So some people in high places have repeated the claim that violence games cause violence. But what does the research say? Well, the answer is less clear cut than one might think.
Studies range from
- A 2015 APA-review did find a link between violence and video games, but did not find a link with criminal behavior.
- A 2014 study showed a large majority of children didn’t experience a negative effect, but some might.
- The results of 2013 study did not support the hypothesis that children with elevated mental health symptoms constitute a “vulnerable” population for video game violence effects.
- A 2013 study didn’t show any negative effect on prosocial behavior.
- A 2018 study showed again no link between playing a lot of violent games and violent behavior.
- There is even 2011 research that sees a positive effect of lowering crime rates because of playing (violent) games. I remember a more recent study showing the same effect, but couldn’t find the link straightaway.
To be clear: every study has it’s limitations, but there is also something peculiar with the people doing the research:
- A 2015 study showed that the older the clinician, the more likely they are to think playing video games leads to violent behavior. Also female clinicians tended to be more negative.
- This was confirmed by a 2017 study:
“Results reflected continued lack of scholarly consensus on the issue of video game influences with only 15.3% of scholars endorsing the view that violent video games contribute to youth assaults. As hypothesized, older scholars endorsed more negative views of video games generally, although this appeared to be related to experience with games rather than age per se. Scholars with more negative attitudes toward youth themselves were also more negative about games. Criminologists and media scholars were more skeptical of violent video games contributing to youth assaults than were psychologists.”
But there is a very simple question to ask. If video games alone would be the cause of mass murders, how come they happen in one country much more than in another?