Interview: Gaming And The "Demise Of Guys"
PSXE: Do you believe gaming's tendency towards violence has an effect on all ages, or only younger children?
Duncan: "Children with more propensities to be aggressive are more attracted to violent video media, but violent media, in turn, can also make them more aggressive. This could be related to the fact that most video games reward players for violent acts, often permitting them to move to the next level in a game.
Yet recent research suggests a link between violent video games and real-life aggression — given the opportunity, both adults and children were more aggressive after playing violent games. And people who identify themselves with violent perpetrators in video games are able to take aggressive action while playing that role, reinforcing aggressive behavior."
PSXE: "Constant stimulation" is a major premise of your work, it seems. And although this is anecdotal, I must say that those I grew up with are actually some of the most patient, grounded people I know, and I would argue that the elements of CERTAIN games (those that task our problem-solving abilities, engage us in an emotional story, etc.) are actually helpful. Why aren't more studies being conducted on this positive aspect?
Duncan: "That's a valid point and there should be more studies conducted on the positive benefits of gaming. The people you're talking about probably didn't play games to excess over long periods of time. Again, there are both positive aspects and potential negative consequences.
There is now evidence for reciprocal causality (A causes B and B causes A) for attention problems and impulsiveness, and video game playing though. Researchers at Iowa State University and Singapore examined over 3,000 children and adolescents over 3 years and found that even when controlled for sex, age, race, SES, and earlier attention problems, kids who spend more time playing video games have a higher rate of attention problems. They also found that kids who are more impulsive or start out with more attention problems will then spend more time playing video games, thus leading to a higher likelihood of additional attention problems or impulsivity."
PSXE: The numbers say more women are playing games these days. Now, because many games are essentially "male-oriented," do you think this may be contributing to what some are calling "role confusion" in society today?
Duncan: "I'm 25 and the first game I played was Sonic the Hedgehog on the old Sega system in the early 90s. Since then I've played several games; my brother and I used to play Doom II and James Bond The World Is Not Enough with each other when we were kids and more recently my ex and I played Portal 2 together. It definitely didn't cause role confusion with me, or anyone else I've spoken with. Role confusion isn't really related to gaming. We can see how games are a wonderful escape from a world where there is a lot of gender confusion though.
In games guys get to be whoever they want to be, they can live their fantasies of being violent or romantic, or being the hero. Women too, can live out their fantasies. Why do you think FarmVille was so popular? Women love social games because they get to be cultivators and strengthen bonds with friends and family."
PSXE: Is it more accurate to say video games have addictive qualities, or those with addictive personalities - who are prone to becoming addicted to just about anything - are the ones getting in the news, and this is giving the well-adjusted gamers a bad name?
Duncan: "Games have addictive qualities. Most games are perfectly in tune with a user's pleasure center because they have scheduled rewards like higher levels, weapons, or tools, reinforcing the user's desire to perform and keep them coming back for more. That's not to say gamers can't be well adjusted, most are."
Awfully informative, I must say. We still have lingering questions and we continue to wonder why we're not seeing more work done on the positive side of gaming, but at least we can get some answers from educated and open-minded individuals. In our experience, most researchers qualify.
If you have an interest in the subject, you should look into the book in question, which is available now. Thanks again to Nikita Duncan for giving us some food for thought.
6/11/2012 Ben Dutka