Call of Duty, GTA V do not make youth more violent

Oldie gamers... the jury's out

GTA IV

Millions of people are currently preparing to settle down and play the latest versions of Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. But when it's game over, will they then put down the controller, pick up a weapon and go cause some mischief?

Absolutely not, if you believe the findings of a new report exploring the relationship between violence in the media and argy-bargy in the real world.

In an evasively titled paper called "Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When," Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University claimed that a rise in the consumption of violent video game consumption correlated with a decline in youth violence.

He carried out two experiments to decide whether increasing levels of violence in games and movies made people more likely to hurt each other in real life.

The answer is no, he said, before insisting that it's high time society started considering more useful questions than whether games are turning us all into psychopaths.

"Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime," he said. "There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health," Ferguson said.

"This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value."

In his gaming study, Ferguson worked out how many games had been given adult ratings between 1996 and 2011, before comparing them against federal data on youth violence rates, finding a strong negative correlation.

However, the report pointed out that violent games probably did not cause this dip in violence.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was released in the UK earlier this week. Grand Theft Auto V will be released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One next week.

From PETA's claims that Super Mario sends "the message that it's OK to wear fur" to a Scottish MP's call to ban the "addictive" Space Invaders, computer games have always attracted criticism.

Yet one previous study claimed that scaremongering reports actually made gamers more likely to be violent, rather than all the lonely hours of virtual slaughter.

Confused? Us too. It's enough to make you want to hit someone. ®

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