Do violent video games lead to greater violence amongst those who play them?
While the actual answer is complex, the simple answer is easy — of course not. Just take a look at the graph at the overall decline of youth violence rates to the left (and the larger version below). Even as video game sales across the board have increased, rates of violence amongst youths has declined.
But a 2010 meta-analysis (Anderson et al.) on violent video games (VVGs) can’t be ignored. So let’s take a look at what they found.
Long-time readers of World of Psychology know that in research, it’s not always the results that paint the picture. It’s the amount of manipulations and rationales you provide for designing the study in the specific manner you did that shed light on your likely findings — long before a single datapoint is collected.
So whenever a set of researchers go outside the normative practice of standard meta-analytic procedures, well, a few red flags are going to be set off.
The first decision you have to make in a meta-analysis — that is, a study of previous research on a given topic — is what studies will you actually look at in your analysis and what studies will you ignore? This is referred to as your “inclusion” and “exclusion” criteria, and for most researchers, it’s pretty straight-forward.
Anderson et al. (2010)1 arguably began stacking the deck here, by including unpublished studies they gleaned haphazardly from other research and database searches. They also sub-divided their analysis into two groups — one that included 129 studies that did not meet a set of “best practices” for this analysis, and another set of what they defined as higher-quality research. (Who defined these “best practices?” The researchers did, of course!)