Do Video Games Make You Violent? An In-Depth Analysis

By Jason Schreier on January 17, 2013, 8:29 PM

This week, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to dedicate $10 million toward studying the effects of violent media—including games, which he singled out during a speech Wednesday morning.

In the wake of last month's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school—and the revelation that killer Adam Lanza had enjoyed shooter games like Call of Duty—violent video games have again become a significant topic in national conversation. And as part of a bigger plan to fight gun violence, Obama wants to see more studies on how games affect our behavior.

But do we really need more research? What about the studies that have already been done? Have researchers found any links between video games and violence? Will violent video games really make kids more aggressive? Or is this all just a massive waste of time and money?

Read the complete article.




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Matt12345170 Matt12345170 said:

Personally, violent video games don't make me more violent in the slightest (I also don't really enjoy games like COD anyways)...but I can see how they might have an effect on some people.

1 person liked this | ikesmasher said:

Its not the games, its the age of the people that play them...the little kids play them, which isnt healthy. Parents shouldn't buy little 10 year old jimmy a mature rated FPS...and then let him use a headset to which he is exposed to the crap talk of a bunch of immature 21 year olds, seeing as the intelligent gamers on consoles (which are the majority gamers, lets face it) dont use mics in game chat very often.

1 person liked this | psycros psycros said:

Of course playing violent, competitive games brings out aggressive tendencies. Note that I say <I>brings out</I>. If its not already there to begin with, the player will typically give up on PvP playstyles at some point, if they ever tried them in the first place. Only the people who derive pleasure from dominating others will become hard-core fans of "deathmatch" and "arena" play. This includes team-based PvP, incidentally: there's very little actual teamwork happening in those kinds of online sessions. Furthermore, since every FPS I know of has been an R-rated experience for about five years now, this only amplifies the antisocial effect on players. Single player gaming is a whole different matter. Even though many recent RPGs are quite violent and essentially R-rated themselves, the vast majority of players aren't negatively affected. Its really the witch's brew of anonymous competition and ultra-violence that brings out the worst in people - but those people <I>want</I> that kind of rush.

ferrellsl said:

Not a very scientific study and if anything, it only shows that people who play violent video games are somewhat inclined to write violent endings to already violent stories.

What's next? A drive to have violent books, magazines, video, etc.....censured by the Thought Police because they might induce violence?!! Please....people are violent because they make a conscious choice, not because there's some sort of subliminal hypnosis going on that makes them commit violent acts. If things really worked that way, we'd already be slaves to governments and corporations who have already tried sliding subliminal audio and imagery into just about every form of media....didn't work for them, doesn't work for clowns like this who want to implement stricter gun controls.

mailpup mailpup said:

From the article:

But do we really need more research? What about the studies that have already been done? Have researchers found any links between video games and violence? Will violent video games really make kids more aggressive? Or is this all just a massive waste of time and money?
I don't know but one thing you can count on, if there is any waste of time and money to be done, the government will do it.

Royalgok said:

Of course they do, in the same vein that people who play Sims all become city planners and Monopoly players are all millionaires..

Gun violence is abominable. But putting the blame on videogames is just silly. The problem lies in a society which allows individuals such easy access to firearms with little or no oversight and control. It exposes a basic flaw in the way things are. Instead of curbing this glaring issue the US government yet again looks wildly around and settles on the first thing it lays eyes on.

I's like to point out that the Japanese play plenty of games as much as you Americans do (if not more) but I do not see many incidents such as Sandy Hook taking place there..

Apologies for my English. It is not my first language.

Guest said:

I would agree 100% with some that already said it. There is some that this WOULD bring out aggression tendencies. I would most would not, but the few that do it would defintly have a "trigger" effect, pardon the pun.

Guest said:

@Royalgok

Guns are not "toys" in Asia like they are in America... silly kids and their guns.

1 person liked this | amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

But putting the blame on videogames is just silly.

