News Article

New Study Suggests That Violent Games Are "Therapeutic" For Troubled Kids

Posted by Damien McFerran

Play as much Mortal Kombat as you like, young one

Video games have long been blamed for many of the ills of modern society, and violent titles such as Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat are regularly used as scapegoats to explain tragic incidents, slipping moral standards or general delinquent activities.

However, new research at Stetson University in Florida has suggested that there is no evidence that playing violent video games causes anti-social behaviour in children — in fact, in some of the subjects tested, playing such games actually proved to be a beneficial experience, allowing them to tone down their aggressive behaviour.

The research was conducted by clinical psychologist Dr Ferguson and focused on 377 children with an average age of 13, all of which suffered some form of "elevated attention deficit" or had issues with depression. None of the children experienced an increase in their "bullying or delinquent behaviour" — in fact, some were even able to reduce such activities.

Violent games have come into the spotlight lately, largely down to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook. Shooter Adam Lanza was reported to be a massive Call of Duty fan, leading many critics to link his wargaming sessions with the murder of 28 women and children.

However, Dr Ferguson admitted that the results of the study could not be used to explain such extreme cases, adding:

Statistically speaking it would actually be more unusual if a youth delinquent or shooter did not play violent video games, given that the majority of youth and young men play such games at least occasionally.

Do you find that playing games which feature a large amount of violence actually helps you to relax, or do you think such titles make you more aggressive or put you on edge? Let us know your thoughts by posting a comment below.


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User Comments (46)



Shiryu said:

Hey, works for me. Bullied at school? Bad day at work? Go home and beat up/blow up some pixels.



Captain_Gonru said:

I'm glad there are finally some studies coming out on this. If violent games really caused violence, there would be WAY more instances of violent behavior. Its common sense, really. The only way that argument would hold up would be if there had never been an act of violence before the advent of gaming. And I'm pretty sure that there have been one or two times in history where man has committed a violent act against another.



ShadJV said:

Hm. Interesting. I've never heard this stance but it does make some sense (more than the argument that violent games make kids more likely to be violent).



Senario said:

Hmm odd that when I was a kid it was video games in general (though with a heavy emphasis on Nintendo's games) that were a way to deal with the fact that I didn't have as many friends back then and so on.

I would argue that the opposite is true as well, as having a bunch of fun will also allow you to just relax and get away from anything that is troubling you.



chiefeagle02 said:

I used to work at McDonalds and sometimes GTA: Vice City for the PS2 was a great reprieve from the day.



Drobotic said:

I heard about a study that showed that video games make kids more creative.



Zombie_Barioth said:

It was the same for me too. Not very many kids in my neighborhood, let alone any my age growing up. Not that I minded too much, after all thats what school is for, right?

One of my favorite things to do when I was tired or upset was go play some video games, best way to take your mind off stuff I think. Being interactive I think they grab your attention better than other forms of media, you have to focus more meaning your mind is on what your doing rather than anything else.

Thats my take on it anyway.



Gioku said:

It's an out, definitely. You could definitely relieve stress from blowing up a bunch of stuff virtually. And, I always say this: these games give you a way to do these sort of things that you normally can't do/are illegal, without actually doing them. And it's fun! I wouldn't ever do these sort of things in real life, but I can do whatever I want in a virtual world.



SomeBitTripFan said:

Video games can do one or the other, it just depends on the person. I wouldn't say to give any troubled kid a violent video game, but I would say to give a less violent video game to a troubled kid always. It very well could be escapism that is the more therapeutic element.



LztheQuack said:

I would like to say there are certainly gonna need to be more studies before we can draw conclusions. Like SomeBitTripFan said, it depends on the person. Our psychology and physiology are not the same.



sr388survivor said:

I know people who, when they watch or play violent things, they want to try being violent in real life. Sure gaming is a release and I don't have the stance that violence in games makes people violent but it can be a problem if you have unresolved issues and you feel yourself wanting to be violent in the real world.



WingedSnagret said:

I'm sorry, but releasing stress by shooting people (and the many other ways to kill in video games) in simulation isn't the best manner of cooling an angered soul. Not to say that everyone will get violent after playing something like GTA, but nonetheless if mixed with a sensitive and unstable mind, the outcome can be devastating.



