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Chapter 3The impact of violent video games: An overviewCraig A Anderson and Wayne A WarburtonParents often ask about the effects of violent video games on their children and teenagers. In most cases, they note that their “common sense” instinct is that too much exposure to violent video games must have some sort of negative effect on their children, but that they have read in the media that “the jury is still out” on violent media effects or that there is no convincing evidence that violent video game playing is harmful. Confusion around this conflict will often prompt them then to ask: “what does the scientific evidence really say?” In this chapter we show that the common sense view is backed up by a substantial body of recent scientific findings. Helpful and pro-social video game content has great potential for enhancing the lives of children and adolescents, but exposure to anti-social and violent video game content increases the likelihood of a range of negative outcomes, with greater exposure increasing the risk. Video games have been around for nearly 50 years. Kirsch (2010) notes the first as being Spacewar (released in 1962), a game in which two spaceships battle to the death in space. Although the graphics were very simple compared to modern games, the theme of battling to the death is one that has endured through the ensuing five decades. According to the most recent comprehensive poll by the Kaiser Foundation, American children aged 8–18 play an average of eight hours of video games per week, an increase of over 400 per cent from 1999 (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, 2010). Playing is heaviest in the 11–14 age group, with boys outplaying girls more than 2.5 hours to 1. A recent study suggests that around 99 per cent of American boys play video games, along with 94 per cent of girls (Lenhart et al, 2008). It is common for US children and adolescents to play more than 20 hours per week 56Chapter in W. Warburton & D. Braunstein (Eds.) Growing Up Fast and Furious: Reviewing the Impacts of Violent and Sexualised Media on Children,(pp. 56-84). Annandale, NSW, Australia: The Federation Press.
and it is not uncommon for males to play 40 hours or more per week (Bailey, West & Anderson, 2010). On average, Australian 7–18-year-olds played somewhat less than their US counterparts in 2007 (4.7 hours per week: see ACMA, 2007), but this figure could have risen substantially in recent years if Australian children have followed the steep upward trend found in the latest US studies.The types of games vary, but content analyses by Dill and colleagues (2005) show that the majority of top selling video games and children’s favourite games contain violence, and often strong violence. More recently, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2grossed ~$USD 550 million in the first five days of its 2009 release, at that time more than any other entertainment product in history (movies included). Next on the list in 2009 was Grant Theft Auto IV(GTA), with ~$USD 500 million in five days. Even more recently (a year is a long time in the video game world) Call of Duty: Black Ops