Do violent video games cause players to initiate real-life acts of aggression and violence? The question is one that’s been asked for years now, and has been the subject of a great deal of research. Opinions trend towards yes, particularly after large-scale violent acts are committed. When it comes to mass shootings, for example, politicians often hone in on the video game industry as an easy target, though researchers say such a focus may be fruitless. Overall, however, a very slim majority of Americans disagree that violent video games cause actual violence.
According to the American Psychological Association, violent video game research, though still a growing body of work, does point to behavioral changes in people who play violent video games, such as increased aggressive behavior or heightened physiological arousal.
The link between violent video games and violence has recently been interrogated in a new research study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. A key finding in the study, conducted by Dr. Agne Suziedelyte, was that, while exposure to a newly released violent video game did cause players to be increasingly agitated and potentially cause destruction to inanimate objects, that agitation did not translate into violence against people. According to Dr. Suziedelyte, that’s a key distinction:
“Taken together, these results suggest that violent video games may agitate children, but this agitation does not translate into violence against other people – which is the type of violence which we care about most.”
Dr. Suziedelyte studied boys ages 8-18, a demographic most likely to play violent video games. She specifically focused on boys playing newly released violent videos. Econometric methods were employed to highlight potential causal effects on violence. Her overall findings suggested that there was no significant increase in violence against actual people, which she attributed to the fact that most video games are played at home, causing an “incapacitation” effect, or the idea that crime prevention can occur when people are removed from a particular community.
Overall, while violent video games certainly affect a player’s behavior, there is no conclusive link suggesting they lead to violence against people.