Entries in Video Games (10)


Do Video Games Make Kids Violent?

JupiterImages/Brand X Pictures(NEW YORK) -- Adam Lanza gunned down 27 people in Newtown, Conn. Dec. 14 and his access to high-powered firearms has put gun control front and center in the discourse around the tragedy, but the 20-year-old’s reported enthusiasm for violent video games has some experts and lawmakers wondering if those, too, need the kind of regulation so many want on gun ownership.

Senator Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., addressed this issue while discussing his proposed “national commission on mass violence” on Fox News Sunday Dec. 16.

“The violence in the entertainment culture, particularly with the extraordinary realism to video games and movies now, does cause vulnerable young men, particularly, to be more violent,” said the senator, who was joined by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

The issue of the effect of video game violence on young people came into the national spotlight in 2011 when a California law banning the sale of some games to minors was brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. The 2005 law was never enforced due to legal challenges. California asked the court to treat violent and sexually explicit video games as apart from First Amendment protections, much like obscenity.

The Supreme Court deemed California’s law unconstitutional in 2011. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia described the bill as “unprecedented and mistaken” and likened the violence in kids’ games to that in commonly read children’s fairy tales. Justice Scalia also wrote that a causal link between these games’ content and harm to young people had not been proven and went on to place the responsibility to filter what children are exposed to with the parents.

“Parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home,” Scalia wrote. “Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.”

Laura Davies, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in San Francisco is hesitant to support tighter controls on media of any kind. However, she believes too many children are exposed to too much violence through video games and that there can be consequences.

“A huge part of discipline and development is understanding consequences. Letting kids know that their actions have consequences,” Dr. Davies told ABC News. “Video games like Grand Theft Auto turn the consequences into positives. You kill a prostitute and get points, you’re rewarded.”

In contrast to Justice Scalia, Dr. Davies said there is a distinct difference between how a child is affected by reading about violence versus how he or she is affected by video game violence.

“They’re not affected by reading a violent book the same way they are from a video game that is visually violent and that they actually participate in and that rewards them for violent acts,” she said.

Though studies on the issue are abundant, none have been successful at directly correlating video game violence and real-world violence in children.

Chris Ferguson, department chair of psychology and communication at Texas A&M International University, has conducted several studies on violence and its effects on youth. Ferguson, who called himself a proponent of gun control, stressed the importance of mental health treatment access and of parents monitoring what their children are exposed to. However, Ferguson said he firmly believes violent video games do not lead to violence in the real world.

“If we are serious about reducing these types of violence in our society, video game violence or other media violence issues are clearly the wrong direction to focus on,” Ferguson told ABC News. “Video game use is just not a common factor among mass homicide perpetrators.  Some have been players, others have not been.”

Dr. Davies said she disagrees. Though she concedes that studies cannot prove conclusively that violent games lead to violent acts in young people, she made a distinction between those children who are naturally better able to distinguish between fantasy and reality and those, perhaps like Adam Lanza, who may not see those distinctions so easily.

“There are no numbers. It is impossible to prove causality with these sorts of things,” said Dr. Davies.  “But certain personalities are unable to so easily differentiate between fantasy and the real world. They might not fully understand that the people they harm have real lives and real families. As kids grow, most distinguish fantasy from reality.”

Though she differs in her beliefs on the cause of violent acts such as those carried out by young people like Lanza, Dr. Davies, like Justice Scalia and Chris Ferguson, agrees that parents and the schools have a responsibility to help catch problem behavior before it escalates to violence.

“There needs to be more mental health oversight. They say this kid had issues before and if you see a kid is living too much in the fantasy side, that needs to be addressed,” she said. “I’m not sure there is a clear cut solution. But, and especially if you see a kid is living too much in the fantasy world, parents need to limit screen time and limit violent games.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Farmville, Angry Birds and More Are Using Psychologists to Engage You

Facebook/Zynga(NEW YORK) -- If you've ever played Angry Birds, or Words with Friends, or Farmville, you might have some sympathy for DiAnn Edwards of Red Lion, Pa.

She plays Farmville on her laptop up to eight hours a day. The 51-year-old spends up to $200 a month on her Farmville habit.

