German Study Shows Video Games Don’t Desensitize

You’re not worried about your “Pac-Man” arcade machine desensitizing you to violence, but what about the intense, M-rated games you buy for your console?

According to a recent study by German researchers, playing violent video games has no effect on the brain’s emotional response. After testing the empathy levels of 15 avid gamers, the study concluded that neural patterns were the same between gamers and non-gamers when both were exposed to the same images. This finding contradicts previous conclusions drawn by some researchers, so it’s a topic that will likely be heavily researched and debated for years to come.

The Study of 15 Devoted Gamers

The study focused on 15 men who had played at least two hours of either “Call of Duty” or “Counterstrike” every single day for the previous four years. These 15 gamers were compared to non-gamers who had no experience playing violent games.

The 15 gamers stopped playing violent games three hours before testing began. After that, they had to complete a psychological questionnaire and undergo MRI testing while being shown images that were designed to produce an emotional, empathetic response.

The Study’s Findings

Both gamers and non-gamers were shown the same pictures, and each group had similar neural responses, as evidenced by the MRI results. The result surprised the researchers, who expected a link between frequent violent gaming and a stunted emotional response.

The difference between this study and others is the timing of the testing. Most studies test gamers immediately after they finish playing a game. This study tested gamers hours later, which shows that the short vs. long-term effects could vary.

Contrary to Past Research

A prior theory known as the “General Aggression Model” is based on assumptions that lengthy periods of violent gaming exposure cause an increase in aggressive behavior, but this recent study reveals that this theory may be based on inaccurate, short-term focused research versus a study focused on the long-term effects.

The German researchers hope that their findings spark future research into the long-term effects of violent gaming to further explore the topic of how these types of games may affect the human brain.