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ASU professor researches violence and video games

Josh Fishlock, ASU Lake Havasu campus communications instructor, studies violence in videogames.
David Louis/For the Miner

Josh Fishlock, ASU Lake Havasu campus communications instructor, studies violence in videogames.

HAVASU – For Arizona State University Lake Havasu campus communications instructor Josh Fishlock, violence in video games has become a focus of continuing research.

An accomplished researcher in college, Fishlock’s primary focus was on the emotional and moral reactions individuals have when they are exposed to violent video games. However, his area of research spans across many aspects of the video game industry, ranging from aggression, contextual features of games and types of controllers players use.

At ASU Fishlock’s research continues.

“I’m looking at emotion and violent video games,” he said. “There has been research on this, but it’s hard to make a determination because the findings are inconsistent with some people saying there is a direct link and others saying no.”

Seeking the truth, Fishlock with the assistance of his students have embarked on an in-depth research base look to attempt to answer what are the colorations between emotions and violent video games.

“I am looking at personality and psychological variables,” Fishlock said. “It may not necessarily be the game it may be the person who is interacting with the game.”

According to industry analysts as many as 97 percent of U.S. children age 12 to 17 play video games, contributing to the $21.53 billion domestic video game industry with more than half of the 50 top-selling video games containing violence.

Fishlock has been teaching communications since 2008. His dissertation focused on the psychological traits of empathy – or the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes – and psychopathy, a mental disorder in which an individual manifests amoral and antisocial behavior.

“Psychopathy is a deviation from empathy,” Fishlock said. “What I’ve found is this is one of the main influences of our attitude toward violence post game play.”

Essentially, Fishlock said, it comes down to genetics and the fluctuations in a person’s brain structure.

“There is not anything wrong with the violent games and we know there are a lot of buffers like having a good family structure,” Fishlock said.”

Fishlock argues that, during childhood, psychopathic tendencies can be modified if caught early, but that video games can desensitize someone’s attitudes toward violence especially if played repeatedly.

“It isn’t that video games make you psychopathic it’s that some people have tendencies based on genetics that when you come into contact with violent content it doesn’t bother you as much, and because it doesn’t bother you, your attitudes towards violence is more favorable,” he said.

Fishlock, along with a group of students, are currently working toward publishing an academic article on the emotional reactions toward video games. The research and experiment should last through spring.


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