She can't help it. She's hooked.

"It just gets addicting," she said. "I'm 51 and what am I doing sitting here playing a Farmville game? I don't get it, but it actually drives me crazy."

Dr. Timothy Fong, who runs a UCLA clinic for behavioral addiction, says he sees patients just like her every day.

"The stereotype of the 'video game addict' is a teenage kid in his underwear. That's not what's happening out there," Fong said. "The average age of our patients is about 40. We've seen housewives, doctors, lawyers."

Fong is convinced that video games can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol. "It's the same exact clinical symptoms: preoccupation, loss of control, inability to stop.

"They keep playing the game despite harmful consequences so, in my mind, absolutely I believe it is the same disease as alcohol or drug addiction."

But the American Psychological Association has so far declined to recognize video game addiction as a diagnosis.

The APA did, however, recently list "video game psychologist" as a "hot career" because the gaming industry is hiring psychologists as consultants.

Ariella Lehrer is a trained psychologist who designs games specifically for middle-aged women. Her company focuses on romance and mystery, including games based on the novels of Jane Austen and the popular TV detective show Murder She Wrote.

But Lehrer said the psychology behind the games is pure Las Vegas. With flashy graphics and intermittent rewards, games are calibrated to hook you within 20 minutes.

"We learned this with rats in a food pedestal," Lehrer said. "If you only occasionally give a reward then you keep going. That's what Las Vegas does. The rewards don't come every time."

Some of the most popular games follow a six-second rule. Every six seconds, a visual sparkle pops up to entice you to keep playing.

"The potency, if you will, of these video games is much more intense, more rewarding, more engaging than video games were 30 years ago," Fong said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Can Video Games Actually Benefit Your Kids' Health?

Stuart Pearce/Getty Images(HOUSTON) -- Do video games that encourage kids to get up and move really benefit children’s overall health?

According to a study out of the Baylor College of Medicine, children who were given Nintendo Wii video games that prompted some physical activity – ones that require players to simulate the movements they would otherwise control with a standard handheld device – exerted little to no more energy than those who were given inactive games.

“This probably was just taking up time that they would have been physically active somewhere else,” said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News’ senior health and medical editor, who was not involved in the study.

“There's been some thought [that these types of games] might be an approach to getting kids up off the couch,” Besser said. “Unfortunately, what this study found was that active video gaming provided no more physical activity for children across their day then giving them an inactive video game.”

It is recommended that children get one hour of physical activity every day, Besser says, “and we're just not seeing that happen.”

“We have to look at creative solutions,” he said. “But it doesn't appear that video gaming is the way to go.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Zumba Fitness Rush for XBox Kinect Will Teach You How to Zumba


Microsoft(NEW YORK) -- On Feb 13, Zumba fitness dancing returns to XBox Kinect with Zumba Fitness Rush, bringing with it the craze that launched classes, clothing lines and, yes, even conventions all over the world. Will the new game live up to an in-studio Zumba workout?

While the Wii incarnation of the game works by strapping a Wiimote to the hip, which does little to score players correctly for things like arm movement, the game's transition to Kinect has done a fine job of providing motion-tracking that scores accurately based on a full body range of movement and timing.

While some of the moves can seem repetitive compared to other dance games, the game does focus less on quickly throwing complicated dance steps one's way and more on moving to the rhythm of the music. Don't expect to interpret the lyrics with your body or do the robot; instead, you'll get an aerobic workout with flares of salsa and reggaeton. Because Zumba Fitness Rush's dance moves are sustained for longer than in other games, indicators for upcoming moves are not constantly in one's face. They pop up sparingly, and the game is more aesthetically pleasing for it.

The songs and moves were lifted directly out of a Zumba class and the soundtrack includes all of the staples from the Wii version of the game, with plenty of additional tracks. Each song has only one level of difficulty, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In Zumba Fitness Rush, the tempo and length of the music inform the difficulty of the workout, meaning the slower-paced "easy" songs are not shoehorned into difficult mode by adding complicated moves that don't fit the rhythm.

