I am at the Leipzig Games Convention Online today and tomorrow. The last speaker, Thorsten Quandt gave an overview of recent research in gaming. Mainly I was interested in what he thought about effects research and violent games – a topic we need to address in Australia with the (hopefully) upcoming review of our lack of an R18+ rating for games.
Quandt noted that most of the research on violence is lab based research. Some of it is machine based automated measurement – monitoring brain activity or other physical responses. Some is survey or questionaire based. Quandt cited a study by Hartmann in 2008, which showed that most research revolves around mainly first person shooters. This type of research finds small effects on agressive behaviour. Some medium sized effects are found – but these tend to be limited to agressive behaviour against objects or aggressive thoughts and mindset – not much on actual agressive behaviour.
What has come out of the research is a clear small short term activation in the expected direction: computer games can have activation and make people more agressive. Quandt says that there are too many studies to ignore this finding. There is also some findings of effects on brain structures. There's no clear suggestion that the effects are any greater than with traditional media.
However, Quandt noted that there was a fairly large gap in the research. Most effects research is short term. there is very little longitudinal research. What data there is suggests that the effectgs are much weaker or not existent and taht the direction is not always as expected – suggesting that agression can be manifested within the games or shortly after, but not so much as a long term shift in behaviour. Field research is also practically non-existent – so we have no real idea of the social context of violence in games.
This is not really my area, but we will have to draft a submission to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General on this issue, arguing for the introduction of an R18+ rating in Australia. If you can help me digest the current state of effects research, I'd certainly appreciate it.