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Is there a correlation between violent video games and aggression?

Aurelia

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#1
In other words, does playing (competition-based) violent video games cause people (particularly, youth and adolescents) to display more aggressive behavior and develop more aggressive personality traits? Why or why not?

All right, you caught me. I have to write a paper about this topic, and I figured why not use some of your guys' opinions and ideas to develop ideas for my paper? :P

But no, seriously, I'm curious about what you all think. My opinion on the matter is that there are many variables involved here, which may or may not affect aggressive behavior.

For example:

1. Were they or were they not already displaying aggressive behavior regularly before playing violent video games?
2. How much time do they spend playing violent video games?
3. What is their family dynamic like? Is the family neglectful, supportive, aggressive, overprotective, etc.? Is there proper communication present between family members?
4. What is their social dynamic like? Do they have friends? What type of people are they friends with? Are a majority of their friends fellow online gamers whom they've never actually met? Do they go out and socialize often? Do they have trouble socializing?
5. Do they have any kind of psychological issues? i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.

All of these variables and more directly influence how and when people will act more aggressively after playing violent video games. Therefore, it is not ever a DIRECT cause of aggressive behavior, but it's possible that under certain conditions, it may exacerbate the situation.
 

Ixtab

Well-Known Member
#2
Of course not. Violent people are violent, video games have nothing to do with it. They don’t have the power to turn a moral kid into violent killer any more than tv or soda. That’s a cop out people are responsible for their actions not the entertainment they interest or anything fictional.
 

Aurelia

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#3
Of course not. Violent people are violent, video games have nothing to do with it. They don’t have the power to turn a moral kid into violent killer any more than tv or soda. That’s a cop out people are responsible for their actions not the entertainment they interest or anything fictional.
Right, I completely agree. However, imagine a 12 year old who has a fucked up family, has conduct disorder (which is a polite way of saying "your kid is probably going to become a sociopath when he grows up"), and trouble forming healthy relationships. And he's introduced to violent video games, which he plays all day long to try to avoid acting out. It's possible in this case that it will have some kind of affect on his personality. I think, anyway. But that doesn't mean that it was a direct cause of his behavior; it was simply another variable amongst many others.

Also, consider the fact that prosocial and cooperative, non-violent video games can sometimes have positive effects on adolescents. Or how educational video games can have positive effects on toddlers' emotional development and cognition.
 

Lux

Outrageously Awesome
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#4
I saw the title and thought of variables.. and you've listed them :D

1. Were they or were they not already displaying aggressive behavior regularly before playing violent video games?
2. How much time do they spend playing violent video games?
3. What is their family dynamic like? Is the family neglectful, supportive, aggressive, overprotective, etc.? Is there proper communication present between family members?
4. What is their social dynamic like? Do they have friends? What type of people are they friends with? Are a majority of their friends fellow online gamers whom they've never actually met? Do they go out and socialize often? Do they have trouble socializing?
5. Do they have any kind of psychological issues? i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorder, depression, anxiety, addiction, etc.
My parents foster some kids, and there was one kid (around 11) they had who was hooked on video games and he'd come from a super awful background (home violence etc) and he used the games as an escape, but my mam noticed quickly that he was starting to copy behaviours (GTA etc) and therapists then said it was another way for him to normalise it - they also didn't know that he had those games, they're not age cert for an 11 year old so they had to go - but yeah, in his instance, a violent background combined with burying himself in violent games totally had an impact on his aggression levels in 'real life'.

Wondering how everyone feels about parents who let their kids play games that are not age certified for them? Same as movies I guess.
 

Aurelia

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#5
I saw the title and thought of variables.. and you've listed them :D



My parents foster some kids, and there was one kid (around 11) they had who was hooked on video games and he'd come from a super awful background (home violence etc) and he used the games as an escape, but my mam noticed quickly that he was starting to copy behaviours (GTA etc) and therapists then said it was another way for him to normalise it - they also didn't know that he had those games, they're not age cert for an 11 year old so they had to go - but yeah, in his instance, a violent background combined with burying himself in violent games totally had an impact on his aggression levels in 'real life'.

Wondering how everyone feels about parents who let their kids play games that are not age certified for them? Same as movies I guess.
Curious, are you aware of any mental health disorders that the 11 year old might have had?

