Study reveals the impact that violent video games actually have on your brain.

Violent video games. They're super fun. And more than a little bit controversial.

Great teamwork, guys. Anyone else thinking Cheesecake Factory for dinner? Photo by BagoGames/Flickr.


When a young person commits horrific act of violence, as in June's church massacre in Charleston, South Carolina, or the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, or the Columbine attack, there's often a rush to hold video games responsible.

It's hard to deny that the connection between violent video games and real-life violence makes a certain amount of intuitive sense. It just feels true.

Scary. Photo by FireFishMike/Flickr.

But as it turns out, if something feels true, you don't have to just believe it! You can actually study it. Which is what Stetson University psychology professor Christopher J. Ferguson did.

Ferguson conducted three studies on 12- to 18-year-old gamers, which was published in September.

Basically, the studies found no correlation between shooting fake people on a computer monitor or TV screen and real-world aggression.

“Following violent tragedies involving young men, many frequently point to violent video games as a cause for the behavior, but the research does not back this up," Ferguson said. “As violent video games became more popular, it was understandable for them to fall under intense scrutiny, and claims about their harms and benefits may have been exaggerated including by the scholarly community."

When a person pretty much says that he shot a bunch of people because he's a huge racist asshole — as in Charleston — or because he daydreams about being a super famous terrorist psychopath — as in Columbine — he might ... actually mean it much of the time.

So violent video games aren't bad for me after all? Awesome! BRB playing "Call of Duty" all weekend.

Hold up a second. It's not all good news, unfortunately. While holing up in your basement and shooting at pixelated Nazis for eight hours straight won't necessarily make you run out and punch your neighbor's ferret — or shoot up a movie theater — video games are still maybe not, like, exactly totally good for you either.

Though TBH, the ferret has it coming. Photo by Scott Oves/Flickr.

Another series of studies show sedentary activities, such as sitting with a video game controller in your hand for an entire holiday weekend, might lead to an increase in anxiety.

Conducted by Deakin University's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, the studies are among the first evidence that a lack of physical activity might affect mental health.

"It was found in five of the nine studies that an increase in sedentary behaviour was associated with an increased risk of anxiety. In four of the studies it was found that total sitting time was associated with an increased risk of anxiety. The evidence regarding screen time (TV and computer use) was less strong, but one study did find that 36 percent of high school students that had more than two hours of screen time per day were more likely to experience anxiety, compared to those who had less than two hours per day."

While it's not, like, proof proof, it is a cause for concern, and something no gamer should take lightly. Because while occasional anxiety is normal, actual anxiety disorders are serious stuff.

OK, do I play violent video games then? I don't know what to think anymore!

Yes! You shouldn't be worried that it's going to lead you inexorably down the road to ferret or human assault, and you should never feel any sort of shame for taking a few minutes to just do completely absolutely nothing.

That said, to stave off that subtle, inexplicable sense of ever-increasing worry and dread you get from just sitting around for long periods of time, it might not hurt to copy my coworker Angie's daughter's innovative method of playing her Nintendo DS:

GIF by Angie Aker/Upworthy.

Your brain may thank you later.

Happy alien-blasting!

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