As legislators around the world try to rein in video game violence, a new spate of research is finding a flip side to all the virtual carnage.
In the United States, warlike videogames are being used, with initially positive results, to treat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Advocates say that video games help veterans, many of whom are already experienced gamers, overcome their doubts about psychotherapy and confront shocking events, reports American Medical News.
One such game, “Virtual Iraq,” which takes its lead from the consumer video game “Full Spectrum Warrior,” can be tailored to meet a particular patient’s experience, by recreating the specifics of a traumatic event — even down to sounds and smell.
But don’t violent video games spur violence?
Not necessarily: Writing in the September 2009 edition of The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers found that found “exposure to violent television or videogames were not predictive of youth violence and aggression.”
Instead, the research found that depression and peer pressure are more likely to incite violent behavior in youth.
Earlier this year, another study found that the real thrill of a violent video game is not necessarily the bloodletting, but rather the feelings of control and competence it might engender among players, Science News reported.
Yet the question of video game violence is still in the sights of governments around the world.
The U.S. Supreme Court will decide soon whether to review a California law that prevents minors from buying violent videogames, reports CNBC.
The law was first proposed in 2005, but was blocked by a federal court ruling due to First Amendment concerns.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, meanwhile, legislation that would require violent videogames to carry a warning label has been stalled since January.
Beyond U.S. borders, Venezuelan legislators are considering a bill that would ban the sale of violent videogames as national alarm grows over the country’s spiraling murder rate, Reuters reported.
A Christian Science Monitor article on crime in Venezuela late last year pinpointed Caracas as the murder capital of South America, with 130 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants.
Australian authorities recently refused to let one videogame be sold because it was too violent for the country’s rating systems.
Now the debate is on whether Australia should up the ante and create a new rating category for more violent videogames.
Controversial or not in terms of the violence they may depict, the popularity of videogames often trumps that of Hollywood blockbusters.
On its September day of release, the latest incarnation of Halo sold two million copies worldwide, The Guardian reported.
“Video games used to treat post-traumatic stress”
American Medical Association News, September 28, 2009
“Debate on Violent Video Games May Finally Get Settled”
CNBC, September 29, 2009
“Venezuela plans law to ban violent video games”
Reuters, August 26, 2009
“Video games now outperform Hollywood movies”
Guardian, September 27, 2009
“What sort of person plays violent videogames”
News.Com Australia, September 18, 2009
“Authorities split over videogame ratings”
News.Com Australia, September 28, 2009
“A Multivariate Analysis of Youth Violence and Aggression: The Influence of Family, Peers, Depression, and Media Violence”
Journal of Pediatrics, August 2009
“Will Venezuela’s murder rate hurt Chavez?”
Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2008
“Gamers crave control and competence, not carnage”
Science News, February 14, 2009