Last updated on: 2/23/2018 12:42:12 PM PST
Do Violent Video Games Contribute to Youth Violence?
The American Psychological Association (APA), in an Aug. 13, 2015 press release titled "APA Review Confirms Link Between Playing Violent Video Games and Aggression," available from apa.org, wrote:
"The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in prosocial behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression…
[I]t is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior. The research reviewed here demonstrates that violent video game use is one such risk factor."
Aug. 13, 2015 - American Psychological Association
Donald Trump, 45th US President, stated the following in a meeting about school safety, as seen in a video titled "Trump Blames Video Games, Movies for Violence," posted on YouTube by CNN on Feb. 22, 2018:
"We have to do something about what they're [young kids] seeing and how they're seeing it. And also video games. I'm hearing more and more people say the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people's thoughts. And then you go the further step, and that's the movies. You see these movies, they're so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie if sex isn't involved, but killing is involved, and maybe we need to put a rating system for that."
Feb. 22, 2018 - Donald Trump
Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky (R), stated the following in a Feb. 15, 2018 interview with Leland Conway on iHeart Radio:
"You look at the culture of death that is being celebrated. There are video games that, yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it, and there's nothing to prevent the child from playing them. They celebrate the slaughtering of people. There are games that literally replicate and give people the ability to score points for doing the very same thing that these students are doing inside of schools, where you get extra points for finishing someone off who's lying there begging for their life. These are quote-unquote video games and they're forced down our throats under the guise of protected speech... They have desensitized people to the value of human life, to the dignity of women, to the dignity of human decency... We're training our society to kill."
Feb. 15, 2018 - Matt Bevin
Marianna King, MA, Adjunct Professor of Sociology at Colorado State University, in a Mar. 8, 2017 reader comment in response to Toni Irving's Mar. 6, 2017 article for the Philanthropy News Digest's Philanthropic blog titled "Moving the Needle on Youth Violence," wrote:
"An overlooked but highly potent factor in youth violence and gun violence is the influence of first-person shooter video games. Neuroscientific research during the past decade has shown conclusively that media violence and especially violent video games cause increased aggressive and violent behavior."
Mar. 8, 2017 - Marianna King, MA
Rory McGloin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Connecticut, Kirstie M. Farrar, PhD, Associate Professor of Communication at the University of Connecticut, and Joshua Fishlock, MA, Graduate Assistant at the University of Connecticut, wrote in an Apr. 2015 article titled "Triple Whammy! Violent Games and Violent Controllers: Investigating the Use of Realistic Gun Controllers on Perceptions of Realism, Immersion, and Outcome Aggression," for the Journal of Communication:
"In the context of a violent video game using a gun controller, not only do people see guns on screen paired with violence (the double whammy), they are also holding and firing a realistic looking firearm (the triple whammy)...
[W]e conclude that violent video games are a risk factor capable of contributing to aggression. Additionally, this research suggests that playing a realistic first-person shooter game with a firearm controller may be quite worthy of concern as a possible triple whammy risk factor for developing aggressive knowledge structures and, potentially, subsequent aggressive behavior...
This finding is of concern, given that guns play a leading role in the majority of today's most popular videogames and the industry has introduced hundreds of control devices that mimic the look, feel, and action of real-life firearms."
Apr. 2015 - Kirstie M. Farrar, PhD
Joshua Fishlock, MA
Rory McGloin, PhD
Wayne Warburton, PhD, Deputy Director of the Children and Families Research Centre at Macquarie University, wrote in the 2014 paper "Apples, Oranges, and the Burden of Proof - Putting Media Violence Findings into Context: A Comment on Elson and Ferguson (2013)," in European Psychologist:
"[I]t is absolutely irrelevant whether crime rates fall or rise when violent video game playing increases, as gaming can only ever be one of a multitude of possible factors that contribute to violent crime trends...
[M]y conclusions after carefully examining the evidence for the impact of violent video games on players' thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, are that commonly reported effects – short- and long-term increases in aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, and increases to hostile attitudes and beliefs – are demonstrated both on the balance of probabilities and beyond reasonable doubt."
