Do video games make adults violent? The jury's out, says psychologist

Current framework a flop: former OFLC director

The jury is still out on whether adults are just as influenced by video game violence as juveniles, according to a Macquarie University psychologist.

Dr Wayne Warburton, who earlier this week told the House of Representatives that violent media can imbed aggression into the subconscious, said the “evidence is mixed” as to how violence in media can influence adults, or more specifically, whether juveniles would adopt aggression-related scripts more readily than adults through prolonged exposure to violent video games.

Speaking on behalf of the Australian Council for Children and Media (ACCM), Warburton told parliament that regular exposure to violent media such as television, film and video games can cause people to overreact to normal situations.

“Given the research evidence it is reasonable to assume that with a high exposure to violent media people will tend to incorporate a growing number of aggression-related concepts and scripts for behaviour in their brain’s neural network,” he said.

“The number of triggers for these concepts and scripts will increase and become more generalised, so that in some cases something as simple as a minor insult could trigger a media learned aggressive response.”

The average age of video game players is 30, according to the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia.

Warburton comments follow a Federal Government call for public submissions to a discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification, which was completed last week.

The ACCM opposes the introduction of the higher classification, which would prevent games which exceed the M15+ rating from being banned by the Office of Film Literature and Classification (OFLC).

Former OFLC deputy director, Paul J Hunt, said in his submission to the discussion paper that “community standards” are not represented by the current regime.

“I was forced to refuse classification… not because I thought that the game depicted, expressed or otherwise dealt with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such a way that it would offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults, it was simply because the game was not OK for kids,” Hunt said. “There were a few games, just like films and publications, that were too offensive, and I was comfortable to ban those games – just as I was comfortable banning films and publications. Not being able to restrict computer games to adults was an impediment to my ability to reflect Australian community standards.”

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