But in response to your question, as long as my kid was relatively normal in his behavior and personality, I would most likely let him (or her) play whatever games they wanted. Just like I'd let them listen to whatever music they wanted to listen to, or let them watch an R rated movie. I mean, I wouldn't let a 6 year old watch a movie with a bunch of gore and nudity, but if they were a bit older and emotionally mature enough, then sure. I probably wouldn't let them watch something like 50 Shades of Grey, lol. But if they wanted to watch the Halloween or Friday the 13th series, sure, why the hell not.
 

JDot

J to the Dizzle O to the Tizzle
Forum Pro
SF Supporter
#6
There's so many things to consider when it comes to this subject. People have been inspired by art to commit violent acts for centuries. For instance, Goethe's book The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired many men to take their lives. It's where the term Werther Effect comes from. Werther Effect is when someone is inspired by someone else's suicide to commit suicide. Many researchers say violent video games do not cause violent behavior. However, I recall a study that showed children being aggressive with their toys after viewing a video of aggressive behavior. I think children are more influenced by violent games than adults. For most people, I think the violent video game alone isn't what inspires a violent act. I think how their brain is wired plays a big role. Like others are saying, their family background plays a big role. I remember a case where a kid played Halo 3 over 12 hours a day. His parents took the game away, and he murdered his mother and wounded his father. I don't think just any kid would be inspired by game to do that. But for this one kid, I think his brain was wired in such a way that the game gave him the idea to commit murder.
 

Aurelia

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#7
There's so many things to consider when it comes to this subject. People have been inspired by art to commit violent acts for centuries. For instance, Goethe's book The Sorrows of Young Werther inspired many men to take their lives. It's where the term Werther Effect comes from. Werther Effect is when someone is inspired by someone else's suicide to commit suicide. Many researchers say violent video games do not cause violent behavior. However, I recall a study that showed children being aggressive with their toys after viewing a video of aggressive behavior. I think children are more influenced by violent games than adults. For most people, I think the violent video game alone isn't what inspires a violent act. I think how their brain is wired plays a big role. Like others are saying, their family background plays a big role. I remember a case where a kid played Halo 3 over 12 hours a day. His parents took the game away, and he murdered his mother and wounded his father. I don't think just any kid would be inspired by game to do that. But for this one kid, I think his brain was wired in such a way that the game gave him the idea to commit murder.
Interesting, I never knew that artwork inspired people to commit suicide. Although, I would assume they would already have to have some kind of underlying issues to begin with. I don't think a mentally stable person would suddenly decide to do something like that.

As for the Halo kid, that game might have been his only escape from reality, and helped him avoid committing violent acts. So I think in his case, the aggression was more than likely already there, and the game was his way of releasing it. Because that's a very extreme reaction for a game being taken away.
 

Aurelia

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#8
Oh, and yeah, @JDot I agree that games probably affect kids more than adults in terms of personality, emotional development, and cognition because kids' personalities and brains are still developing, whereas adults' brains stop developing at (I believe) around 23 years of age or so.
 

Ixtab

Well-Known Member
#9
When I was a kid was when mortal kombat came out, first mainstream game with blood splattering. Parents and censorship people went crazy. My parents didn’t want me to play it but we didn’t have video games they didn’t buy me stuff like that. If my brother and I worked and saved for it were could have it, but we never got to play more than two hours my dad would have gone ballistic. I thought he was strict at the time but at least I know how a rake and lawn mower work. Some of the kids I think man I hope you never are behind the wheel no ones taught you anything and you don’t care to learn on your own. But I loved video games I would have played 12 hours mortal kombat if anyone let me. There was no tv in the room like kids have now.
 

Shelly

Well-Known Member
#10
Back when i was still in uni i believe this type of study have been done several times as it is often used as an example whenever we are made to be tasked to conduct our very own studies...

those factors you have given do play a role. But i guess nature vs. nurture also comes to play here.
Same with children who are shown violent tv shows compared to a group who are shown a kid friendly one, with no one to tell them that is wrong, children may end up accepting that the behavior of violence is the norm and that it’s entertaining to be violent...

i never really payed attention though because that subject of mine was boring as hell lol
I’ll just go with, no one is really born evil, something or someone has to make them one as they grow up.
 

Shelly

Well-Known Member
#11
Children are indeed more subjected to be affected by violent games as they are still in their developmental stage. Given the fact that they’re parents are not in full control or just dont give a crap about guiding/raising kids.

however, given the factors you’ve mentioned, as an adult, that would mean they already have underlying factors that are making them predisposed to acting violently regardless if they play violent games or not. If they did then it was all coincidental.
 