It's not nearly as silly or ridiculous as this statement:

"The problem lies in a society which allows individuals such easy access to firearms with little or no oversight and control."

Guest said:

Any single player game keeps me the normal cool header person that I am.

However. WHen I play online I become a horrible person. As in, I get filled with rage, even when I am winning

TS-56336 TS-56336 said:

Not even close. Though honestly, it made me commit a petty crime (e.g Pickpocketing). Fallout 3 made me do that! LOL

1 person liked this | Royalgok said:

But putting the blame on videogames is just silly.

It's not nearly as silly or ridiculous as this statement:

"The problem lies in a society which allows individuals such easy access to firearms with little or no oversight and control."

Do you deny that the US has a definite gun culture? I know for a fact that the US Federal Assault Weapons Ban has expired and no attempt to renew it has even reached the house for vote. Many states require no permit nor registration for gun ownership. Let's focus on the fact that the sole purpose of most firearms is to kill/maim beasts/beings. Where I live in, you never hear a news story where a maniac with a gun rampaged around public places killing innocent bystanders. That's because guns are not as widespread in here as in many western nations. My point is that instead of curbing the spread of the CAUSE, the US government is again looking for excuses to either hide or overlook the fact that many US citizens have easy access to firearms. I am not bashing America at all, merely pointing out that blaming media and videogames for an inherent flaw in the society is BS.

Guest said:

Some weeks after my six year old nephew played modern warfare 3, told a another kid in his school that he'll shoot him. The concerned teacher called his parents and warned them not to let the child play violent games and movies.

1 person liked this | cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I couldn't read passed the following statement.

In other words, playing Call of Duty makes you want to fight.
It's not the game that makes a person want to fight, it's wanting to fight that makes the person want to play the game. It's not the gun that kills, it's the person holding the gun that kills. It's not the game that spawns violence, it's the person playing the game that spawns violence. The question is how capable each and every one of us are at committing a violent act.

These little fun and games exercises are ridiculous. Anyone with half a brain could have predicted the outcome, before the exercise started.

1 person liked this | Royalgok said:

Some weeks after my six year old nephew played modern warfare 3, told a another kid in his school that he'll shoot him. The concerned teacher called his parents and warned them not to let the child play violent games and movies.

Your 6-year old nephew.

Are you perhaps not aware that Modern Warfare 3 is rated Mature (17+) by ESRB?

That means "It has content that may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. Games with this rating are generally considered appropriate for players 17 years of age and older."

So who is at fault here? The videogame maker who has a printed clear warning from a non-profit rating organisation saying that the content is appropriate only for adults, or the boy's parents who are so irresponsible they do not check what they are exposing their son to?

Business Direct Business Direct said:

George W. Bush singed off on funding a $1.5 million study to determine the negative effects of video games. One conclusion was that preventing children from playing violent video games (or any other activity popular among their peers) resulted in social isolation which effected their behaviour more.

I'm not sure if the Columbine shooters played games I got the impression that games were not a big part of their lives but the Virginia Tech shooter actually found video games revolting. So now what?

Do race car movies make kids drive recklessly? Maybe. Do video games make kids temporarily act aggressively? Sure, OK. Does omitting individuals based on physical characteristics cause considerable harm? Yup. There are a million different ways we suck and simply blaming everything on video games is simplistic at best and ignorant at worst.

TechGamer TechGamer said:

Personal thing ive been playing call of duty and they do make u violent but not the ingame content makes u violent its when u get nervous and cant stop dieng that makes u feel like u wonna destroy the world of that instant

Guest said:

So following their logic, if I play racing simulators and card games, I want to race others on the road in reality, causing huge accidents and attacking them with playing cards being used as throwing devices?

My local neighbourhood must be very fortunate then, as I have no car and no set of playing cards to hand!

Any stimulation from books; tv; computer games etc. is likely to give people thoughts on what they just experienced, especially people with vivid imaginations. However, failing to seperate fantasy from reality and then acting out such aggressive actions is a mental health disorder.

