News: Stanford Prison Experiment psychologist Dr Philip Zimbardo has condemned video games for creating a generation of risk-averse males.
CNN has published an article co-authored by psychologists Nikita Duncan and Dr Philip Zimbardo, the latter of the famous (though often derided for its methodology) Stanford Prison Experiment. The piece claims that video games are “creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment”.
In a summary of ideas explored in the pair’s new book, The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, Zimbardo and Duncan describe both video games and porn as “arousal addictions”, distinguished from conventional addictions by the variety and renewed novelty of their content.
This arousal, they write, “traps users into an expanded present hedonistic time zone. Past and future are distant and remote as the present moment expands to dominate everything. That present scene is totally dynamic, with images changing constantly.”
Young men who play video games the most are “digitally rewired” to demand constant stimulation, they report. This damages their ability to connect with traditional school teaching, which is based on “applying past lessons to future problems, on planning, on delaying gratifications, on work coming before play and on long-term goal-setting”. Further, say Zimbardo and Duncan, this rewiring leaves the worst-affected males unable to engage in romantic relationships, which “tend to build gradually and subtly, and require interaction, sharing, developing trust and suppression of lust at least until ‘the time is right’.”
Frankly, many of those traits sound very familiar – not least the acceptance of delayed gratification, which has been taught over and over to a generation of grind-honed JRPG fans.
In addition, Zimbardo and Duncan report that video games “go wrong” when the player is desensitised to reality, and consequently to real-life interactions.
“Given the opportunity, both adults and children were more aggressive after playing violent games,” they write.
“And people who identify themselves with violent perpetrators in video games are able to take aggressive action while playing that role, reinforcing aggressive behavior.”
Here the pair cite research reported in the Annual Review of Public Health, which we’ll check out in the references of The Demise of Guys once the book is published.
More shakily, they note that Norwegian killer Anders Behring Breivik “prepared his mind and body for his marksman-focused shooting of 77 people by playing ‘World of Warcraft‘ for a year and then ‘Call of Duty‘ for 16 hours a day”.
As our own Lewis Denby covered here, World of Warcraft was used not for training by Breivik, but as a year’s break to reward himself for his meticulous preparation. Similarly, whilst Breivik unnervingly described Modern Warfare 2 as a “training-simulation”, his plan was made long before he had access to the game.
To paraphrase John Walker of RPS in his exhaustive debunking of mainstream media coverage of the Norway shootings - as a majority of young men near-continuously exposed to violent video games, it is in our interests and those of our readers at BeefJack to expose any genuine risk that exposure might create.
However, blaming video games as a root cause of serious social issues or even for mass murder – based on the flimsiest of evidence – risks glossing over very real factors that need to be addressed.