Violent video games – recent research

videogamesResearch on the impact of playing video games (particularly violent games) is a topic that I know that some readers of this blog have a great interest in. Here are a few recent items concerning this topic:

First, a new book from the psych department at Iowa State University, whose press release (4 Apr) explains:

Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley share the results of three new studies in their book, “Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents” (Oxford University Press, 2007). It is the first book to unite empirical research and public policy related to violent video games.

[…] The book’s first study found that even exposure to cartoonish children’s violent video games had the same short-term effects on increasing aggressive behavior as the more graphic teen (T-rated) violent games.

[…] In another study […] the authors found that respondents who had more exposure to violent video games held more pro-violent attitudes, had more hostile personalities, were less forgiving, believed violence to be more typical, and behaved more aggressively in their everyday lives. […] The researchers were surprised that the relation to violent video games was so strong.

[…] A third new study […] found that children who played more violent video games early in the school year changed to see the world in a more aggressive way, and became more verbally and physically aggressive later in the school year — even after controlling for how aggressive they were at the beginning of the study.

Reference: Craig A. Anderson, Douglas A. Gentile and Katherine E. Buckley (2007). Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents (Amazon UK) / (Amazon US) Oxford: OUP

Next, research on trends in video gaming from Harris Interactive (via Docuticker, 3 April). According to the Harris Interactive press release:

Reports from around the world suggest that gaming addiction is real and on the rise. Nationally, 8.5 percent of youth gamers (ages 8 to 18) can be classified as pathological or clinically “addicted” to playing video games. Most youth play video games and many feel that they may be playing too much. Nearly one-quarter (23%) of youth say they that have felt “addicted to video games”, with about one-third of males (31%) and a little more than one in ten females (13%) feeling “addicted.” Forty-four percent of youth also report that their friends are addicted to games. With nearly 8 in 10 American youth (81%) playing video games at least one time per month, including 94 percent of all boys playing, this certainly raises concerns about video game addiction.

An informative report is available (link is a pdf file): Video Gaming: General and Pathological Use.

Finally, The Situationist Blog posted (20 March) about the latest activities of attorney Jack Thompson, “who has made it a personal and professional mission to prevent the sale and distribution of violent video games”:

The Miami-based, Vanderbilt Law-grad has initiated several tort lawsuits relating to children who harm others and who then attribute their harm-causing activities to the playing of violent video games. Thompson’s basic contention is that video game companies owe a duty to consumers to either produce “responsible” games or to ensure that sales of violent ones go stringently regulated and be made unavailable to children—and their failure to do either should be considered negligent behavior.

Photo credit: DrDemento, Creative Commons License

11 thoughts on “Violent video games – recent research”

  1. I think it’s crap. My kids play almost the same games as I do, and they are not more violent than when they first started playing. They are good responsible kids. I don’t think it’s the video game industrys responsibility to watch what they make, why should I suffer because of some crappy report. It is the retailers responsibility to make sure kids can’t buy certain ratings, I know theyr buddie will buy them for them so that’s not full proof either. What it comes down to is parenting. The parent is ultimatly responsible to watch and govern what theyre kids are playin or watchin’.

  2. I think it’s real. Kids are taking these games seriously and we should blame the parents for allowing their kids to play them. Should a child act out and really do something that they seen in a game it would be a tragedy.

  3. Can video games make kids more violent? A new study employing state-of-the-art brain-scanning technology says that the answer may be yes.

    Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine say that brain scans of kids who played a violent video game showed an increase in emotional arousal – and a corresponding decrease of activity in brain areas involved in self-control, inhibition and attention.

  4. they never take in the variables of the child who is playing the video game such as the child who playes video games may get bullied alot at school which useualy ends up that the the child becomes a bully because of it but they never see this so they blame there scapegoat video games

  5. There are so many factors that play into human behaviour, saying video game make kids violent is like saying eating candy makes you sweet.

    Looking at these studies you usually end up with two camps. Studies made by researchers who dislike video games find games are bad for you. Studies made by people who like games find the opposite. Big surprise.
    A recent study has tried to overcome many of the usual shortcomings and the results are quite interesting. Check out this link

    Many studies also make no difference between aggression and violence. They make tests on children where they measure levels of aggression while and after playing. Some children (far from the majority) do show signs of aggression, but
    if you took a bunch of teenagers playing an important football game (or the crowd watching the game) you would probably get the same sort of readings. That doesn’t mean they will go out and kill people afterwards.