2014 - Wayne Warburton, PhD
Sandra L. Calvert, PhD, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Children's Digital Media Center at Georgetown University, et al., in a Feb.-Mar. 2017 article for American Psychologist titled "The American Psychological Association Task Force Assessment of Violent Video Games: Science in the Service of Public Interest," wrote:
"Consistent with the literature that we reviewed, we found that violent video game exposure was associated with: an increased composite aggression score; increased aggressive behavior; increased aggressive cognitions; increased aggressive affect, increased desensitization, and decreased empathy; and increased physiological arousal. The size of the effects was similar to that in prior meta-analyses, suggesting a stable result."
Feb.-Mar. 2017 - Sandra L. Calvert, PhD
Victor C. Strasburger, MD, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico, and Ed Donnerstein, PhD, Professor and Dean Emeritus of Communication at the University of Arizona, wrote in an Aug. 22, 2013 article titled "The New Media of Violent Video Games: Yet Same Old Media Problems?," for Clinical Pediatrics:
"[E]ffects from playing violent video games have been shown for (a) increased aggressive behavior, (b) hostile affect, (c) physiological arousal, (d) aggressive cognitions, and (e) reductions in prosocial behavior, possibly from desensitization… In video games, the process of identification with the aggressor, active participation, repetitive actions, a hostile virtual reality, and reinforcement for aggressive actions are all strong mechanisms for the learning and retention of aggressive behaviors and attitudes."
Aug. 22, 2013 - Ed Donnerstein, PhD
Victor Strasburger, MD
Matt DeLisi, PhD, Professor of Sociology at Iowa State University, Michael G. Vaughn, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work at Saint Louis University at the time of the quote, Douglas A. Gentile, PhD, Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at Iowa State University, Craig A. Anderson, PhD, Distinguished Professor & Director of the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University, and Jeffrey J. Shook, JD, PhD, Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, wrote in their Oct. 2012 paper "Violent Video Games, Delinquency, and Youth Violence: New Evidence" in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice:
"The present data show that playing violent video games and/or having a preference for violent video games is correlated with delinquency and violence even when considering the effects of a battery of correlates of delinquency including psychopathy...
The consumption of violent media is far from innocuous, and when violent media consumption in the form of video games is viewed by adults as a 'reward' for youth to spend their free time, it can be problematic. Youth with pre-existing psychopathology are particularly at risk for the deleterious effects of violent video games."
Oct. 2012 - Craig Anderson, PhD
Matt DeLisi, PhD
Douglas A. Gentile, PhD
Jeffrey J. Shook, JD, PhD
Michael G. Vaughn, PhD
Frank Wolf, LLB, US Representative (R-VA) at the time of the quote, in a statement reported in part by Pete Kasperowicz in a Mar. 20, 2012 article for The Hill titled "House Members Call For New Labels Warning Against 'Violent' Video Games," stated:
"Just as we warn smokers of the health consequences of tobacco, we should warn parents - and children - about the growing scientific evidence demonstrating a relationship between violent video games and violent behavior... As a parent and grandparent, I think it is important people know everything they can about the extremely violent nature of some of these games."
[Editor's Note: Frank Wolf, in collaboration with US Representative Joe Baca (D-CA), introduced the bill H.R. 4204, The Violence in Video Games Labeling Act to Congress on Mar. 19, 2012 to require warning labels on violent video games.]
Mar. 20, 2012 - Frank Wolf, LLB
The American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, American Psychological Association, American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and American Psychiatric Association wrote in a July 26, 2000 "Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children" available at www.aap.org:
"Children who see a lot of violence are more likely to view violence as an effective way of settling conflicts. Children exposed to violence are more likely to assume that acts of violence are acceptable behavior.
Viewing violence can lead to emotional desensitization towards violence in real life. It can decrease the likelihood that one will take action on behalf of a victim when violence occurs.
Entertainment violence feeds a perception that the world is a violent and mean place. Viewing violence increases fear of becoming a victim of violence, with a resultant increase in self-protective behaviors and a mistrust of others.
Viewing violence may lead to real life violence. Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.
Although less research has been done on the impact of violent interactive entertainment (video games and other interactive media) on young people, preliminary studies indicate that the negative impact may be significantly more severe than that wrought by television, movies, or music."
