Violence in Video Games

RQ: Should any restrictions be applied to violence in future video games to prevent any negative changes in children’s behavior?



People, nowadays, are always arguing about the problem of violence in video games; and violence, in this case, includes use of drugs, blood, gore, offensive language, and many other things, that exist in modern video games. According to the statistics, over a billion people play video games, and the majority of these people are children or young teenagers. Of course, there are games, which are perfectly fit for children, games, which do not contain any type of violence, and they are usually designed specifically for kids to play. But many children prefer playing violent video games, because they think it is more enjoyable. Even though, it is usually up to their parents or guardians to decide whether these children are allowed to play violent video games or not, in most cases, parents do not want to restrict their kids from playing games, they like, so they just allow children to play almost any games, they want to play. The problem here is, that psychologically underage people might be more vulnerable to impact, coming from video games, than adults are; so violent video games might have a negative impact on shaping children’s behaviour (Publications, Harvard). Even though, millions of children play violent video games, only a few actually become violent (John Bingham). And this controversy leads me to a question: “Should any restrictions be applied to violence in future video games to prevent any negative changes in children’s behaviour?” I conducted the research, which provided me with the information about the ways, in which video games might affect children’s behaviour and the consequences of video game influence for children. That information will help me understand which restrictions should be applied to violence in video games, if any.


Even though, there is evidence of the link between violence in video games and the increase of children’s aggressive behaviour during the past two decades, there are still a lot of facts, which prove that there are many other factors, which could have caused negative effects on children’s behaviour.

A lot of various psychological and media institutions, such as Oxford University, have conducted the research on the influence of violence in video games and other types of media. There are about 350 research papers conducted from 2005 to 2013, and non of them really explore every aspect of the effects of media violence on kids’ behaviour. For example, the combinations of effects of different risk factors, such as depression or stress with this kind of violence, or the differences between the effects on different genders. Such factors as the gender and living in poverty have greater impact on the outcomes (Bavelier, Green and Dye 692-701). In the majority of the studies kids younger than 10 years of age weren’t even included. The importance of these factors is certainly undeniable, especially considering the fact that there are not too many cases of chilren aggressive and violent behaviour, proved to happen due to violent video games.

There was one of the high-profile incidents in the USA, which was caused by 17 year-old Dylan Klebold, and 18 year-old Harris Eric. It is called the Columbine High School Massacre. The shooting happened on the 20th of April, 1999, at Columbine High School, in Jefferson County. Two pupils killed twelve other pupils and a teacher (Library, CNN). The two shooters in the massacre were regularly playing weapon-based combat games. Specifically, the two shooters used to play Doom, which is a violent video game (“The Columbine Shooters: Video Game Addicts?”)

Since the moment when violence was introduced to media, hundreds of studies have focused their research on viewing these acts of violence and aggression, such as Columbine High School shooting. When violent video games emerged, researchers started analyzing these acts much more closely. Many of the studies were focused on person’s sex and studying male versus female aggression after viewing and playing violent video games. Some of them researched viewing violent video games against playing these games to find out if there was any link between the two ways of experiencing video game violence (Polman, de Castro and van Aken 256-264).

Very little of these studies have researched the positive effects, which video games might have on chldren. For example, watching video games  improves hand eye coordination, and increases some of the person’s abilities, for example some kids become better at solving puzzles (Ferguson 309-316).

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Ferguson found no connection between violent video games and negative behaviour. He concluded, that research made up of current studies, which have been analyzed, cannot link watching or playing violent video games to aggressive behavior afterwards (Ferguson 309-316).

Each study, which has been reviewed, usually shows that there is some link between viewing violent video games and aggression. However, it doesn’t completely prove the existence of this connection. Some evidence suggest that there is a link between exposure to violent video games and violent behavior (Porter and Starcevic 422-426).

Can aggressive behavior with a good level of certainty be linked to watching video games? Or are there other circumstances that influence this kind of behaviour? Studies suggest a link between video watching and aggression, but researchers have not yet been able to find a direct relationship between the two. As in most behaviours, there are still loads of other factors that may contribute to the person’s behaviour. Concluding, that experiencing violence in video games is linked to aggressive behaviour, is only possible if other factors, which influence a person’s behaviour can be controlled. Those factors can include family history, sex, cases of aggressive behavior before watching video games, and many other potential factors that might influence children’s behavior (Persky and Blascovich 57-72).

