‘Video games cause violence’

1 Dec

Video games commonly involve controversial, ‘interesting’ topics. Things such as sex, drugs, crime, fighting, wars, nudity and racism are often found in video games. It seems obvious that these games could influence children, potentially causing aggression as they idolise their on screen avatar. For years the issue of video games causing violence has been debated in the media.

MRI scans on children’s brains after playing a violent video game have showed a negative affect on the brain. It is not just video games that cause this affect though, the same can be found after watching violent movies. Teens who play violent games for excessive amounts of time are found to be more aggressive. They are prone to getting into conflicts with their teachers and they are also more likely to engage in fights. It has also been found that violent video games can cause a decline in academic achievements (Gentile et al, 2004).

The constant repetition of the violent acts in video games could possibly be the reason why they can cause aggression in teenagers (Gentile & Anderson, 2003). Repetition is used as an effective learning method, so are these games in fact teaching children to be violent? The fact that many parents do not limit the time their children spend playing video games also contributes to this learning of violence (Walsh, 2000).

The above graph shows that exposure to violent video games decreases positive prosocial actions. These are actions that help others (Walsh, D; 2000). [Click image to enlarge]

Contrary to what many people may believe, research has found that children learn more from video games, than they do through books. In an experiment carried out by Dr David Lewis, historic information was integrated in a video game, and also presented in written form. Over three quarters of the children studied absorbed the information from the video game, whereas only half did when they read it.

However this research is only relevant to academic games, or games with educational information. It does not mean that they don’t also cause aggression and violence. Therefore it does not mean that all games are ‘good’ for children. This research just highlights the fact that video games can be used to benefit children academically and are not all aggression causing.

Again, this debate could refer back to correlation and causation. Could the correlation between aggression and violent video games just reflect on the type of person who is likely to play video games? The link is definitely there, but does this mean that video games are the cause of the aggression?

Gentile, D. A. & Anderson, C. A. (2003). Violent video games: The newest media violence hazard. In D. A. Gentile (Ed.), Media violence and children. Westport, CT: Praeger Publishing.

Gentile, D. A., Lynch, P., Linder, J. & Walsh, D. (2004). The effects of violent video game habits on adolescent hostility, aggressive behaviors, and school performance. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 5-22.

Walsh, D. (2000). Interactive violence and children: Testimony submitted to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, United States Senate. (March 21, 2000.) 


5 Responses to “‘Video games cause violence’”

  1. sjb66 December 2, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    Video Games found to desensitize individuals to violence
    Cline et al (1973) carried out studies into TV violence and identified a connection to desensitization, further studies have investigated this area including a recent study by Professor Craig Anderson of Iowa State University
    His study identified that exposure to violence in video games had the effect of reducing sensitivity to real life violence, subduing the “emotion related physiological responses associated with real life violence”.
    The study consisted of 257 students with no gender bias. Using heart rate and galvanic skin response to measure affects. The participants played 20 minutes on one of eight randomly selected video games (four games being violent & four being non-violent). The initial responses where compared against further measurement taken after watching actual violent videos of events from real life (courtroom outbursts, police confrontations, shootings and prison fights). The results highlighted a general desensitization to the real life video’s, however the findings showed no significant differences between the participants after playing the video games (either violent or non-violent)
    These findings suggest that playing violent video games can be a contributing factor but not a deciding factor in violent behaviour
    Nauert PhD, R. (2006). Video Games Desensitize to Real Violence. Psych Central. Last accessed 01 December 2011, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/07/28/video-games-desensitize-to-real-violence/137.html
    Cline, Victor B.; Croft, Roger G.; and Courrier, Stephen. (1973). “Desensitization of Children to Television Violence.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27:360-365.

  2. racewinner December 6, 2011 at 11:55 am #

    There have been many studies conducted on the impact of violent video games and television programs on aggression. Most studies have found that increased exposure to such violent games/shows actually increase the aggression levels in children. (Media Awareness Network, 2010; Shin, 2003) However, though the link is indeed there as you mentioned, I feel that there are other factors that cause aggression and that it is not only dependent on violent video games. This would be as there are increasingly more and more violent shows/games being released into the world. If playing violent games and watching violent shows really causes aggression, everybody would then be guilty of conducting unnecessary violent acts and crimes. Moreover, there have only been a few cases where lawyers actually blame video games/shows for the crimes that their clients commit. Research has also been conducted on what increases aggression in people. Some of these factors that were identified include Stress, Previous Learning and Traumatic Childhood Experiences. (Shupe, Stacey & Hazlewood, 1987). As such, I feel that violent video games are not necessary the only cause of aggression but rather, a variety of factors, be it biological or environmental may cause aggression instead.

    Tracy Yang

    Media Awareness Network. (2010). Research on the effects of Media Violence. Media Awareness Network. Retrieved from http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/violence/effects_media_violence.cfm
    Shin, G. (2002) Video Games: A Cause of Violence and Aggression. Serendip. Retrieved from http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/1723
    Shupe, A., Stacey,W.A., & Hazlewood, L.R. (1987). Violent Men, Violent Couples: The Dynamics of Domestic Violence [Abstract]. National Criminal Justice Reference Service. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=108227

  3. ppp0001 December 8, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    As a parent of a fourteen year old son I found your blog very interesting. My son plays a variety of different games, some of which are violent, so this obviously raises concerns. Dr Mathews (2006) of the Indiana University conducted a study into the effects of violent games. During his study he gave half a random sample a violent game to play for thirty minutes and the other half a non-violent game. When this was completed he used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fmri) to test the functioning of the brain under a series of tests. The results showed that different areas of the brain were being used for completing the same task although the external reactions of both groups were the same. The area of the brain that directs self-control and inhibitions was not active in the group that played the violent game; instead the part of the brain that controls the emotional arousal was activated. This would indicate that the games do indeed have an effect, perhaps leaving the player with a more ‘hyped up’ attitude than they would have if they had played a non-violent game. This research concluded that violent games do have an effect but more research is necessary to be able to ascertain the full effect, especially the effects that may in later life.

  4. laurenhilton December 8, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    The General Aggression Model (GAM) by Anderson and Bushman (2002) proposes that a persons thoughts, feelings and physical arousal can all be affected by playing video games. This model is supported in the research conducted by Bushman and Anderson (2002). Participants read a story about a personal conflict and they found that participants who had played a violent game described the character to have more aggressive thoughts, feelings and behaviours than those who had played a non-violent video game. This indicates that violent thoughts had been aroused in those participants playing the violent video game.

  5. Melanie Lloyd December 10, 2011 at 1:26 am #

    Really excellent blog Jess, it uses both research evidence and statistical analysis to support the argument. I find this really interesting area of investigation perphaps because I have two little boys who absolutely love their WII console and Nintendo Ds’s. As a parent I have been very concerned with monitoring their levels of play. I have to agree that my childrens behaviour following play has a tendency to lead to aggression. My boys are particularly fond of WII Dinnosaur Strike and I find after they have played one or two games they like nothing better than running after one another trying to tear each other to pieces.

    So I definitely agree with the research findings and its claims. I am also aware more recently of a new trend that is the gaming subculture where teenagers regular spend long periods on line competing against one another and I wondered whether any research has been conducted into the effects of such behaviour. I know a few teenagers who are involved in this type of activity and they definitely seem to have opted for social withdrawal preferring to be online competing. I also heard recently of something far more disturbing involving adults which I will include in this post. Two parents from Korea involved in a virtual child nurturing game neglected their own child that consequently led to death because of their obsession.


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