July 26, 2000 - American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Medical Association
American Psychiatric Association (APA)
American Psychological Association
David N. Greenfield, PhD, founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said in a Sep. 20, 2013 panel discussion titled "Growing Up GTA" available at huffingtonpost.com:
"My opinion on video game violence, which has a very powerful reward system wired into it, is that continued exposure desensitizes people to the experience of violence. But the other big issue, along with the reward structure, is that it teaches them a skill set that they might not otherwise develop, especially the first person shooter games. I have a real problem with giving people, in the name of entertainment, a technology that desensitizes violence, and then teaches you how to commit violence more accurately… and then elevating people's levels of dopamine…
[T]hose studies have been absolutely supported. When you put people on a PET scanner or an functional MRI, their brain lights up like a Christmas tree when they're doing these games, especially when they hit the reward points that are designed by the gamers to… keep people gaming because that's how these games make their money.
Nothing is engaged in at the levels that I see gaming at, as a form of entertainment or dopamine elevation, unless it's a narcotic like cocaine for instance. How could you be exposed to something this toxic and have it not affect you?"
Sep. 20, 2013 - David N. Greenfield, PhD
Leland Yee, PhD, State Senator (D-CA), wrote in a June 22, 2009 amicus brief filed with the US Supreme Court for Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger:
"The interactive nature of video games is vastly different than passively listening to music, watching a movie, or reading a book. With interactive video games, the child becomes a part of the action which serves as a potent agent to facilitate violence and over time learns the destructive behavior.
This immersion results in a more powerful experience and potentially dangerous learned behavior in children and youth...
Just as the technology of video games improves at astonishing rates, so to does the body of research consistently demonstrate the harmful effects these violent interactive games have on minors. Over three thousand peer-reviewed studies, produced over a period of 30 years documenting the effects of screen violence (including violent video games), have now been published...
These data suggest very strongly that participating in the playing of violent video games by children and youth increase aggressive thought and behavior; increase antisocial behavior and delinquency; engender poor school performance; desensitize the game player to violence."
June 22, 2009 - Leland Yee, PhD
Brad J. Bushman, PhD, Professor of Communication and Psychology at The Ohio State University, stated the following in a Feb. 18, 2013 article titled "Why Do People Deny Violent Media Effects?" available at psychologytoday.com:
"People want to believe that if millions of people play violent video games and they don’t all become killers, then those games must be harmless. Unfortunately, that’s not true. We haven’t 'proven' video games directly cause violence because it can’t be proven. There is no way to ethically run experiments that see if some threshold of playing a violent game like Call of Duty may push a person into violence. But that doesn’t mean we are left without evidence. We know that video game violence is certainly correlated with violence – just like smoking is correlated with lung cancer. However, this does not mean that the research does not show causal effects; in fact it does, over and over again. We recently conducted a comprehensive review of 136 articles reporting 381 effects involving over 130,000 participants from around the world. These studies show that violent video games increase aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure), and aggressive behavior. Violent games also decrease helping behavior and feelings of empathy for others. The effects occurred for males and females of all ages, regardless of what country they lived in. So the question then becomes why people and journalists repeatedly shrug off this compelling body of work."
Feb. 18, 2013 - Brad J. Bushman, PhD
Pamela Eakes, Founder of Mothers Against Violence in America (MAVIA), wrote in an article titled "Do You Know What Video Games Your Children Are Playing?" on www.pbs.org (accessed Feb. 4, 2016):
"Parents do know that children learn by observing, imitating what they observe, and acting on the world around them. According to child psychologist Michael Rich, children develop what psychologists call 'behavioral scripts.' They interpret their experiences and respond to others using those scripts.
One can easily see how repeated exposure to violent behavioral scripts can lead to increased feelings of hostility, expectation that others will behave aggressively, desensitization to the pain of others, and an increased likelihood of interacting and responding to others with violence.
Violent video games are an ideal environment in which to learn violence. Violent video games:
* Place the player in the role of the aggressor and reward him or her for violent behavior.
* Allow the player to rehearse an entire behavioral script from provocation to choosing a violent resolution of conflict.
* Are addictive - kids want to play them for hours to improve their playing skills, and repetition increases learning."
