A recent study by a group of German researchers did a longitudinal study on video games and their potential effects on desensitizing gamers to violence. It turns out that the study couldn’t quite find a link between violent video games and desensitization to violence.
The study was published over on Karger, and it involved The Sims 3 and Grand Theft Auto V. The test groups played the games over the course of eight weeks.
What they found was that the people who played GTA V didn’t seem to be anymore desensitized to violence than the people who played The Sims 3 after they exposed them to images designed to inflict empathy for pain.
The study basically attempts to contradict some previous studies that claimed that video games do increase aggression and desensitization to violence…
“Based on the latter database of studies a task force of the American Psychological Association recently summarized the findings on violent video games as indicating that they pose a risk factor for adverse outcomes, including increased desensitization, and decreased empathy. The present findings of this study clearly contradict this conclusion. Our longitudinal interventional study design allows us to draw causal conclusions and does not show any evidence for a desensitization effect in brain signal during empathy for pain.”
Like most other studies, they used Grand Theft Auto V as a way to gauge if people playing it for some time each day and then came off of playing it would they show a lower threshold of sensitivity in empathy compared to people who played The Sims 3. However, it’s already a faulty test because what if the people playing GTA V just drove around or did mundane tasks or partook in some mini-games?
And what if the opposite happened in The Sims 3? What if the participants spent their time killing babies and drowning their spouses?
It seems like that wouldn’t be a very good way to determine if violent games make you desensitized to violence. A more precise way of measuring the response would have been using a game like Doom from 2016 or Battlefield 1.
Anyway, some gamers are probably glad that this report somewhat inconclusively contradicts some other reports about games making people desensitized toward violence. However, there really needs to be a better method and better games used instead of the traditional fallback to GTA V.