Zumba Fitness Rush could be the ideal game for those looking to learn how to dance, Zumba style. There's a tutorial mode to teach you the ropes with step-by-step instructions. Kinect does a far better job scoring, based on full-body movement, than Wii does, so you're more likely to pull off your moves correctly. Essentially, the game will train you into a Zumba dancing machine.

The game also provides an unexpected amount of detail. The stages are populated by real-world Zumba instructors, and the locations are places where actual dance classes have been held. Zumba Fitness Rush is like a sports title in this respect, trading stadiums and famous pro athletes for real life venues and celebrity trainers.

Perhaps most intriguing is the number of workout "classes" the new game was offering, increasing the total from 30 on Wii to 45 on Kinect. A one-disc game offers an impressive number of classes at 20-minute, half-hour and hour-long increments, providing programs of varying difficulties that can be continuously danced through without having to navigate menus.

Calorie counters track your progress. But for most of the game's modes, don't expect the game to record burned calories if you have to bail halfway through a class.

Anyone remotely familiar with the Zumba fitness dancing craze or the XBox Kinect motion sensor can recognize the potential of a game that does it right, and Zumba Fitness Rush delivers.

The Zumba curious or current Zumba fans will eat it up. And guys, there might be no better way to Kinect with your Valentine this year. So don't overlook the game when out choosing between restaurant reservations and that trip to the drugstore for chocolates.

Zumba Fitness Rush is available in stores on Feb. 13 for the XBox Kinect.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Video Games Can Effect Brain Function, Study Shows

JupiterImages/Brand X Pictures(INDIANAPOLIS) -- New research out of the University of Indiana School of Medicine in Indianapolis backs up earlier studies on the effects of violent video games on the behavior of those who play them.

Lead investigator Dr. Vincent Mathews says a group of young men underwent testing after playing violent video games for an extended period. He says that researchers measured blood flow in certain areas of the brain affecting behavior and saw in brain scans clear evidence that the games made a difference.

Those who played a violent video game for a week demonstrated decreased activity or decreased activation in areas of the brain that were “involved in focusing, paying attention," Matthews said. "They're involved in being able to inhibit responses or not respond to certain things. They're involved in emotional decision-making.”

Though it’s not the first study to link video games with behavioral changes, this research involved actual brain scans.

“There have been a number of different studies that have shown increases in aggressive behavior after exposure to violent video game-play,” Matthews said. “So I think that what our results show is a potential explanation for those observations that others have made.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Man Dies From Blood Clot after Marathon Gaming Session

ABC News(SHEFFIELD, England) -- The family of a 20-year-old British man who died as a result of a blood clot that formed after playing video games for up to 12 hours a day is speaking out about the health risks obsessive gaming can pose.

David Staniforth told The Sun that his son, Chris, who was accepted into a game design program at Leicester University, spent most of his days playing the online Xbox game Halo.

The young man died in May from a deep vein thrombosis, the coroner told The Sun., a potentially deadly condition that can be caused by lack of activity. The night before he died, his father told the BBC he was likely up all night on his computer.

Staniforth was told by his son's friend that Chris said he felt a pounding in his chest after gaming his last night alive, but eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, Chris and his friend were going to apply for jobs but Chris collapsed outside the job center.

A deep vein thrombosis is a clot that forms in the deep veins in the legs. When the clot breaks off, it can move through the bloodstream and travel to the lungs, heart or other vital organs and cause blockages. The more common type is a pulmonary embolism, which happens when there's a blockage of the main artery that carries oxygenated blood to the lungs. If it's not treated, up to 30 percent of people with pulmonary embolism die, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Playing video games, long car rides, and long plane rides predispose you to clots," said Dr. Phil Ragno, director of cardiovascular health and wellness at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

He warns that even though older, less active people are prone to blood clots because of more complicated medical histories, they can strike anyone of any age given the right circumstances.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Psych Experts: Violent Video Games Distort Kids' Health, Perceptions

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Studies have persuasively demonstrated that depictions of extreme violence in video games like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City harm youngsters' mental health, according to pediatricians who disagreed with part of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a California ban on video game sales to children.

However, the mental health experts agreed with the justices that ultimately, parents have a responsibility to vet and control what their children watch and play.

