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One of the most common criticisms of video games are that they allegedly increase violent tendencies among youth (Anderson & Bushman, 2001; Funk, Hagan, Schimming, Bullock, Buchman & Myers, 2002; Gentile & Anderson, 2003.) Several major studies by groups such as The Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health, The Journal of Adolescent Health, and The British Medical Journal have shown no conclusive link between video game usage and violent activity. However, Kutner and Olson do state "On the other hand, reports of bullying are up ... our research found that certain patterns of video game play were much more likely to be associated with these types of behavioral problems than with major violent crime such as school shootings."[1][2][3]. One of the first widely accepted controversial video games was developer Exidy's 1976 title Death Race, in which players controlled cars that ran over pixelated representations of "gremlins". The game caused such an outcry that it was pulled from store shelves and profiled on 60 Minutes. Long Island Parent-Teacher Association president Ronnie Lamm pushed for legislation in the early 1980s to place restrictions on how close video game arcades could be to schools, asserting that they caused children to fight.

Portrayals of violence allegedly became more realistic with time, and so politicians such as U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman conducted hearings during the 1990s regarding what he referred to as "violent video games" which, in his opinion, included such games as Mortal Kombat. His sentiments have been echoed by certain researchers, such as Dr. Craig A. Anderson who testified before the Senate, "Some studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques [it shows that] violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased pro-social (helping) behavior."[4] Anderson himself was later criticized in a 2005 video game court case for failing to cite research that differed from his view. [5] Much of the research has been criticized for overstating effects, ignoring negative results and using unstandardized and unreliable measures of aggression. [6]


Former attorney Jack Thompson has filed lawsuits against the makers of violent games, alleging the simulated violence causes real-world violence.

These concerns have led to voluntary rating systems adopted by the industry, such as the ESRB rating system in the United States and the PEGI rating system in Europe, that are aimed at informing parents about the types of games their children are playing (or are asking to play). Certain game publishers’ decision to have controversial games rated seems to show that they are not targeted at young children.[How to reference and link to summary or text] They are ESRB rated as "Mature" or "Adults Only" in the US, or given BBFC ratings of 15 or 18 in the UK. The packaging notes that these games should not be sold to children. In the US, ESRB ratings are not legally binding, but many retailers take it upon themselves to refuse the sale of these games to minors. In the UK, the BBFC ratings are backed up by law, so it is actually illegal to sell the game to anyone under the indicated age, and many UK retailers go beyond that and also enforce the PEGI ratings, which are not backed up by law.

Lt. Col. David Grossman, a former United States Military Academy psychology professor, has written several books that pertain to the subject of violence in the media, including On Killing and Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill. During heights of video game controversy he has been interviewed on the content of his books, and has repeatedly used the term "murder simulator" to describe first-person shooter games. He argues that video game publishers unethically train children in the use of weapons and, more importantly, harden them emotionally to the act of murder by simulating the killing of hundreds or thousands of opponents in a single typical video game.

Some studiesTemplate:Which? have shown that children who watch violent television shows and play violent video games have a tendency to act more aggressively on the playground, and some people[attribution needed] are concerned that this aggression may presage violent behavior when children grow to adulthood. A study by A. Crag et al. says "The 14-year-old boy arguing that he has played violent video games for years and has not ever killed anybody is absolutely correct in rejecting the extreme “necessary and sufficient” position, as is the 45-year-old two-pack-a-day cigarette smoker who notes that he still does not have lung cancer. But both are wrong in inferring that their exposure to their respective risk factors (violent media, cigarettes) has not causally increased the likelihood that they and people around them will one day suffer the consequences of that risky behavior." [7] [8]

Other studies, however, reach the conclusion that violence in video games is not causally linked with aggressive tendencies. This was the conclusion of a 1999 study by the U.S. government, prompting Surgeon General David Satcher to say, "We clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior. But the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that’s where the science is."[9] A meta-analysis by psychologist Jonathan Freedman, who reviewed over 200 published studies and found that the "vast and overwhelming majority" did not find a causal link, also reached this conclusion.[10]. A US Secret Service study found that only 12 percent of those involved in school shootings were attracted to violent video games, while 24 percent read violent books and 27 percent were attracted to violent films.[11] An Australian study found that only children already predisposed to violence were affected by violent games.[12]

Currently, some educators have begun to address "the controversy over the effects of violent gameplay on gamers" and have also discussed ways in which teachers might incorporate video games into their classrooms, as is the subject of the book Playing to Learn: Video Games in the Classroom written by a Ph.D. at Brock University.[13]

After conducting a two-year study of more than 1,200 middle-school children about their attitudes towards video games, Harvard Medical School researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson found that playing video games did not have a particularly negative effect on the researched group.[14]

See also

References & Bibliography

  1. Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, Lawrence Kutner PhD and Cheryl K. Olson ScD
  2. "Video Games and Real Life Agression", Lillian Bensely and Juliet Van Eenwyk, Journal of Adolescent Health, vol. 29, 2001
  3. "Video Games and Health", Mark Griffiths, British Medical Journal vol. 331, 2005
  4. Anderson, Craig (2003). Violent Video Games: Myths, Facts, and Unanswered Questions.
  5. ESA v Blogojevich. (PDF)
  6. Kutner & Olson (2008). Grand Theft Childhood.
  8. includeonly>Lynch, Paul. "[ The Effects of Violent Video Game Habits on Adolescent Aggressive Attitudes and Behaviors.]" (PDF), Society for Research in Child Development, April 2001. (in English)
  9. includeonly>Wright, Brad. "Sounding the alarm on video game ratings",, 2004-02-18. Retrieved on 2007-12-10.
  10. includeonly>Williams, Ian. "US teen violence study exonerates video games", IT Week, 2007-03-06. Retrieved on 2007-12-10.
  11. (2002). Safe School Initiative Final Report. (PDF) U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education.
  12. Study: Kids Unaffected by Violent Games. Wired.
  13. Associate Professor David Hutchison, "Video Games in Schools? Some Practical Advice for Teachers and Students," Game Informer 173 (September, 2007): 60.
  14. Video games don't create killers, new book says

Key texts



  • Anderson, C., & Dill, K. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 772-790.
  • Bushman, B., & Anderson, C. (2002). Violent video games and hostile expectations: A test of the General Aggression Model. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1679-1686.
  • Deselms, J., & Altman, J. (2003). Immediate and prolonged effects of videogame violence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 33, 1553-1563.

Additional material



External links