Guest said:

Violent videos games help me cope with stress. Alcohol on the other hand makes me violent.

63Jax said:

This shit only happens in USA, the rest of the world doesn't become violent due to playing games for kids.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

This **** only happens in USA, the rest of the world doesn't become violent due to playing games for kids.
My my, are we in denial or just plain arrogant? Seriously, the rest of the world is no different? You will find violence in every populated area of the world, regardless of whether they just so happen to play games.

ShadowDeath said:

Truth be told I don't think so. I am a product of the 80s. My first game console was a passed down Atari 2600, later on I had a Sega Genesis with nothing but fighting games and sonic games. Now says I still play battlefield games, Batman games, Half-Life series, even Payday: The Heist. If anything they're more stress relief than anything else. While in middle and high school I would go home and play these games while my peers were busy getting arrested and transferred to Juvenile Hall.

Personally I believe this whole debate is the product of parents not wanting to take credit for their part in raising their children.

Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Really?! 10 Million is being wasted on research about Violent video games and real life violence?!

Fact of the matter is you've got to be a little bit messed in the head to walk into a school and shoot everybody, a video game will not force you to do this, the most a video game could do is suggest such a practice if the game has a violent enough story, but so do films and books (and music) so I'm pretty sure there's nothing to worry about.

That's all there is to it, why on earth would game developers develop games that force you to kill people in real life?

Wait a second, they're not forcing anybody! wow took me 5 seconds to work that out, guess 10 MILLION (seriously, 10,000,000) won't need to be wasted...

Kang0808 said:

Yes. Violence comes from the animal nature of human. People killing/ fighting each other happens since the begin of our ancestors. There is no guilty on the Video games. Murderers just want to find an excuse and shirk their responsibility and shift the blame onto the games. There is nothing wrong with games. At least, I play shoot games but haven't committed any crime.

Guest said:

I agree with other posters that children playing adult rated games under age might be an issue (mainly due to the exposure of older players). Other than that, the whole issue is blatantly a highly subjective one and any attempt to perform a such study with the aim of reaching a definative conclusion/solution (clearly likely given source) is doomed to fail in the long term.

treetops treetops said:

All I know is that level where you shoot civilians at a airport in modern ware 2 aint right, it gives crazy people bad ideas.

Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

If I play violent video games & feel violent tendencies coming on I simply go & watch a few episodes of Pinkie & the Brain to deduce where they went wrong in their quest to take over the world then modify my own plan for taking over the world.

This subject has been discussed to death numerous times and I feel it's all to do with with the individuals themselves.

It's a touchy subject I know & we all have our personal feeling about it but there is no conclusive evidence that violent games & movies are the real culprits. The real culprit is the offenders weak state of mind at the time of the offence but bear in mind I'm just the average layman with no qualifications to diagnose the problem, It's just my view.

Guest said:

The most innocent title can cause an adverse situation.

That is why we need good parenting to act as a counter balance. Far too many gaming titles have dodgy morals and that is a big no no. ME3 & GTA are fine examples.

Games (as yet) does not spew the same amount of filth as Hollywood but I fear things are changing for the worse.

Arsh_505 said:

Been playing games since I was 12 and in last 14 years it has not made me any violent, as a matter of fact I can not even see extreme violence in movies. I still love games. We humans always have to blame something or someone but never our selves.

Guest said:

Does violent video games desensitize a child? Yes, but as a parent you should keep tabs on them to make sure that it is not real and look for odd behavior.

Really, I think that playing video games doesn't make you violent but you tend to let off some steam if you get pwned repeatedly if you're a noob to a game or if the child's mom and dad says, no more games for the day, "Johnny".

Wizwill said:

I suggest reading the SiFi novel "Ender's Game". It is a few years old but tells a chilling tale quite apropos to the article's premise.

I also think a close examination of the links between 1st person shooter game makers and military sniper recruiters might be in order.

misor misor said:

No, it does not.

we already had brutal wars (world and race/ethnic/religion/beliefs) even before the advent of "violent video games".

however, I believe that "violence-prone" people have greater tendencies to like violent video games.

