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Published on March 5th, 2013 | by The Doc

Video games and violence: The debate continues

Avid gamers have been dismayed, but not surprised, to see that violent video games are back in the spotlight after the tragic school shooting in Newtown last year. The following list includes a few examples:

  • Gather reported that Adam Lanza was possibly imitating violent video games like Call of Duty during the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings last year
  • There was the foiled shooting at Timber Creek High in January this year where the Orlando Sentinel reported that the conspirators probably fantasized about killing while playing violent video games, including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
  • The National Rifle Association (NRA) argued that among other things, video games kill people
  • Obama and Congress will spend $10 million dollars on research at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the relationship between video games, media images and violence
  • A Harris Poll revealed that 58% of 2,278 adults surveyed believe that violent games contributed to violent behaviour in teenagers and young adults
  • COD COM reported on a study where Call of Duty was under fire for inciting aggressive behavior in university students.

Importantly however, a report by NPR brought some balance to the debate. In the report, one of the leading US researchers on video games, violence and youth, Iowa State University professor Douglas Gentile, argues that although exposure to violent video games can lead to more aggressive behavior, it is not the only factor involved. This is particularly relevant in the case of school shootings where such individuals are driven by a range of factors including psychiatric illness.

In a more positive note, Gentile went on to describe biologically, why the gaming experience is generally so much fun:

“These gamers do have an adrenaline rush, and it’s noradrenaline and it’s testosterone, and it’s cortisol — these are the so-called stress hormones. That’s exactly the same cocktail of hormones you drop into your bloodstream if I punched you. But when you know you’re safe, having that really heightened sense of stress can be fun.”

The gaming experience provides a rush that is irresistible to millions of us. Gentile goes on to explain that gaming offers other benefits as well, providing an immersive experience where we are in control, often working in a team and becoming more competent as we play.

So, as long as you aren’t losing your temper, shooting team mates and losing matches, you should be having fun! More information on Dr Gentile’s research can be found at

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