than those who only played nonviolent video games.
Douglas Gentile and his father J. Ronald Gentile, a leading researcher on effective teaching and a psychology professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo, realized that violent video games used many of the same teaching methods of great teachers.
“Video games use many of these techniques and are highly effective teachers. So we shouldn’t be surprised that violent video games can teach aggression,” said Douglas Gentile, who is an assistant professor at Iowa State University and a top researcher on the effects of media on children.
The teaching methods used include adapting to the learning pace of the player, presenting a list of objectives and skills and immediately putting those skills into practice. Through repetition and rewards, the skills are soon mastered until they are ingrained and become automatic. The skills are continually honed throughout the progressively more difficult game.
Learning to be more hostile happens in tandem with achieving the game’s objectives, often subconsciously. The study found that the aggressive thoughts and behaviors soon transition into real life.
The findings prompted researchers to mention that these findings “should make us more thoughtful about designing games and choosing games for children and adolescents to play.”
Instead of condemning video games, researchers felt that because the smarter elements of video game technology proved to be such excellent teachers, these should be put to educational use. They concluded that by using technology that “thinks” along with the students, adapting instruction to each player’s current skills, strategies or mistakes, a more effective education can be achieved.