Jcanno0759 said:

Won't be able to play madden any more because it causes head injuries

gamoniac said:

Its not the games, its the age of the people that play them...the little kids play them, which isnt healthy. Parents shouldn't buy little 10 year old jimmy a mature rated FPS...and then let him use a headset to which he is exposed to the crap talk of a bunch of immature 21 year olds, seeing as the intelligent gamers on consoles (which are the majority gamers, lets face it) dont use mics in game chat very often.

Well said.

LukeDJ LukeDJ said:

I once played a game of Battlefield 3, and I killed a guy, so I went and killed a guy in real life cos' the game made me," said no one ever.

Guest said:

We all are capable of violence and we are all capable of love. Games, Movies, Media, etc. can't make us act one way or another this is a choice we make within ourselves however these things can and do influence us. I find if I play some violent games here and there it's no big deal however if I overdo it, I do get more irritable. I guess some of these questions become a chicken and egg type of question, which comes first violence or violent tendencies? As far as the recent shootings, I believe the answer is to have a more supportive mental health plan rather than eliminate all "bad" things.

1 person liked this | Guest said:

Does Cartoons make Americans violent?? Hhhmmm...! Anyways, Video Games are the scape goat of sick indolent american kids who lacks proper parental guidance and role models.

If video games make one belligerent... then so does being swindled an inch from my "Foot Long" by Sub-way.

1 person liked this | davislane1 davislane1 said:

Video games are not, nor have they ever been, the problem. The problem is the culture and (poor) parenting that creates violent, aggressive individuals who are completely devoid of empathy and self-control. The sooner people figure this out the sooner we will be able to devise meaningful solutions that have a real impact. Until then, expect the typical knee-jerk reactions by voters/politicians/academics/etc. to accomplish exactly what they've always accomplished: not much of anything.

rculver9056 rculver9056 said:

The US government is just avoiding the massive outrage that a ban on certain types of guns would cause because of whichever of your Amendments it is (I forget, sorry) that covers the "right to take up arms".

When it was written (and in the context in which it is was written - I.e. after a war), wasn't it possibly meant as "the right to take up arms _against a common enemy_" anyway...?

They are just seriously skating around the real issues here - no grubby politician who wants to keep their position will want to get in on THAT debate!

Perhaps they should also take care of parents who (as others have already stated) allow their under-age kids to play this stuff, and then complain that their kids are playing this stuff.

I also agree with the comments that the games don't make you violent - you need the tendency to want to hurt / maim / kill to play them.

I have played GTA4, but have so far managed to resist the urge to drive a vehicle into a load of people in the street, or go on a gun rampage (though the kids in the cities over here seem to prefer stabbing each other anyway...).

People are the problem. It's just that when either they get faced with the consequences, or their parents feel the need to defend their actions, it is a reason: "The video game made me him it! He was as gentle as a lamb before that!"

I'll leave it at that, but just end with saying that the first comment I made here is no way meant as anti-American. Very anti-government though. Including our own lying, cheating, thieving bastard government who skate around issues in exactly the same manner...

Guest said:

Im sure this has already been said but little kids dont need to be playing M rated games. This is a rating there for a reason. Do video games make someone "violent?" IMO, no. Maybe for children who don't know any better who lack actual parenting. I mean, you might get pissed and throw the controller or punch your tv, but that does not cause someone to go shoot people. If the question is "Do video games INSPIRE people to become violent?" I would say hardly... but movies are much much more effective as an "inspiration" than any video game these days. What I mean by inspiration, if you haven't already guessed is this: A mentally ill child/teenager/ or even "adult" watches...say...The Dark Knight (2nd batman movie with the Joker) then they might be "inspired" by what Heath Ledger's character, the Joker, does. I can't tell you how many times I've heard the Joker's "it's all part of the plan" philosophy. That same philosophy a mentally ill person could easily take too far. In video games, the characters hardly have any reasoning or thoughts for what they do... their either obviously good or bad and there's no question about it. With that being said, IMO, the anti-violence hammer needs to be slammed down on movies, not video games.