Feb. 4, 2016 - Pamela Eakes
The American Academy of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and Media wrote in a Nov. 1, 2009 policy statement titled "Media Violence" that was published in the journal Pediatrics:
"Exposure to violence in media, including television, movies, music, and video games, represents a significant risk to the health of children and adolescents. Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed…
Correlational and experimental studies have revealed that violent video games lead to increases in aggressive behavior and aggressive thinking and decreases in prosocial behavior. Recent longitudinal studies designed to isolate long-term violent video-game effects on American and Japanese school-aged children and adolescents have revealed that in as little as 3 months, high exposure to violent video games increased physical aggression. Other recent longitudinal studies in Germany and Finland have revealed similar effects across 2 years."
Nov. 1, 2009 - American Academy of Pediatrics
Craig Anderson, PhD, Director of the Center for the Study of Violence, wrote in a 2009 article "FAQs on Violent Video Games and Other Media Violence," available from psychology.iastate.edu:
"The results, overall, have been fairly consistent across types of studies (experimental, cross-sectional, and longitudinal) and across visual media type (television, films, video games). There is a significant relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior. Exposing children and adolescents (or 'youth') to violent visual media increases the likelihood that they will engage in physical aggression against another person. By 'physical aggression' we mean behavior that is intended to harm another person physically, such as hitting with a fist or some object. A single brief exposure to violent media can increase aggression in the immediate situation. Repeated exposure leads to general increases in aggressiveness over time. This relation between media violence and aggressive behavior is causal."
2009 - Craig Anderson, PhD
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry wrote in an Aug. 2006 article "Children and Video Games: Playing with Violence" published in their Facts for Families information sheet series:
"There is growing research on the effects of videogames on children... Studies of children exposed to violence have shown that they can become: 'immune' or numb to the horror of violence, imitate the violence they see, and show more aggressive behavior with greater exposure to violence. Some children accept violence as a way to handle problems. Studies have also shown that the more realistic and repeated the exposure to violence, the greater the impact on children. In addition, children with emotional, behavioral and learning problems may be more influenced by violent images.
Children and adolescents can become overly involved and even obsessed with videogames. Spending large amounts of time playing these games can create problems and lead to... aggressive thoughts and behaviors."
Aug. 2006 - American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Christopher Ferguson, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at Stetson University, and Patrick M. Markey, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Villanova University, stated the following in their Feb. 16, 2018 article titled "Blaming Video Games for School Shootings Is Misguided, Dangerous," published at rollingstone.com:
"[T]here is no clear evidence to support claims that video games cause societal aggression or violence...
Not only is interest in violent video games rare among school shooters, these perpetrators express much less interest in this violent medium than most other individuals. If you were to enter any school in America you would find that about 70 percent of the male students habitually play violent video games... those who perpetrate acts of violence in schools are more than three times less likely to play violent video games than an average high school student."
Feb. 16, 2018 - Patrick M. Markey, PhD
Christopher Ferguson, PhD
Samuel Zeif, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor, stated the following in an interview with Wolf Blizter, as seen in a video titled "Trump Blames Video Games, Movies for Violence," posted on YouTube by CNN on Feb. 22, 2018:
"My friends and I have been playing video games our whole life and never have we ever felt driven or provoked by those actions in those games to do something as horrible as this. It's a video game. Something happens [in the game], you restart. We know that's not how life is. I think it's a distraction, the president's [Trump] trying to distract us."
Feb. 22, 2018 - Samuel Zeif
Steven Pinker, PhD, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, in an Aug. 1, 2016 interview with Aroop Mukharji for the Belfer Center's Office Hours series titled "Steven Pinker: The Impact of Violent Video Games on Kids," available from youtube.com, stated:
"If consuming violent media made you violent, then we should prevent adults from reading The Iliad, or for that matter the Old Testament. Together with Shakespearean tragedies and Godfather movies and much else...
The data show that video games have skyrocketed in popularity during exactly the historical period in which violent crime has sunk to the floor. And in the same age cohorts.
I don't think it's because that we have some hydraulic urge to violence that has to be channeled through one conduit lest it burst out into another… partly these are independent developments, partly the beneficial effect of video games may just be that if you’re playing video games you're not getting into trouble in other ways. And so the young men who are behind the screen are not out picking fights in bars or over parking spots."
