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Violence & Video Games: A Weak, Meaningless Correlation

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.

12 Comments to
Violence & Video Games: A Weak, Meaningless Correlation

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  1. Thank you for an insightful post. People always seem want an easy answer to the complex problems of society.
    I’m curious if you’re familiar with Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s book “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill”? He claims that one of the biggest problems with video games isn’t so much that it causes violent behavior, but rather that simulated violence in video games desensitizes people, making it easier for them to commit acts of violence in the real world. And that this effect is part of the reason the military uses video game simulators to prepare soldiers for combat.

  2. Denial is typically associated with addiction.

  3. Good article, but could the decline also be due to videogame ratings enforcement? I just remember being able to buy games like Doom and Warcraft with their violent imagery, but now if I buy Battlefield 3, I get carded even at 29. Just a thought.

  4. As part of the larger culture that you are in, violent video games reflect part of that culture in terms of ways in which individuals, families, communities, states, and countries navigate conflicts. Although the addiction problem with video games is significant, the larger issue is conflict resolution acculturation. It seems that much of the US and many other countries train their young in competition, power and control, winning, and a sort of survival of the fitist. Cooperation, empathy, compassion, receptivity, cooperation, yeilding, and playing to play, not to win is not what is taught. Sports and most video games fit into this competitive acculturation and reflection. And in terms of our long term psychological, emotional, spiritual, social, and political evolution, I see very little value in the way most of these activities are played out in most Americans lives. Speed and agility, eye/hand coordination and multi-tasking, and winning seem to be the most one usually gains from video games. Most of this is mindlessness practice. And the fact that the Defense Dept. has been using Violent Video Games to train their obedient soldiers makes them very suspect in that aspect alone.

  5. Every human behavior, every single activity both conscious and subconscious we partake in is the result or 3 things. Knowledge of a specific option of action, Motivation, and Means. Then when those three are computed, it is a matter of “the pleasure principle” driving the choice. When it comes to violence, motivations such as low self-esteem as a result of bullying, mental illness, desire for attention, and a desire to get ahead. Means, well guns and tools designed to be used specifically as weapons are prevalent in our society. This knowledge of options. If you could talk to a new born, there is no evidence that would point to it knowing of the concept of violence, death, or killing. What age and how that is introduced is a huge factor on the “weight of consequences”. That is where the “pleasure principle” kicks in. At the moment a shooter decides to invoke his plan, all other options have ceased to have a better consequence to benefit ratio. Violence and death when we first ever hear about it is a traumatic piece of knowledge. Like anything else that our senses encounter, the more we experience death (real, imagined, or synthesized) the less negative consequences we feel from it. (What doesn’t kill us/ offend us makes us stronger.) That is the role, the ingredient in the soup, that violent video games play. Now in the case of Adam Lanza, add the violent games, with a constant exposure to real guns, to a paranoid and over bearing mother, to drugs designed to make you fell less consequences for your actions (and sometimes delusional feelings of grander) and you have increased the possibility. The question we as a society have to ask ourselves is, “IF we want these violent acts to stop, which one (motive, means, knowledge of options, or derived pleasure) are we going to reduce and diminish from our culture. Motive can be reduced but never eliminated. AS a system designer I can tell you that adding more “means”, earlier and more wide spread options, and/ or increasing the pleasure through recognition and diminished senses will never lead to the goal of reduction. So which is it going to be?

  6. Though I understand the connections they do make with associating video game violence with youth violence, but I do appreciate your thorough analysis and great effort to contradict the opposing side. Great article.

  7. I believe video games do not lead to violence!

  8. There is a lot to be taken into consideration when any type of violence is committed. Although the use of violent video games is automatically blamed, it is not the only aspect that needs to be examined. Perpetrators of tragedies such as bombings, shootings, and attacks often play violent video games, which is why there is so much dispute over this topic. Results of specific experimental studies suggest that video games might be one of several risk factors that contribute to violent behavior, but plain and simple, playing violent video games does not directly cause an individual, especially children, to act out and show aggressiveness towards other people. This industry generates over 13 billion dollars a year. Technology continues to increase and people always want the next best thing. Now that people can play online through their consoles, they like to be able to play against other people, especially in shooting games. Surprisingly, over the past 15 years, sales of video games have consistently increased, but acts such as homicides, rapes, and aggravated assaults have decreased. Although laws are constantly trying to be passed on who can buy or access these games, there are other laws in place that stop that from happening, such as the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech laws. Ultimately, there seems to be no end in sight, but there is no direct connection between real world violence and playing certain video games.

  9. Your article has definitively helped with my argument for my presentation on this issue.

  10. Not mentioned here but abortion law is often cited as a reason for the decline. The UK (and pretty much the whole developed world) has seen similar trends in violence. The UK did not change it’s abortion laws but it’s decline in violence started a couple of years after the US, which makes a lot of sense considering how new tech reaches the UK or gain popularity a little after the US.

    I’ve never seen a study that considers the effects of “blowing off steam” isn’t there a plausible arguement for games as a harmless aggressive outlet.

  11. Violence is all around us, we see it almost everyday on televisions, cell phones, computers, and in video games. It has been shown in research that violent video games create aggressive and hostile behavior, the issue begins with younger children getting access to video games that are meant for people eighteen and up. I have a pro stance on children not getting access to violent video games, because of research showing the psychological affects it has on a child’s behavior and how it can affect them in the future. In 2009, research revealed that it takes up to four minutes for aggressive feelings and thoughts in children to go back to it’s original state after playing games with violence. Heart Rate and aggressive behavior takes five to ten minutes to return back to normal. The video games that involve blood have shown measurable thoughts of hostility and arousal in the brain. In the recent shootings such as Sandy Hook, Aurora Theater, Shooting, and Washington DC Navy Yard it is known that each gunmen were known to have an addiction to violent video games. With the necessary action taken to prevent violent video games getting into the lives of young children, the issue of outwardly violence from video games can be prevented. I am submitting this for an english class and I wanted to give my stance on this subject here.

  12. A causation relationship between video games and violence is more likely (in my opinion). I do agree that there are various other factors that come into play with youth violence, however I don’t think that video games have no effect on youth violence. Looking at other studies can perhaps yield different results which may confirm a relation between the two.



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