Guest said:

Oops

that*** lack actual parenting.

Guest said:

The reality behind the subject matter is all tied into politics, scaretactics and diversion. Never mind the fact that these crazy kids are able to aquire guns because they're littered around the country, no.. let's blame video games. Yes, we (the gamers) are (as you say) sick and tired of hearing about all these ****** that are trying to make games the new devil. Articles like these are just made to troll for debates. :p

davislane1 davislane1 said:

The US government is just avoiding the massive outrage that a ban on certain types of guns would cause because of whichever of your Amendments it is (I forget, sorry) that covers the "right to take up arms".

When it was written (and in the context in which it is was written - I.e. after a war), wasn't it possibly meant as "the right to take up arms _against a common enemy_" anyway...?

2nd Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. The amendment is intended to restrict the government's powers by forbidding them from seizing weapons from citizens. It's based not on the right to "take up arms against a common enemy," but on the right to defend one's self from an agressor (be this a home invader, mugger, etc., or even the gov't itself).

As this relates to the government not banning certain types of guns... It is not their place to do so (as established by the Second Amendment and the fact that it would end political careers). Although I agree that they need to take meaningful action instead of playing politics, none of the proposals from so-called "serious" gun-control leaders would do anything but create a false sense of security (see: wouldn't meaningfully impact net gun crime).

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Im sure this has already been said but little kids dont need to be playing M rated games. ... ... Maybe for children who don't know any better who lack actual parenting.
I really do get tired of hearing these types of comments. Has anyone ever considered the possibility that if its not safe for kids, then it may not be safe for adults either? If there is anything you want a kids to strive toward possessing, tell them they can't have it until they turn of age. Restricting kids from anything is one sure fire way of making sure they strive toward a goal of no longer having the restriction.

And the parenting thing, some kids grow up to spite their parents regardless of how they were raised. Pointing a finger at parents is as absurd as pointing a finger at games.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

And the parenting thing, some kids grow up to spite their parents regardless of how they were raised. Pointing a finger at parents is as absurd as pointing a finger at games.

Only if all of cognitive psychology is wrong. Video games are a consumer item...They expose children to ideas and concepts. Parents and the culture they choose to immerse their children in determine how that exposure is processed and and later applied. Statistical outliers who develop away from the mean are hardly a refutation of the general theory.

1 person liked this | TorturedChaos, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

For those who are disusing the 2nd Amendment of the US Constitution here is the exact text:

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

To me that says I should have the right to own any weapon to defend my self and family from other individuals, outside threats, and even our own gov't.

As for all this discussion of whether not violent video games lead to more aggressive behavior - I personally do not think it by itself does, and that their are too many variables in any experient to draw a definitive conclusion. To property test this you would have to bring in a group of children with the same age, race, moral and ethical background, home life, personalities, etc - ie: clones of each other. If "Timmy" shows more aggressive behavior after playing violent video games, then there must be a connection! Lets not take into account that Timmy is already a rather aggressive kid who's father is a **** and yells at him every night. Or that Bob doesn't show an increase in aggressive behavior, but it wasn't taken into account that both his parents are pacifist who are very polite and well manor, along with their son. Overall, their are too many variables to diffidently test this.

And IMO I think it has to do more with the patently and the child's home life. I have been exposed to violent media a fair amount in my life, and probably some of it too young. I was bullied, I had/have plenty of access to firearms, but I never had the urge to shoot of my school. I am not considered an aggressive person my my friends and co-workers.