Aug. 1, 2016 - Steven K. Pinker, PhD
The Entertainment Software Association, in its 2014 fact sheet titled "Essential Facts About Games and Violence" available from www.theesa.com, wrote:
"Facts, common sense and numerous studies all refute the claim that there is a link between video games and violence. Blaming video games for violence in the real world is no more productive than blaming the news media for bringing violent crimes into our homes night after night. Numerous authorities have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between media content and real-life violence...
* Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.
* Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. - and some with far more violence - are also sold in foreign markets. However, the level of violent crime in these foreign markets is considerably lower than that in the U.S., suggesting that influences such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other factors are more relevant to understanding the cause of any particular crime...
* The truth is, there is no scientific research that validates a link between computer and video games and violence, despite lots of overheated rhetoric from the industry's detractors. Instead, a host of respected researchers has concluded that there is no link between media violence and violent crime."
2014 - Entertainment Software Association
Patrick M. Markey, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at Villanova University at the time of the quote, Charlotte N. Markey, PhD, Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, and Juliana E. French, MS, Graduate Assistant at Villanova University at the time of the quote, wrote in an Aug. 18, 2014 paper titled "Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence: Rhetoric Versus Data" for Psychology of Popular Media Culture:
"Contrary to the claims that violent video games are linked to aggressive assaults and homicides, no evidence was found to suggest that this medium was a major (or minor) contributing cause of violence in the United States. Annual trends in video game sales for the past 33 years were unrelated to violent crime both concurrently and up to 4 years later. Unexpectedly, monthly sales of video games were related to concurrent decreases in aggravated assaults and were unrelated to homicides...
[H]omicides tended to decrease in the months following the release of popular M-rated violent video games...
If video games are really the equivalent of flight simulators training people to kill... it is difficult to explain why homicide rates would go down after millions of these 'murder simulators' have been sold. When the media, politicians, or researchers link the murderous rampages of male adolescents with violent video games, they are conveying a classic illusory correlation... These individuals are ignoring that 90% of young males play video games... Finding that a young man who committed a violent crime also played a popular video game, such as Call of Duty, Halo, or Grand Theft Auto, is as pointless as pointing out that the criminal also wore socks. The rhetoric about violent video games does not match the data."
Aug. 18, 2014 - Juliana E. French, MS
Charlotte E. Markey, PhD
Patrick M. Markey, PhD
John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts at the time of the quote, in a Jan. 30, 2013 earnings call transcribed by Thomson Reuters and available from shareholder.com under the title "Edited Transcript: EA - Q3 2013 Electronic Arts Inc. Earnings Conference Call," stated:
"[W]e are very confident in the quality of our content and the lack of an actual factual linkage to any of the actual violence that takes place in America or markets around the world.
There's no doubt, we like you, were stunned and horrified by the violence in Connecticut or Colorado or many other places over the years. But there has been an enormous amount of research done in the entertainment field about looking for linkages between entertainment content and actual violence, and they haven't found any. And I could give you long stories about how people in Denmark or the UK or Ireland or Canada consume as much or more violent games and violent media as they do in the United States, and yet they have an infinitely smaller incidence of gun violence.
But that's not really the point. The point is that direct studies have been done, hundreds of millions of dollars of research have been done, has been unable to find a linkage because there isn't one."
Jan. 30, 2013 - John Riccitiello
James Alan Fox, PhD, Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern University, and Monica J. DeLateur, MS, John T. Gaffney Sr. Memorial Scholar at Northeastern University, in a Dec. 2013 article for Homicide Studies titled "Mass Shootings in America: Moving Beyond Newtown," wrote:
"It is not surprising that most schoolyard shooters and many adult mass murderers played violent video games in their spare time. To be sure, violent people are often attracted to violent entertainment, on TV, in film, or through game consoles. However, the ability to document a direct causal link indicating that consuming violent entertainment leads to violent behavior has eluded social science researchers for years...
To the extent that youngsters spend endless hours being entertained by violence says more about the lack of parental supervision and control. It isn't that the entertainment media are so powerful; it is that our other institutions - family, school, religion, and neighborhood - have grown weaker with respect to socializing children... Banning violent entertainment may be an easy fix, especially when policymakers are unwilling or unable to deal with the more fundamental causes of violence."
