Ever since Death Race stormed arcade parlours in 1976, debate has raged over the appropriateness of violence in video games - particularly when it comes to minors. Even if you're not a gamer, if you have kids, it's an issue you'll probably think about at some point.
One persistent theory is that violent games make players more aggressive and emotionally unstable in real life. Now, a team of researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine claims to have 'proved' what some concerned parents have suspected all along - although they are far from the first group to do so.
If the university's findings are to be believed, playing violent games changes brain regions associated with cognitive function and emotional control. These are the same areas of the brain that help to control aggressive behavior.
This is your brain on CoD. Possibly.
“These findings indicate that violent video game play has a long-term effect on brain functioning," project leader Dr Yang Wang said. "...The effects may translate into behavioral changes over longer periods of gameplay.” (For more details on how the study was conducted, click here.)
In other words, the paper validates claims that violent video games have a prolonged negative neurological effect on players.
The result? Another war of words, continuing a debate that has been raging between anti-game groups and the gaming community since the 1970s. Everyone from Bill Cosby to Hillary Clinton has taken a swipe at video games over the years, and the debate shows no signs of slowing down.
Among the criticisms of the study are the vague nature of the 'emotional interference task', to the decision to use non-gamers as test subjects. Criticisms have also been levelled at the funding for the study, apparently by The Center For Successful Parenting.
And on it continues. Last week the front page of the Australian Daily Telegraph had the headline: "Video game kids going crazy". (The accompanying story was about video game addiction. Read the online version here).
Actual front page news headline.
Another relatively recent salvo surrounded Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. News that he was a casual fan of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare made headlines around the world (click here for a debunking).
Just what is it about video games that so agitates the press and various call-to-action groups? When sports riots occur, you rarely see hysterical headlines about how the sport in question is destroying society.
Now that the State Governments have approved the introduction of an adults-only rating for video games in Australia – it will be interesting to see whether this leads to mainstream acceptance or even more fear-mongering. After all, when it comes to violence in games, the gloves will soon be off.
Let us know your thoughts on the topic. Are the negative headlines just an attempt to sell papers/ad space? Or are violent video games really bad for us after all?
The Cruelest Cuts: games that were banned or modified by the Australian Classification Board