JDot

J to the Dizzle O to the Tizzle
Forum Pro
SF Supporter
#12
In the early 90's the video game rating system got started because politicians got upset over Mortal Kombat and Night Trap. I understand why Mortal Kombat upset them. But I think it's hilarious they got upset over Night Trap. That game is more tame than most games children play today. They got upset over this cartoony FMV where one of the bad guys puts this metal claw around this woman.

 

JDot

J to the Dizzle O to the Tizzle
Forum Pro
SF Supporter
#13
Children are indeed more subjected to be affected by violent games as they are still in their developmental stage. Given the fact that they’re parents are not in full control or just dont give a crap about guiding/raising kids.

however, given the factors you’ve mentioned, as an adult, that would mean they already have underlying factors that are making them predisposed to acting violently regardless if they play violent games or not. If they did then it was all coincidental.
I've heard that in some countries you can be charged with child endangerment for letting a child play a game like Grand Theft Auto V.
 

Shelly

Well-Known Member
#14
Upbringing really do play a bigger role here than just video games.
Because if it’s just video games then earth would be hell right now.

kids who are not properly guided may become aggressive such as cursing, and punching whenever they loose a game but it’s just that, as an adult you have to let them know that is not okay and it’s just a game. At least that’s how I remembered with my nephew.

how many well known criminals do we know out there with clear description of their childhood/upbringing clearly affected and molded their thinking and behavior and not once did i see, hear, or read that video games affected them nor was it ever the sole reason for them to go to the extreme. If so then it’s just coincidental and people chose to highlight that alone and disregard other factors.
 

Lux

Outrageously Awesome
Safety & Support
SF Supporter
#15
Curious, are you aware of any mental health disorders that the 11 year old might have had?

But in response to your question, as long as my kid was relatively normal in his behavior and personality, I would most likely let him (or her) play whatever games they wanted. Just like I'd let them listen to whatever music they wanted to listen to, or let them watch an R rated movie. I mean, I wouldn't let a 6 year old watch a movie with a bunch of gore and nudity, but if they were a bit older and emotionally mature enough, then sure. I probably wouldn't let them watch something like 50 Shades of Grey, lol. But if they wanted to watch the Halloween or Friday the 13th series, sure, why the hell not.
Yeah for sure, I think it's mostly at the parents' helm. If you've got parents teaching you why these things are obviously not something that should be brought into your real life and how to channel your aggression and anger properly, don't see it as an issue. I think in this particular case, he was so used to violence that adding it with certain video games was just not helpful. Also because he was a kid in "the system" now, my parents had to play by the textbook RE age certs whether they wanted to or not in case he told his social worker etc. It's crazy how careful they have to be but I guess there's a reason for everything.

RE mental health, they said anxiety due to his past situation and possible PTSD (if I'm remembering correctly, I haven't spoken to my family in a long time), but other than that, nope.

I probably wouldn't let them watch something like 50 Shades of Grey
I don't think anyone should be put through that to be fair :D
 

JDot

J to the Dizzle O to the Tizzle
Forum Pro
SF Supporter
#16
Upbringing really do play a bigger role here than just video games.
Because if it’s just video games then earth would be hell right now.

kids who are not properly guided may become aggressive such as cursing, and punching whenever they loose a game but it’s just that, as an adult you have to let them know that is not okay and it’s just a game. At least that’s how I remembered with my nephew.

how many well known criminals do we know out there with clear description of their childhood/upbringing clearly affected and molded their thinking and behavior and not once did i see, hear, or read that video games affected them nor was it ever the sole reason for them to go to the extreme. If so then it’s just coincidental and people chose to highlight that alone and disregard other factors.
I think people want a scapegoat when things go bad. And when people commit violent acts, violent video games are easy to point fingers at. Parents especially don't like the idea of themselves playing a role in raising someone to be aggressive.
 

BlueGreen

Well-Known Member
#17
I think if you believe in 'inspiration' then yes, violent games will inspire acts of violence. I remember watching Rambo First Blood when it came out and I remember the feeling of feeling I could take on the world when I came out of the cinema. I think first and foremost the home and upbringing is where conditions are set (and maybe their social circle in their teens?). (I don't play any games so my answer is based just on visual stimulation btw.) There was an horrific case in the UK which I won't go into but two young boys convicted of murder and they seemed to have quite a diet of violent games - plus violent fathers. I feel that when murders or extreme violent acts are reported there is almost no interest in the family or the causes so it's hard to work out why they happen. I always notice when a family member speaks out and disowns them as I think that is an indication of their lack of parenting or lack of good emotional support.
 

