Violent Video Games Such as Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt Increase Crime Risk and Substance Abuse: Study

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By Sarah Thomas | August 13, 2014 12:48 PM EST

A study conducted by the Dartmouth College researchers in the United States revealed that aggressive video games in which there was a lot of violence triggered anti-social behaviour in teenagers. It also increased the risk of committing criminal acts and leads to addictive and dangerous habits in the gamer such as drinking and smoking, the study stated.

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An advertisement for Take-Two Interactive Software's "Grand Theft Auto 4" video game is seen on the side of a building in Los Angeles April 26, 2008. REUTERS/Lisa Baertlein

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The study is published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. It also shed light on the impact adult-rated video games have on the teenagers self-esteem and perception of one's self. This research is not new; several studies in the past have also found that video games that glorify violence had a huge impact on the gamers. Especially adolescent players tend to become aggressive and violent. There is a link between these sort of games and the player's behaviour and emotions.

A previous study by Daramouth published in 2012 also found that the violent video games could cause reckless driving among teens. They were seen to drive carelessly.

The Dartmouth study, however, revealed new effects of video games along with those already discovered. Dartmouth professor of pediatrics and co-author James Sargent said in a statement that the study is important as, "It is the first to suggest that possible effects of violent video games go well beyond violence to apply to substance use, risky driving and risk-taking sexual behaviour."

For the research, 5,000 U.S., teenagers were questioned over the phone for a period of four years. There was no organised manner or criteria for choosing the subjects. It was a random selection. On examination, they found that the violent video games they played were Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt and Spiderman -- and other mature-rated games.

They found that there was a connection between these sort of video games and a high-risk behaviour among the players. They even identified themselves with the violent antisocial character they controlled and played as in the game.

Jay Hull, lead author and head of Dartmouth's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, said, "With respect to playing deviant video game characters, we feel it best to follow the admonition of Kurt Vonnegut in 'Mother Night:' 'We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

The study suggested that this was because of the changes the game caused in the player's attitude, character and values, "specifically making them more rebellious and thrill-seeking."

The research also found that these effects were common to all players irrespective of their gender and had a tremendous impact on those who played violent games very often, more so in those who played as the antisocial character in the game.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
An advertisement for Take-Two Interactive Software's "Grand Theft Auto 4" video game is seen on the side of a building in Los Angeles April 26, 2008. REUTERS/Lisa Baertlein
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