Video Games and Violence

Do violent video games contribute to youth violence?

Why is it an issue?

97% of 12-17 year olds in the US played video games in 2008, thus fueling an $11.7 billion domestic video game industry. In 2008, 10 of the top 20 best-selling video games in the US contained violence.Violent video games have been blamed for school shootings, increases in bullying, and violence towards women. Critics argue that these games desensitize players to violence, reward players for simulating violence, and teach children that violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflicts.Video game advocates contend that a majority of the research on the topic is deeply flawed and that no causal relationship has been found between video games and social violence. They argue that violent video games may reduce violence by serving as a substitute for rough and tumble play and by providing a safe outlet for aggressive and angry feelings.

The Pros

1.Increasing reports of bullying can be partially attributed to the popularity of violent video games. The 2008 study Grand Theft Childhood reported that 60% of middle school boys who played at least one Mature-rated game hit or beat up someone, compared to 39% of boys that did not play Mature-rated games.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

2

Video games often reward players for simulating violence, and thus enhance the learning of violent behaviors. Studies suggest that when violence is rewarded in video games, players exhibit increased aggressive behavior compared to players of video games where violence is punished.

3

Violent video games desensitize players to real-life violence. It is common for victims in video games to disappear off screen when they are killed or for players to have multiple lives. In a 2005 study, violent video game exposure has been linked to reduced P300 amplitudes in the brain, which is associated with desensitization to violence and increases in aggressive behavior.

Cons

Violent juvenile crime in the United States has been declining as violent video game popularity has increased. The arrest rate for juvenile murders has fallen 71.9% between 1995 and 2008. The arrest rate for all juvenile violent crimes has declined 49.3%. In this same period, video game sales have more than quadrupled.

2

A casual link between violent video games and violent behavior has not been proven. Many studies suffer from design flaws and use unreliable measures of violence and aggression such as noise blast tests. Thoughts about aggression have been confused with aggressive behavior, and there is a lack of studies that follow children over long periods of time.

3

A 2004 US Secret Service review of previous school-based attacks found that one-eighth of attackers exhibited an interest in violent video games, less than the rate of interest attackers showed in violent movies, books, and violence in their own writings. The report did not find a relationship between playing violent video games and school shootings.