"The studies are actually very strong," said Dr. Laura Davies, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. She had just read a paper published this past weekend in the journal Pediatrics that found violent videos disrupted preschoolers' sleep.

"Every one of us -- child psychiatrists, behavioral pediatricians and regular pediatricians, see in our practices every day that when children (younger than 7) are exposed to violence and to trauma, they act biting, hitting, kicking, name-calling, wetting themselves, poor sleep, poor eating," Davies said.  "Older kids act out by fighting, with academic problems, social problems, bullying, anxiety, fearfulness, withdrawal from friends."

Writing for the high court's 7-2 majority, Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with a lower court that the state of California failed to prove that depictions of "killing, maiming, dismembering or sexually assaulting an image of a human being" were sufficiently harmful to young minds to justify carving out a free speech exception solely for children.

For centuries, young children have been exposed to "no shortage of gore" in Grimm's Fairy Tales, he wrote. "Cinderella's evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves.  And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven."

Davies, however, said the impact of reading Grimm's Fairy Tales on the page cannot be compared with the visual and aural assault of a violent video: "It's much more vivid and much more traumatic," she said.  On another level, though, repeatedly playing these fictional, interactive video games distorts children's concept of death, she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Quality Time Over Video Games May Strengthen Family Ties

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PROVO, Utah) -- Parents, and even some researchers, have long blamed video games for such problems as obesity, violence, depression and detachment from family and friends.

But Brigham Young University School of Family Life researchers stand by a positive notion that could surprise some people: video games may help strengthen the bond between parents and their daughters.

While some doctors would say video games and other sources of so-called screen time offer little if any health benefits, this study begs to differ.  The study found that girls who played video games with a parent behaved better, felt more connected to their families and had better mental health than those girls who did not play video games with their parents.

Researchers also found that these game-playing gals had lower levels of internalization of emotions and higher levels of social behavior with their family members than those who did not play video games with parents.  But, there was no evidence of such benefits with boys.

It is important to note that positive bonding time was only associated with age-appropriate video games.  Mario Kart, Mario Brothers, Wii Sports, Rock Band and Guitar Hero topped the list of games that girls most often played, while boys played Call of Duty, Wii Sports and Halo most often.

Researchers found that if the game was rated M for Mature, feelings of family connectedness weakened overall.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, included 287 families with a teen or tween-aged child.  Parents and kids filled out multiple surveys about their gaming habits, family processes and adolescent behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Too Much Screen Time Means Health Decline

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- People who spend hours glued to a TV or computer screen on a daily basis could be shortening their lifespan, according to a new investigation reported in Tuesday's Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

According to the study conducted by a group of international researchers, anyone who devotes more than four hours daily on screen-based entertainment such as TV, video games or surfing the web, ups their risk of heart attack and stroke by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause by nearly 50 percent compared to those who spend less than two hours daily in screen play -- and this is regardless of whether or not they also work out.

The researchers surveyed more than 4,500 Scottish adults to find out how much time they spent parked in front of a TV, computer or gaming screen when not at work.  (Scottish work and recreation habits jibe with the rest of the modern Western world, including the "American idle".)  Then they analyzed their medical records for four years to find out how many of them succumbed to health problems or died during that time period.

Dedication to couch potato-style recreation translated into a greater incidence of poor health even after allowing for factors such as physical activity, age, sex and smoking.

"Assuming that leisure-time screen time is a representative indicator of overall sitting, our results lend support to the idea that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality," notes the report's lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London.  "Doing some exercise every day may not compensate for the damage done during very long periods of screen time."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nintendo: 3D Game Player Not for Pre-Schoolers

Photo Courtesy - Nintendo(KYOTO, Japan) – Japanese gaming company Nintendo has warned that a new 3D video game player could permanently damage the eyesight of those under age six whose eyes are still developing, reports MedPage Today.

The portable 3D player, 3DS, will be introduced starting in late February. In their warning, Nintendo cited "a potential impact on the growth of children's eyes” when using the device in 3D.

Nintendo suggests that the device be switched to a 2D mode when used by children under six years old.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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