Usagi-san said:

I think doing something you enjoy would help a person relax. Chances are the kids who participated already played and enjoyed video games.



ramstrong said:

This is just one person's opinion, but I think Dr. Spock is way more harmful than all the video games combined.



Cyberbotv2 said:

I don't know. I think there are some people that get so caught up in video game reality that they go nuts. But I think they are in the minority.



Nareva said:

Dr. Ferguson? You mean THE Dr. Ferguson?

But really, you should include his full name.



ToniK said:

If a person plans to do something violent, he surely is interested in violent games. If he's a gamer at all, that is. Seems like a given to me.

Personally I've found violence in games and movies quite soothing and purifying. A concept called catharsis. I'm the most relaxed guy around, have never touched a gun or hit someone and I have no plans to change that

This whole subject is quite troubled, but I'm glad they keep studying this.



MasterWario said:

The thing is, I don't think playing violent video games actually makes you more violent, but I don't like the images it puts in your head. I tend to think too much about things, so playing violent video games is quite bad for me because I think about it too much and the shooting of people/blood bothers my mind. For those who can brush off this kind of stuff, the game is just fun/relaxing.

This is why I'd play games like Guns of Icarus but pretty much never Call of Duty. I can't ever justify myself killing other people with guns for fun (even if they are pixels), but shooting at balloons doesn't mean a thing. When it comes right down to it, I believe it mostly has to do with thinking too much about it. And that's the other thing. You can choose to be ignorant about the games you play (the purpose is fun of course, not some important life decision), but ignorance to a degree does a have a hefty price.

Another thing related to something I learned today: The uncanny valley. Games like Call of Duty are so close to real life that I cringe at them. When I can hear the people's breath fall, when I can hear their death cry sound similar to sounds people actually make in real life, when they fall just like when an actual person has fallen in real life, it...well...makes me not even want to watch the game, that's for sure!



IKAY said:

It depends totally on the person. Some people shouldn't ever play such games. But some kids are so mentally grown up, so they won't take any damage from such games. Maybe I'll let my kid play violent games but only when I'm arround and if I think he/she is ready for this.

BTW: Did you know every rampage killer has eaten some bread? I guess bread causes such horrible things.



banacheck said:

No one can factor video games towards violent only, when there is meny other factors to considers like domestic absuse. I also don't believe domestic absuse means you'll turn out violent, you could go one way or the other. I think its life that'll mold that person, and what happens in it otherwise you can start blaming TV, films too.

if a person lacks empathy does that mean he'll turn out a serial killer?



Zombie_Barioth said:

The thing is, when it comes down to it, we homosapians are a violent species. A lot of our innovations have been fueled by the desire to find better methods to cheat, steal, inflict harm, and kill. I think a lot of it is just due to us being self-aware, sentient beings, our motives aren't limited to just basic survival instincts. With that our mental health plays a much bigger role in our behavor.

I think atmosphere plays a big role in that. Me and a friend played the original Medal of Honor a while back, and despite being dated the mayhem of the first level was still quite...stunning. Granted its just a game so we laughed it off, but most people simply don't react that way to real life events. Just seeing a car crash can freak people out big time.



R_Champ said:


Same, calling BS. Not that violent video games turn kids into killers, but it definitely desensitizes them in a bad way. I've always been a big supporter of ratings and think that the industry in general should be doing more to educate people/parents on what these ratings mean and how violent/graphic games affect young minds. Oh course, then half of the CoD fanbase would disappear not likely to happen.



Retrowire said:

I call BS. Violent video games don't make one violent, but they encourage/condition an already violent and corrupt mind. I believe in the ratings system, though I don't think it's clear or detailed enough. And I kind of wish some people had to be psychologically assessed before playing the more realistic first person simulations. This shooting of a college student by 3 punk teenagers that did it "because they were bored" is a recurring theme lately. I know tons of people will say, "Well, we didn't have violent video games in the past and yet crime existed then, what did THEY blame it on huh?"

Well, ask yourself this... How many adolescents/teens in history did we have killing people out of boredom or curiosity and is the rate of these younger killers higher today or not? That's my opinion.



Tindre said:

well I think the study is correct for most kids, but the kids with specific psychological issues can get triggered from playing such games I am sure.



