The release of Rockstar Games’ newest title “Grand Theft Auto V” has fired off a storm of debate on whether or not the actions within video games can be linked to violence in real life.
In August, an eight-year-old boy in Louisiana shot and killed his grandmother in their trailer park home after reportedly playing the series’ previous installment, “Grand Theft Auto IV.” After this incident, CNN and the New York Daily News wrote stories emphasizing the connection between the game and real life actions.
Darren Wheelock, an associate professor of social and cultural sciences, does not see why this connection was being made in the first place.
“It is generally accepted among criminologists and other social scientists that there is no causal link between video games and aggregate rates of gun violence,” Wheelock said. “Anyone claiming otherwise is probably uninformed or has an agenda.”
In a 2012 study by Texas A&M University, 333 participants were questioned about their video game consumption, including favorite games, time spent playing, and how violent they thought they were. The participants then took part in questionnaires measuring their aggression, among other factors. Willing participants then completed an identical survey a year later. The study found that there was little evidence to support the relationship between video game violence and clinically significant aggression and civic behavior.
Iowa State University and the Ohio State University performed similar studies in 2012, coming to a similar conclusion.
Kyle Whelton, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, agreed. Whelton said that violence is often attributed to the environment in which a child grows up.
“The parents who let their children play GTA V when they are eight, nine or 10 are more than likely parents who are not active in that child’s life and care less about the things to which their child is exposed,” Whelton said. “Someone our age clearly has the capability to handle the content in a bloody shooter or GTA.”
Whelton also said that the reason video games are so engaging is because the player controls the actions in the game.
Other studies, like the one conducted at the Ohio State University in 2012, said that video games, especially those played cooperatively, can help people to be better at working together in the real world. This study used such cooperative games as “Left 4 Dead” and “Halo” and the findings indicate playing games cooperatively as opposed to competitively decreased arousal and violent tendencies.
A study conducted at Brock University found that no matter the level of violence, competitive games made subjects more aggressive.
Chase Larson, a sophomore in the College of Education, said that video games and other media, although perhaps an aggravating factor, aren’t the only things that can cause violent tendencies.
“I think (video games) might be similar from a standpoint of people seeing (violence) as they do in movies,” Larson said. “They are things which are not realistic, but at the same time I also think that there are some people who have some reason to go out and replicate what they see (in the media). That reason may be to get attention or because they have some type of mental health issue, but a very small percentage of people who play video games do those things.”
“Grand Theft Auto V” sold 15 million units in its first five days of release and made over $1 billion, making it the most successful first week release of all time.