UTSA scholars to study desensitization caused by violent video games

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(Aug. 12, 2013) -- In November 2010, the online gaming company ActiVision released "Call of Duty: Black Ops," a violent, first-person shooter game compatible with a variety of gaming devices. The video game sold 5.6 million copies within 24 hours of its release, and it earned a record-breaking $650 million in its first five days. Six weeks later, the game had exceeded $1 billion in sales.

Today, a growing number of children, teens and adults purchase and play video games, supporting an industry that is valued at nearly $80 billion worldwide.

Scholars estimate that more than 85 percent of video games contain some form of violent imagery, and half include what they coin "serious violent actions." They also warn that violent video games such as "Call of Duty: Black Ops" have desensitizing effects on the body's physiology.

But are some people desensitized by video games more than others? How does a video game player's home environment factor in?

UTSA researchers Alberto Cordova and Gabriel Acevedo, as well as their research team, have received $14,000 in funding to study whether demographic, socioeconomic and ecological factors offer a buffer to the desensitizing effects of violent video games.

Using a trio of violent video games and a trio of non-violent video games, Cordova will identify causes that may be linked to physiological distress. Additionally, he will gauge physiological and psychological outcomes associated with exposure to violent video games. Lastly, he will measure whether demographics and socioeconomics are significant factors in a person's physiological response to violent video games.

"It is generally accepted within the scientific community that violent video games lead to desensitization, negatively impact psychological functioning and contribute to aggressive behavior. However, very few studies have taken environmental factors into account," said Cordova. "I am interested in determining whether someone's neighborhood environment could potentially offer a buffer to the physiological desensitization we see among people who play violent video games."

Cordova's six-month study will begin in the fall and conclude in February 2014. Initially it will include 50 college students ages 18-24. Once baseline data is collected, Cordova will widen the study with support from an external agency.

>> Learn more about the UTSA Department of Health and Kinesiology.