Dec. 2013 - Monica J. DeLateur, MS
James Alan Fox, PhD
The Economist, in its Aug. 4, 2005 editorial "Chasing the Dream," available from economist.com, stated:
"The opposition to gaming springs largely from the neophobia that has pitted the old against the entertainments of the young for centuries. Most gamers are under 40, and most critics are non-games-playing over-40s. But what of the specific complaints - that games foster addiction and encourage violence? There's no good evidence for either…
Most of the research on whether video games encourage violence is unsatisfactory, focusing primarily on short-term effects. In the best study so far, frequent playing of a violent game sustained over a month had no effect on participants' level of aggression. And, during the period in which gaming has become widespread in America, violent crime has fallen by half. If games really did make people violent, this tendency might be expected to show up in the figures, given that half of Americans play computer and video games. Perhaps, as some observers have suggested, gaming actually makes people less violent, by acting as a safety valve."
Aug. 5, 2005 - The Economist
Sean Rife, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Murray State University, in a Mar. 22, 2017 article for Learn Liberty titled "Violent Video Games Do Not Cause Real-World Aggression," wrote:
"Advocates of a video game-aggression link point to meta-analyses as the strongest evidence for their view... But meta-analysis itself has come under scrutiny as of late… first, if you do an analysis of hundreds of poorly-designed studies, all you have is artfully-analyzed noise… Second, meta-analysis suffers from a phenomenon known as publication bias: because scientific papers that fail to find an anticipated result are almost never published...
Setting all that aside, there is an additional, excellent reason to reject the video game-aggression hypothesis: over the last 30 years, video game sales have skyrocketed, and the games themselves have become both (a) more realistic, and (b) more violent... And yet, over the same period... violent crime has decreased substantially... If one were to ignore warnings against inferring correlation from causation, one might be tempted to conclude that violent video games actually reduce aggression."
Mar. 22, 2017 - Sean Rife, PhD
In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 7-2 decision written by Justice Antonin Scalia on June 27, 2011, available at scotusblog.com:
"[California] cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors… California relies on the research of Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, '[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology' [quoting from Video Software Dealers Association 556 f. 3d, at 964] "
[Editor's Note: This decision overturned a law passed in California that restricted the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.]
June 27, 2011 - Brown v. EMA (485KB)
Christopher Ferguson, PhD, Associate Professor and Chair of Psychology at Stetson University, wrote in a Dec. 7, 2011 article titled "Video Games Don’t Make Kids Violent" in TIME magazine:
"Quite simply, the research just hasn't panned out. For one thing, even while video game sales have skyrocketed, youth violence plummeted to its lowest levels in 40 years according to government statistics. Secondly, it has been increasingly recognized that much of the early research on violent video games linking them to increased aggression was problematic: most studies used outcome measures that had nothing to do with real-life aggression and failed to control carefully for other important variables, such as family violence, mental health issues or even gender in many studies (boys both play more violent video games and are more aggressive). More recent research has not found that children who play violent video games are more violent than other kids, nor harmed in any other identifiable fashion. A recent longitudinal study of my own, following 165 10- to 14-year-old boys and girls over a three-year period, now in press with Journal of Psychiatric Research, finds no long-term link between violent video games and youth aggression or dating violence."
Dec. 7, 2011 - Christopher Ferguson, PhD
Lawrence Kutner, PhD, and Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, co-founders of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, wrote in their 2008 book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Violent Video Games:
"It's clear that the 'big fears' bandied about in the press - that violent video games make children significantly more violent in the real world; that children engage in the illegal, immoral, sexist and violent acts they see in some of these games - are not supported by the current research, at least in such a simplistic form. That should make sense to anyone who thinks about it. After all, millions of children and adults play these games, yet the world has not been reduced to chaos and anarchy."
2008 - Lawrence Kutner, PhD
Cheryl K. Olson, ScD
Henry Jenkins, PhD, Provost's Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, wrote in an article titled "Reality Bytes: Eight Myths about Video Games Debunked" on www.pbs.org (accessed Oct. 6, 2014):
"According to federal crime statistics, the rate of juvenile violent crime in the United States is at a 30-year low. Researchers find that people serving time for violent crimes typically consume less media before committing their crimes than the average person in the general population. It's true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers - 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do NOT commit antisocial acts.
According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's report (1.3 MB) [linked in existing question], the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to fester."
