The Relationship between Video Games and Aggressive Behaviour

Written By Anna Jasinski, DaBR Journalist

When you think of video games, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For some, it is different titles of games, characters, and the overall positive side of the gaming world. But for others, it is negative revolving around an age-old stereotype that video games cause aggressive and violent behaviour. This has even been in the media with influential members of society commenting on the perception that video games cause negative behaviour changes such as politicians commenting, “I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.” This was during a meeting, in which officials were present, which occurred after the Parkland school shooting that CNN  reported on.  But are video games actually contributing to ‘priming’ behaviours towards aggression and violence?

Numerous studies have been published showing how video games cause aggression and others countering it. As the gaming community continues to grow, violent video games have been in poor public light. With the increase in school shootings and the coverage that video games have an influential part in these acts of violence, a study conducted in 2004 shows almost the exact opposite. “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative” report by the United States Secret Service and the Department of Education showed that only 12% of the attackers had an interest in violent video games. Many government officials have stepped in placing blame on video games such as Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick who stated, “Many [students] have lost empathy to their victims by watching hours and hours of video, violent games.” However, psychology professor, Chris Ferguson, at Stetson University disagrees saying that there is no evidence that playing video games leads to criminal behaviours or even lower aggression such as bullying. 

Recent Research

In 2017, a study conducted by researchers in Germany, primarily in the psychology field, challenged the previously suggested thought that video games cause increased aggressive behaviours in players due to the desensitization of violence leading to a lack of empathy. Compared to the previous study, this study focused on long-term excessive gaming habits of 15 users with violent games such as Call of Duty for at least 4 years and at least 2 hours per day. The participants were asked how they felt in situations that were presented in photographs and as they gave answers, their brains were scanned by fMRI machines and then compared with non-gamers. The results suggest that long-term exposure to violent video games does not show desensitization and lack of empathy and may only be acute and short in terms of the occasional gamer.

This year, new research has found that video games do not ‘prime’ individuals to have certain behaviours or changes in behaviours. York University conducted a series of experiments with more than 3,000 participants and compared the studies to previously done research before evidence was conclusive. Although this study was only conducted on adults, the findings suggest that there is no link between video games and the presumed effect that they are thought to have on players.

Video games, like many forms of art, show and depict violence whether subtly or to the extreme, though, with recent research studies and government involvement, there has been no proven link between violent video games and increased aggression/violent behaviour in players.

What do you think about violent video games? Are they responsible for changes in behaviour? Let us know your opinion and please feel free to leave a comment!