Someone was arguing that more gun control would fix this. I disagree. The area I live in a semi-rural area. Just about every house hold has a firearm or six. Hunting is state-wide pass time, and is more or less a month long holiday here. Asking time off for hunting is perfectly normal, and most business slow way down during hunting season (except the sporting good stores :P). Everyone of my friend who was raised here owns a gun, and by the age of 10 knew how to shoot it and was instructed in proper gun safety. There has never been a school shooting in my state.

cliffordcooley cliffordcooley, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Video games are a consumer item...They expose children to ideas and concepts.
Children expose children to ideas and concepts. Hardly something you can blame on a specific parent, when a completely different parent in the same school was the weak link. What makes matters worse is the thought of how many years these ideas and concepts have been circulating. You see it's not something any one parent can control.

rculver9056 rculver9056 said:

Ok, I sort of missed the whole point of the 2nd Amendment...It was some time ago that I read them and I'd forgotten those points (well, the whole point really!).

My apologies for not researching first.

And I agree that anyone should be able to defend their home, thier families and themselves. Over here, if someone breaks in the best you can do is watch them rob you....Or was that revised recently as well...? lol...Off to do some reading I think...

2 people like this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I laugh when I see all the studies showing "proof" of aggression being sweating, rising blood pressure, accelerated breathing, etc. Guess what? People get that way playing Monopoly, Chess, Checkers and Bridge.

I had to get near the end of the article before I saw the definitive word on this - competition. It's competition that makes the game a game. People don't mow down other people in CoD because they get a hard-on looking at the blood splatters - it's because they're winning the competition.

I have no doubt that adventure/action games and movies generates aggressiveness. After I saw the Matrix I wanted to jump into that world big-time and become a kung-fu, machine gunnin' fool. But that lasted about 5 minutes because I'm a normal, rational human being.

Tens of millions play computer games each and every day. And at the end of their play session they don't grab some guns and head to the nearest school for a little blood-letting. The politicians - wanting to make themselves look like they're doing something - want an easy scapegoat, so they conveniently point fingers at games and movies. Because addressing the real problem, which is mental illness and gun security is too hard

How about we not blame the 160 million people who play games and manage to get along just fine in life for the actions of 6 (who are coincidentally broken inside) that commit these heinous crimes against humanity?

davislane1 davislane1 said:

Children expose children to ideas and concepts. Hardly something you can blame on a specific parent, when a completely different parent in the same school was the weak link. What makes matters worse is the thought of how many years these ideas and concepts have been circulating. You see it's not something any one parent can control.

Your premise is correct, but I have a difficult time agreeing with your conclusion.

Here's my argument: Children are exposed to ideas and concepts throughout their development. While it is true that parents cannot exert an absolute control over what their children are exposed to, they do exert a primary influence by (1) choosing the dominant culture that their children are exposed to, (2) identifying positive and negative influences and attempting to eliminate the latter, and (3) teaching their children effective coping skills through both direct and indirect communication (which enables them to effectively handle peer pressure, cultural and interpersonal conflicts, emotions, etc.). As a result, effective parenting plays a major role in shaping non-genetic cognitive factors; most significantly, as it pertains to the discussion topic, the the ability to empathize and establish a rational sense of morality.

Does this mean that parents can simply mold children's minds into whatever they deem desirable with proper shrewdness and savvy? No. Outside influences are too numerous to effectively mitigate and "ruling with an iron fist" would undermine individuality and likely cause the child to rebel, both points you've touched on. Moreover, genetic factors are completely uncontrollable. If someone is born with a sociopathic personality, you won't be able to deprogram it by showing them how great altruism is or by going full medieval and quite literally beating Jesus into them.

Nevertheless, parenting still plays the lead role in early childhood and adolescent development because effective parenting nurtures beneficial cognitive skills and mitigates negative ones. As such, it is not a trivial aspect of the problem. By contrast, video games are a trivial influence because they do not attempt to exert their influence upon users, they just provide a consumable (fantasy). How that fantasy is digested depends on individual cognition, which we've determined is highly affected by parenting.

Therefore, blaming bad parenting for producing bad apples is not silly, as is the practice of blaming the crop on video games. The criticism isn't faultless by any means, but it is far more worthwhile to investigate than this tripe about violence in media.

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