Einherjar said:

Videogames, like every other hobby, can create either stress or can relief stress depending on your mood and how / what you are playing.
Ahooters CAN make people into gun fanatics, like the Dynasty Warriors series ignited my interest in chinese history. IBut it doesnt automaticly make you into a mindless killing mashine.
If you take games more serious, you can draw a benefit out of almost all of them. They can help you broaden your view and getting you interested in certain subject matters, they train skills like hand-eye coordination, reflexes and strategic thinking under stress, but they cant make you into a better or worse person.
Gaming as a hobby is a crucial part of that person, like knitting, reading, coocking, handcrafts etc would be. And if that person tends to have violent tendencies, videogames are just one factor from dozens.



Goginho said:

I see it going both ways Violent games can relieve stress, let the anger out and what not ..and they can also make someone (more) agressive, as well as teach them quite a bit about guns and violence and such. But what I would suggest, if a kid has some anger issues and is constantly aggressive, is get him into sports. There are other ways, more healthy ways of dealing with stress than videogames imo. A punching bag is a good example ..go nuts for a half hour and you'll see how much better you feel. Not to mention, you can get some serious stamina. I know myself when I'm stressed and feeling down about something (or just simply plain angry about something), I train like a mad man and make a fool out of myself, and afterwards, after calming down, I feel good about myself.



TomJ said:

These "studies" , most of these comments, and this article are 100% BALONEY. Kids are "troubled" simply because they just aren't disciplined, it's common sense. Can anyone honestly look at an M rated game and say it "helps" kids, let alone anyone? No, no, no, it looks like all people are doing these days are encouraging others to buy M rated games and enjoy the filth and junk they have in them. I have never played M rated games, and I never ill, so I'm not being a hypocrite. It doesn't matter what the "research says", M rated games and other highly violent games, people probably like buying them so they can feel good about what they're playing.



Subie98 said:

@Undead_terror id take you up on that if I hadn't sold my ps3 recently to start saving for a ps4. Ive been playing on wii u. Even though I wont get the ps4 til after they've been around 10 months, never to early to start saving and for the back log of games ill have to get!



SkywardLink98 said:

If Torchlight 2 counts as violent then I have to agree. Nothing relieves stress like watching thousands of virtual creatures be slaughtered by my ever more powerful character.



Kirk said:

Playing violent games obviously makes me agitated and hyper when I'm playing them because I'm getting into it, and I hate losing, but they are also a great and safe way to release any pent up aggression I might have in my real life too.

Same reason I come on sites like this and express all my frustrations at whatever little issue is bugging me about whatever particular game.

Getting all the things that bug me out of my system is somewhat therapeutic since I apparently can't do or say much about my real life frustrations that actually makes any meaningful difference.

Least I can do is kick someone's donkey at some online fps game or express in a forum what I don't like about a particular game or whatever.

So, games (be they violent or not) and everything connected to them are actually very therapeutic for me personally.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

I guess I'm not among those who can let off some steam by playing a game. If I'm frustrated or angry, I can't focus on it at all.
That said, I'm afraid this study won't change anything. Mass media will keep on pointing their finger at violent games and blame them for all the crimes. And when an 'expert' shows up, he only proves that he has no freaking aidea about the contents of a game, but families still listen to him instead of actual studies - or other gamers, for that matter.
It's all about finding a scapegoat for family and society problems, and games cannot defend themselves, so the choice is easy.



Platypus101 said:

@Captain_Gonru yeah! Preach on! I agree... Why? Simple. Video games have really only been in vogue since the 80's (not counting first gen), and a majority of those games have some form of "violence" as defined by the ESRB. Many of which my friends and I played religiously! Not one of us has ever had the thought of causing harm BECAUSE of it... Also, saying violence is related to video games, is akin to saying pregnancy is related to drinking water (why not? every mother I know drank water at some point in their life)



Platypus101 said:

@IKAY mentally grown up is not entirely accurate... Desensitized should be the term... My nephew and his buddies are always at my pad, playing games watching movies. While watching the intro to Saving Private Ryan, one exclaimed "So this is how they come up with cool games like Call of Duty!" While the other stated "not so bad, could be worse". This is not an adult statement (seeing as combat hardened veterans - that have seen prolonged fighting - left the theatre in near shell shock), its simply a statement made by a person that sees so much violence, they simply are desensitized. Hang out with your teenage kid for a whole summer (not all of us were have been unemployed for the summer, so not saying you should...), you'll be shocked what you'll find out



fairybats said:

That study makes sense to me... when I've had a really bad day, I just go on a killing spree in Skyrim!

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