A high number of middle-school youth may be playing violent video games, but that's not a worrisome trend, according to a study just released by Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Mental Health and Media. The study examined the gaming habits of 1,254 children from two states, focusing on the types of games played and the social facets of gaming. Published in the July issue of Journal of Adolescent Health, this study is the first to ask middle-school youth in detail about the games they play and to analyze how many of those titles are rated M (Mature — meant for ages 17 and up). It found two-thirds of boys and one in four girls played at least one M-rated game "a lot in the past six months."
Video game critics may find ammunition in the study, especially considering the emotional trends it uncovers. It found that many of those playing violent games are playing to vent anger and stress. However, the study's lead author expresses hope that the study's findings will improve the current discourse on violent games. "Violent game play is so common, and youth crime has actually declined, so most kids who play these games occasionally are probably doing fine," says Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, co-director of the Center for Mental Health and Media. "We hope that this study is a first step toward reframing the debate from 'violent games are terrible and destroying society' to 'what types of game content might be harmful to what types of kids, in what situations.' We need to take a fresh look at what types of rules or policies make sense."