It's true, researchers say. Playing violent video games for an extended period of time tends to color your worldview, causing you to see the world as a violent place best suited to aggressive solutions.
The researchers say they found that people who played a violent video game for three consecutive days showed increases in aggressive behavior and hostile expectations each day they played. Meanwhile, those who played nonviolent games showed no meaningful changes in aggression or hostile expectations over that period.
How is this different from previous studies about video game violence? They tended to focus on short-term aggression. This study, the authors say, is the first to show longer-term effects.
“It’s important to know the long-term causal effects of violent video games, because so many young people regularly play these games,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University.
Here's another way to look at it. Playing video games is like smoking. A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent video games may have a cumulative effect on aggression.
The study reached its conclusions by having participants play violent and non-violent games, then write the end to various stories involving stressful scenarios. The group that played the violent games tended to have characters display hostile or violent actions.
A second part of the study had the groups ask each other a series of questions. If a respondent gave a wrong answer, the person asking the question responded by playing a loud, unpleasant sound through the other person's headphones.
The world as a hostile place
“People who have a steady diet of playing these violent games may come to see the world as a hostile and violent place,” Bushman said. “These results suggest there could be a cumulative effect.”
This may help explain why players of the violent games also grew more aggressive day by day, agreeing to give their opponents longer and louder noise blasts through the headphones.
“Hostile expectations are probably not the only reason that players of violent games are more aggressive, but our study suggests it is certainly one important factor,” Bushman said. “After playing a violent video game, we found that people expect others to behave aggressively. That expectation may make them more defensive and more likely to respond with aggression themselves, as we saw in this study and in other studies we have conducted.”
Students who played the nonviolent games showed no changes in either their hostile expectations or their aggression, Bushman said.