Oct. 6, 2014 - Henry Jenkins, PhD
In Video Software Dealers Association v. Schwarzenegger, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in a 3-0 majority opinion written by Consuelo Callahan, JD, on Feb. 20, 2009, available at the US Ninth Circuit Court website:
"In sum, the evidence presented by the State does not support the Legislature's purported interest in preventing psychological or neurological harm. Nearly all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology as they relate to the State's claimed interest. None of the research establishes or suggests a causal link between minors playing violent video games and actual psychological or neurological harm, and inferences to that effect would not be reasonable. In fact, some of the studies caution against inferring causation."
Feb. 20, 2009 - Video Software Dealers Association v Schwarzenegger (136 KB)
Carly Kocurek, PhD, Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities and Media Studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology, said the following in a June 2013 interview titled "Playing Video Games vs. Acts of Violence" on The Gil Gross Show, available at sparklebliss.com:
"It's easier to blame the games because the games seem like something we could regulate, we could curtail, we could take away. Whereas if we start talking about violence in the family, or bullying at schools, or things that involve human factors that gets much more complicated. We have this conversation with a lot of different types of media at a lot of different points in history... I'm sure there will be some point in the future where people say 'oh this person played video games' and everyone will say 'so what?' That's clearly not it. Reading Superman didn't do it, playing 'Call of Duty' probably wasn't the only thing going on here either.
One of my favorite studies is… on what in games made people the most aggressive or made them the most violent. There are two things. One is, when people play games they're not good at, when the game is too hard for them, people get very agitated and very upset. The other is when the technology fails. So if you're playing a game and your X-box crashes or your PC crashes you're very likely to get very angry and very upset. Those are the two things that have the most direct effect on how people respond to games and neither of those has to do with the tone or content of the game."
June 2013 - Carly Kocurek, PhD
Frank Gaskill, PhD, and David Verhaagen, PhD, Founding and Managing Partners of Southeast Psych, in an Oct. 11, 2009 article titled "Do Violent Video Games Cause Violence and Aggression?" at the Southeastpsych Blog, wrote:
"Correlations are just relationships between two variables; you can never say one causes the other. We could say that during the season when ice cream sales increase, shark attacks also increase. But we could not say the more ice cream you sell, the more you cause shark attacks.
Why would a couple of child psychologists come to the defense of violent video games? Because some legislative initiatives and public opinions across the country are based on fallacious assumptions, personal biases, political posturing and weak science. One recent systematic analysis of the research literature found 'insufficient, contradictory and methodologically flawed evidence on the association between television viewing and video game playing and aggression in children and young people with behavioral and emotional difficulties. If public health advice is to be evidence-based, good quality research is needed,' (Mitrofan, Paul, Spencer, 2009). Another extensive study found 'no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression,' (Ferguson, 2007). In fact, that same study found some positive benefits of playing violent video games, particularly improvements in visual-spatial thinking. While there are studies that find people who play violent video games may have a brief increase in violent thoughts and feelings, newer research finds that these thoughts and feelings typically last less than four minutes (Barlett, Branch, Rodeheffer, & Harris, 2009). And remember, having a violent thought is a whole lot different than actually committing violence."
Oct. 11, 2009 - Frank Gaskill, PhD
David Verhaagen, PhD
Matt Terzi, staff writer for Reverb Press, in an Aug. 18, 2015 article for Reverb Press titled "No, Video Games Do Not Cause Violence," wrote:
"Being an advocate for real-world peace and a virtual killing machine in the video game realm are not mutually exclusive...
I played through the famous, gruesomely upsetting torture scene In Grand Theft Auto V, where you, playing as the instantly-legendary character Trevor Phillips, violently torture another character. It was the most grotesque thing I'd ever encountered in a video game. But it certainly wouldn't inspire me to torture another person... far from it. If anything, it helped me better appreciate just how horrible torture is and show me, in graphic detail, precisely why torture is an archaic device of untold evil. You aren't supposed to have 'fun' torturing that man... it's supposed to make you feel disgusted and violated. And of all my countless gamer friends, I don't know a single player who didn't feel exactly that...
[U]ntil you've actually played these games, please don't pass judgment on those of us who have. And for the love of God, don't try to force these games to change because you, a person who will never play them, take issue with their content."
Aug. 18, 2015 - Matt Terzi