    I lecture on popular culture and video games in particular and I find it a bit funny that many of the arguments against video/movie violence in the eighties where the opposite of what games are blamed for today. For instance, film violence was extra harmful because you where passively watching it, being force fed the content. 20 years later the same people say video game violence is extra harmful because you participate in the action.
    As a matter of fact, anything that has been remotely interesting to young people over the years have been accused of corrupting morality or causing violent behaviour. Jazz, movies, Dungeons & Dragons… even reading books. A few hundred years ago priest where fearing the end of civilization when common people, not just the church, could read what they wanted due to the invention of the book press.

    I’m from Sweden. Video games are immensely popular over here, but violence among young people is quite uncommon. As a matter of fact, the organized anti-games-lobby (yes we have them too) have dropped the violence argument because it just made no sense in Sweden. So if a million Swedish kids can play video games without turning violent… maybe there are other things in other countries that promotes aggressive behavior? For instance, Sweden hasn’t had a war in many hundreds of years and our gun laws are extremely strict. Violence is not just not seen as a way to solve problems, regardless if you’re the “good” or the “bad” guy. I know blaming games for violent outbursts is quite convenient, but you might end up being a part of the problem by turning media attention the wrong way.

    After the Littleton massacre infamous lawyer Jack Thompson quickly made statements on Fox News that video games where to blame. Quite soon it was clear Seung-Hui Cho was not at all interested in games. He was however very involved in amateur theatre. Did anyone cry for a ban on Shakespeare plays? You should read some of those by the way. Talk about nasty violence.

    On a side note, all games are not for all ages. For some reason, people have no problem with the fact that The Godfather or Gladiator are R-rated films meant for an adult audience. With video games however, many take for granted all games are aimed at kids. In my lectures I sometimes meet parents complaining about the horrible, violent games their kids are playing. Then it turns out that the games have an +18 rating (European PEGI rating) and that the parents bought the game themselves but didn’t bother checking the rating. Would you rent The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to your kids and then blame the movie business?
    The average gamer in the west is about 30 years old (yes that’s a fact). Its about time the general public understood that a lot of the titles available are aimed at that market.

    BTW. Read “Everything bad is good for you” by Steve Johnson.

  6. Owen, I am a producer for a public radio show based in New York and I would love to talk to you about a segment we are trying to do on video games and violence. Could you email me at Thanks!

  7. I myself play many video games at my house. I’m a 16 year old male who isn’t really that aggressive most of the time. In my personal experience, I don’t think that video games put’s me in an aggressive state at all. I enjoy playing violent video games and I find them to calm me down when I’m agitated. I’m actually doing my graduation project on this topic. My essential question is this: Do violent video games contribute to violent behavior patterns in children and adolecents? Any and all comments on this and help would be much appreciated.

  8. I think that in young kids it may make them more aggressive, if they are seeing violent images. in adolecents no because most of them are already agressive due to hormones, and just that age you a slightly more agressive. I’ve played video games my whole life and don’t ever plan on stopping. To me blaming things like video games and movies or any media, is just plain ignorant. People just want to blame everything on something else so they don’t look like bad parents. Things now have ratings parents take the time to see what your kids are doing, what they are playing, and who they are hanging out with. Its the parents not the games or media. And adults just need to take a look at them selfs and realise what they are doing.

  9. Well I don’t think that violence can be directly caused by video games. If you were to look at the population of kids that play video games, you would find that it’s quite a large percentage. So does that make all kids killers? There are ratings on video games for a reason, and according to law, children under the age of 18 aren’t supposed to be able to buy Mature rated games (though I’m not naive enough to believe that this is always upheld). But like someone has stated earlier, you don’t hear people blaming violent tv programs or rated R movies.

    However, I don’t think that it helps gamers (I am one myself) for them to go “Me personally I’m not a violent person and I play video games” so just for the warning, that doesn’t help. Just use reason and logic to win the argument.

  10. Hey great comments guys, it’s all really good evidence for my media investigation. I reckon that video games are, like so many have you have said, a scapegoat. To me it simply seems that they are being used a scapegoat. Something wrong in the world? Bet your bottom dollar someone will find a way to relate it back to video games. All the crimes that are video game related, the criminals have usually had troubled backgrounds, playing inappropriate games (young gamers playing adult rated games), or have been playing the game for days and nights on end. All these seem to me to be the greater contributer to them committing crimes, not their game time play. So yeah that’s all.

  11. I don’t think it is the video games i think it is the parenting, and the stability of the adolesence’s mind, i am 16 and i have had anger issues since i could walk and i use violent video games to keep me from doing things to people in real life that i would in the video games so i think that violent video games are helpfull in way’s they relieve stress and they reliev anger and bottled up feelings.

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