There is no consistently demonstrable evidence that video game violence is correlated to actual violence. Despite this fact, violence in video games is often cited as a cause of violence, especially gun violence and mass shootings. This assertion was recently raised by President Trump in response to the Parkland shootings in Florida. Most studies show little or no correlation between playing violent video games and the commission of violent acts of any kind. Some studies have shown a correlation with teenage aggression, but other studies have contradicted those findings. There is no substantial body of evidence in either direction.
Violent video games cause violence and/or gun violence
No Supporting Evidence. There have been hundreds of studies on the alleged correlation between video game violence and actual violence. These studies have almost universally found that there is no such correlation. At least one study has actually shown a reverse correlation, meaning that playing video games leads to lower actualization of physical violence. There is also no known correlation between violent shooting video games and gun violence.
In Other Words:
If anyone states that “violent video games cause violence or gun violence,” you can say with certainty that there is no evidence to support this statement. No form of actual violence has been correlated to playing video games.
Does this Mean Violent Video Games Don’t Cause Violence?
Probably, but scientific analysis rarely deals directly with causation; it deals with correlation. You can say that cigarette smoking is correlate to lung cancer, but you cannot say it causes lung cancer. The best you can say is that there is no evidence that video games cause violence or gun violence in particular.
It can be frustrating to say that there is no real answer to this question. Liberals will want to say, “Video games don’t cause violence” and conservatives will want to say, “Yes they do!”. Both sides are wrong, but this is largely irrelevant. You can’t build good policy on bad science. Creating public policies based on a complete lack of consistent evidence is nonsensical. If you want to prevent violence, in particular school violence and shootings, there is no substantial evidence that regulating video games will help. This is a distraction for solving actual real-world problems, and anyone who asserts a correlation between video games and violence is trying to distract you from the facts or another policy they dislike. Don’t let them.
March 9, 2018. If you would like to see this updated, or have new data to provide, please make your suggestion in the comments, below.
If you would like to learn more about this subject, fantastic. Please take the time to review both sides of such arguments and the facts supporting them. Here are a few resources to start with.
- Wikipedia / “Video Game Controversies“
Supporting this Answer
- Report / NAS & CDC / 2013 / “Priorities for Research to Reduce the Threat of Firearm-Related Violence.” This report does show some possible link between long-term exposure to violence (of any kind, from any source) and long-term aggressive behaviors, but nothing that correlates video games to violence directly or independently.
- Study / US Secret Service / 2004 / “The Final Report of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States:”
Over half of the attackers demonstrated some interest in violence, through movies, video games, books, and other media (59 percent). However, there was no one common type of interest in violence indicated. Instead, the attackers’ interest in violent themes took various forms. Explanation:
Approximately one-quarter of the attackers had exhibited an interest in violent movies (27 percent); Approximately one-quarter of the attackers had exhibited an interest in violent books (24 percent); One-eighth of the attackers exhibited an interest in violent video games (12 percent). The largest group of attackers exhibited an interest in violence in their own writings, such as poems, essays, or journal entries (37 percent).
In other words, only 12% of those studied showed any interest in violent video games, and even this does not equate to any causation or causal direction. It’s equally likely that their interest in violence led them to play violent video games.
- ARTICLE / Snopes / 2018 / “Trump Opens a Seemingly Settled Video Game Debate:
Some studies have shown a connection between gaming and emotional arousal, although there’s no evidence that this heightened emotional state leads to physical violence… In 2006, a small study by Indiana University found that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal, but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior… But if those changes have any impact on real-world behavior, researchers haven’t yet detected it.
Contradicting this answer
- ARTICLE / From Wikipedia article cited above:
In 2010, Anderson’s group published a meta-analysis of one hundred and thirty international studies with over 130,000 participants. He reported that exposure to violent video games caused both short-term and long-term aggression in players and decreased empathy and pro-social behavior. However, other scholars criticized this meta-analysis for excluding non-significant studies and for other methodological flaws.
Probably Irrelevant oR Distracting
- WebMD / “Violent Video Games May Not Desensitize Players“. This is the kind of misconstrued research that drives me crazy. It says nothing about actual violence in the actual world; only brain scan reactions to related stimuli after playing video games. Unfortunately, this article has been cited as evidence that video games don’t lead to violence in the real world. The study covered by the article doesn’t even address that.
Notes & Such
This is (hopefully) part of a series of short posts intended to facilitate more informed social dialog. They are not meant to be detailed essays or arguments; they are simply summaries of known facts. Rather than having to make up your own research or answer questions on Facebook or other social networks, simply paste a link to this page as your response. This ensures that we’re all dealing with the same facts, and frees you to spend time fighting for what is true and, hopefully, righteous.
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