The controversy surrounding violent video games and their effects on players’ minds is not likely to end too soon. A new study indicates that exposure to violent video games is likely to desensitize teenage players and numb them to brutality. A clear cause and effect link has not been determined, however.

The research was led by Stockholm scientist Malena Ivarsson and focused on 30 teenage boys of 13 to 15 years, who were split in two groups. While one group had to play violent video games for at least three hours every day, the second group played them for an hour or less. The boys were then asked to play a violent game and a non-violent one for two hours, several evenings.

Do Violent Games Desensitize Players?

The study monitored the subjects’ reaction later in the night after playing. The violent game apparently triggered a sense of exhaustion that affected sleep quality in those who played it. The group that was exposed to the violent game for less than an hour experienced an increased feeling of sadness. After playing the violent game, both groups were found to have higher stress and anxiety levels.

The research however does not clearly prove any cause-and-effect relationship between violent game exposure and teenagers’ desensitization to brutality. The study indicates that teenagers with particular traits may be more attracted to violent video games than others.

Aggression linked to competition

A new study, meanwhile, suggests that the aggressive behavior in teenagers and young adults is not necessarily triggered by violent games, but by competition. In other words, any competitive games can have that effect.

The study conducted by psychology PhD candidate Paul Adachi was based on interviews with 1,771 high school students taken over a four-year time span. The researcher found a clear correlation between competitive games, including non-violent ones, and aggressive or hostile behavior, both verbal and physical. Non-competitive games on the other hand were less likely to be associated with aggressive behavior.

Interestingly, the study found that players cooperating in a game, even in a highly competitive one, scored the less on the violent behavior scale.

Tax on violent games?

As the controversy continues, a new idea emerged: that of imposing a tax on violent video games and other media. The idea came from a reverend attending a White House gun legislation strategy. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said there was no legal reason not to do this. He added however that a detailed study should be conducted to determine the exact effects violent video games have on the brain.

[Image via PCGamer]