Ash600

Of dust and shadows
SF Creative
SF Supporter
#18
There's been a plethora studies I believe to investigate this. It's hard to determine whether there is a direct correlation due to the presence of so many other factors such as the one's you have listed, @Aurelia . At best, you could argue there could in some cases be an associative link.

The type of aggression displayed may well be normative or retaliatory which of course can be influenced, I believe, by the environment an individual finds themselves in.
 

Optimistic Goatman

The woolly enigmatic one
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#19
(Apologies for the wall of text, but i have a few thoughts on this)
I very much agree with a lot of what's been said here. While i am a firm believer in the idea that representation (read normalisation) matters, and therefore excessive exposure to wanton violence can potentially create issues, i think it does mostly come down to an individual's own inherent capacity for/interest in violence. Those who come from difficult backgrounds or have a predisposition towards violent or aggressive tendencies will naturally be drawn to violent media in one form or another, and having a means of expressing that can be both a positive and negative influence. I think treating it as a conversation about video games specifically is quite frankly reductive, since, speaking as someone with a history of violent/aggressive behavioural issues, i recall finding much more visceral satisfaction in scenes like Kingpin slamming a guy's head into mush in the Daredevil tv show, or the various bloody ways people died in the Cube movies, than i ever did from any video game, even the most ludicrously bloodsoaked.

And here we get into the two forms of violence present in video games. On the one hand, you have violence played up to a whimsical degree, so excessive that it becomes nothing more than a joke, at which point it actually loses a lot of its impact. While some commentary could be made on the desensitisation to violent imagery this form of violence could induce, i find that it lacks the visceral thrill which could appeal to those with genuine violent impulses. Then you have the more gritty form of violence, the kind which is shown in horrifically realistic detail. This form of violence tends to carry a much weightier impact to it, and often as a result carries the appropriate appeal to those who have a real desire to inflict harm. However, the other side of this pretty much always ends up being that it also shows the realistic consequences of the violence represented. The people who engage in this form of violence are generally shown to be miserable, lonely, wracked with guilt over the harm they do. Ironically this form of violence is both glamourised and placed in too harsh a light to ever be seen as glamorous.

And this is the other side of the coin that i don't think gets touched on enough in these conversations. That for all this negative representation people seem so focused on, there are also positive representations available in many of the same spaces. Even taking some of the prime examples people use of mind-warping violence, you can find positive moral messages in the way these games unfold. Even looking at the last few GTA games, which so many cite as the beginnings of various rampages, when you actually look at the stories and characters of these games, these are games about characters who are basically miserable as a result of their violent behaviour. They alienate people, lose people to police busts, lose people to the violence of others. The closest these characters ever really seem to get to "good endings" is that they manage to kill somebody they hate, and/or escape death/captivity. So as much as people criticise the fact that you can for instance drive down the pavements of a GTA game mowing people down, these games actually take great steps to not show that in a positive light, and actively punish you for doing these kinds of things by sending police officers after you, thereby conditioning you to avoid random violence wherever possible.

And at the end of the day, for all the violence present in video games and media at large, there are also more and more examples of games that teach the player not everything needs to be violent, that there's a time and a place for those things, that restraint is actually better overall. Your Undertale's, Stardew Valley's, Minecraft's, Spec Ops: the Line's, Red Dead 2's, even a lot of RPGs which offer speech checks as ways to avoid combat. So while we can discuss how video games could potentially play some small part in an unstable person's violent behaviour, at the end of the day it still comes down to that individual person choosing to lionise those representations of violence, and shun all of the representations of how it's better to be peaceful whenever possible. It really does come down to that person's home life, and their personal proclivity to do damage to the world in spite of all the ways they are taught this will in turn harm them.
 

Optimistic Goatman

The woolly enigmatic one
Staff Alumni
SF Supporter
#20
5. Do they have any kind of psychological issues? i.e. Autism Spectrum Disorder
I find it interesting how this always seems to get mentioned at some point btw. While i can kind of understand why that's a question some people ask, i'm also not really in love with the implications that tend to be associated with this question so frequently being brought up in this conversation.
 

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