Video Games vs. Violence


Due to the increase in the popularity of video games over the past two decades, they are present in almost every household throughout the United States. But the new ability to create whatever designers want in a game has led to an increase in violence-based games. Due to more and more gruesome releases, people assume that the players that enjoy these games become more prone to violent lifestyles. However there are several different positions taken by researchers based on their findings.

Studies have been taking place for several years now regarding the effect of violent video games and aggressive lifestyles. Nowadays, a very large of portion of games are violence-based, whether they involve shooting, fighting, and other immoral actions. In the most recent years, this debate has heated up quite quickly due to the releases of well-known game titles such as Grand Theft Auto, The Last of Us, and Call of Duty which center gameplay on life or death and “heat of the moment” decision making. As the level of violence in video games has increased since their creation in the seventies, so has concern for the effects on those who play — especially those who spend an enormous amount of their lives doing so.

Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Do violent video games contribute to aggressive behaviors, or is it the original behaviors of the player that draw them to create recreation out of violent games? What makes this question so important is the fact that over two-thirds of American homes own video games (ESRB).

Video Games in America
Video Games in America

If violence in video games leads to a more aggressive lifestyle, a majority of American homes would be more prone to violent conduct thus creating a more aggressive culture as a whole. With gaming technology becoming more and more advanced by the day, the quality of games has been increasing and the detail and time that is put into the action has never been so engrossing. Logically, it makes sense that someone who consistently spends time ripping away at and shooting virtual people would tend to act more aggressively in situations throughout life than someone who spends their time elsewhere. Yet recent researchers have come to several conclusions that rebuke that assumption and point the origin of the aggressiveness at other factors.


This year Forbes Magazine released an article linking video game aggression not to violence, but instead, to losing. As humans, it is only normal to strive to prove dominance over others, whether physically, intellectually, etc. As with any type of game, the objective of video games is to outplay, outwit, and in the end beat the enemy team. But because there are people who spend hours on end, several days of the week attempting to improve their skills in order to win more often, players tend to view victory in a manner much more seriously than needed. When looking at sports that require all types of physical coordination, dedication, and high levels of skill, such as basketball, baseball, or lacrosse, players practice in order to excel and perform at the top of their game when the time comes to shine. Video gamers are no different. They strive for perfection so the act of losing hurts them more than anything due to the fact that all the time training feels worthless and unimportant. The final conclusion: the aggression due to video games does not come from the violence itself, but the act of losing.

On the other hand, in a study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers do in fact conclude that children who play video games may experience an increase in aggressive thoughts, which in turn, could boost their aggressive behavior. Working with boys and girls in Singapore, Craig Anderson, an Iowa State University psychologist, and his colleagues asked the children three times over a period of two years detailed questions about their video game habits. They were also given standardized questionnaires that were designed to measure their aggressive behavior and attitudes toward violence. Overall, the students’ scores on aggressive behavior, as well as hostile attitudes and fantasies about violence against others, declined only slightly throughout the study. This trend is understandable due to the fact that children tend to act less aggressively as they get older, and instead develop more mature ways of dealing with conflicts rather than lashing out. “People who play a lot of violent games change over time, they start to see aggressive solutions as being more reasonable,” ways to respond to conflict or frustration, says Craig Anderson. But a closer look at the kids who played more hours of violent video games per week revealed increases in aggressive behaviors and violent tendencies, in contrast to those who played fewer hours a week. For example, when asked if it was okay for a boy to hit another student if that student said something negative about him these kids were more likely to say yes. They also scored higher on measures of hostility, answering that they would to respond with aggressive action when provoked, even accidentally. The more long-term gamers were also more likely to fantasize about hitting someone they happened to not like. His research suggests that hours of exposure to violent media like video games can make kids react in more hostile ways compared to ones who don’t spend lots of time controller-in-hand (Park).

Yet some researchers, such as Christopher Ferguson, the chair of the psychology department for Stetson University, insist that there is not strong evidence that exposure to violent video games leads to more aggressive behavior. He notes, for example, that the rise in popularity of video gaming has not been matched by a similar rise in violent crime among adolescents who are most likely to play them. He says, studies that link violent video games to violent behavior often fail to account for other factors that can contribute to aggression, such as violence in the home, abuse, mental illness, etc (Rettner).

Relationships between Video Game Sales and Homicide and Aggravated Assualt Charges
Relationships between Video Game Sales and Homicide and Aggravated Assualt Charges

Anderson acknowledges that his own study is not perfect, and that it’s not likely to be the last word on this controversial topic.

Over the past few years there has also been a noticeably large number of school shootings across the country, with investigators sometimes blaming the shooters’ motives to be that from a video game, although there were several other influences that took part in the shaping of the killers’ mindsets. This fact has not discouraged teenagers from playing violent video games in the slightest (Park). As of March 2014, approximately 90% of children in the United States play video games, with +90% of those games involving violence and other mature content (Park).

The fine point of this continued debate, though, is that not all players of violent video games are destined to commit violent crimes. What studies like this highlight is the need for a clearer picture of the tipping point between violent games and violence, and a better understanding of how virtual influences regulate real-life behavior.


Park, Alice. “Little By Little.” Time. Time, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Relationships between Video Game Sales and Homicide and Aggravated Assualt Charges. Digital image. GameSpot, 19 Sept. 2014. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.

Rettner, Rachael. “Do Violent Video Games Boost Aggression? Study Adds Fire to Debate.” Fox News. FOX News Network, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Tassi, Paul. “At Long Last, Video Game Aggression Linked To Losing, Not Violence.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 02 Nov. 2014.

Video Game Industry Statistics. Digital image. Entertainment Software Rating Board, n.d. Web.

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