Not all studies have found a relationship (Ferguson et al. 109-122) between exposure to violent video games and aggression in children. However, the  most part of all the work actually shows a relationship. In a meta-analysis of 98 studies, which involved 36,965 participants, violent video games were convincingly shown to influence social behaviour (Greitemeyer and Mügge 578-589). The fact, that studies have taken many different forms, increases the certainty of the relationship.

Jim Blascovich, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, in the study, he conducted, he concluded that the more realistic the graphics are the more of a possibility there is to display aggressive behavior right after viewing violent video games. Explicit viewing material usually looked more realistic, though letting aggressive behavior in the real world.  For example, Pacman’s graphics were very simple in their content, and as graphics have become more realistic, the violence and death scenes have become a lot more realistic in modern video games (Persky & Blascovich 57-72).

Some of the work looks at the causal effect of game play. Some individuals have been asked to play violent games in the lab, while others were asked to play non-violent games. Then the behaviour of each group was measured in social tasks after the experiment. These studies have shown that playing violent games results in instantaneous changes to behaviour (Anderson, Carnagey and Flanagan 199-249). Young adults have shown physiological desensitisation to scenes of real life violence (Carnagey, Anderson and Bushman 489-49). Individuals who had played violent, in comparison with non-violent, games were less likely to report hearing a fight staged outside the laboratory, considered the fight more common and were slower to respond when some of them decided to help (Bushman and Anderson 273-27). Desensitisation to violence is considered to link violent game play with later aggressive behaviour (Engelhardt et al. 1033-1036).

Other studies have included longitudinal effects, where individuals have been followed over a period of time; and video game play at one point in time has been related to aggression later, both in lab and in real life. The more violent play individuals took part in, the steeper the increase was in aggressive behaviour (Willoughby, Adachi and Good 1044-1057). The size of the effects found in most studies is either small or medium, but it’s quite consistent. This pretty much indicates that violent games do influence violent behaviour, rather than that violent children engage in video games.

The most part of the negative effects, as a result of playing violent video games among children, can be blamed on the violent scenes included in these games. If a kid spends a big amount of time playing violent videogames, he or she becomes socially isolated. This basically means that this child doesn’t have enough time to interact with his or her peers (Anderson and Bushman 353-359). The child who spends lots of hours per day playing videogames will have almost no time to make new friends. Such children may become more depressed and lonely in their homes. They are also very likely to stop spending time on other activities such as sports, reading, and studying.  Children stop being socially active, since they don’t get involved in real-life events anymore.

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A child, who ends up spending most of his or her time playing videogames, does not get a chance to think creatively and independently, due to the fact that videogames reduce a child’s imaginative thinking. This kind of thinking is crucial in developing a child’s creativity. By encouraging isolation, videogames may also put a child’s health at a serious risk. Since such kids do not lead a healthy lifestyle, due to the lack of sports and social activities, children, who are used to spending the majority of their time playing videogames, are very likely to suffer from obesity, and muscular and postural disorders.

Quite a large number of videogames are addictive. Rather than studying or completing homework, a child spends time playing videogames, because the addiction wins over this child. When a child spends an large amount of time playing such videogames, he or she becomes socially isolated. Some of the negative effects as a result of playing these kind of videogames among children can be blamed on the addictiveness of these games. Due to the lack of time, which a child has while not playing games, he or she does not have an opportunity for rich social life (Anderson and Bushman 353-359). The child who spends almost the whole day playing videogames will have little time to meet and make new friends. They may very easily become more depressed and lonely in their homes. Children will also spend little time on other activities such as sports, reading, and doing homework. These children become socially inactive since they do not get involved in almost any social activities. Such video games reduce a child’s imagination as well. This basically means that children who spend most of their time playing videogames do not get a chance to think creatively or independently. Imaginative thinking is essential in developing a child’s creativity. By promoting isolation, videogames may have some effects on a child’s health.

Quite some videogames may teach children wrong values (Gunter). Videogames encourage children to associate positive emotions such as happiness and pleasure with the ability to cause pain to others. They develop the feeling that they have to hurt other people in order to be happy themselves. Children who play videogames usually tend to develop selfish behavior (Anderson and Bushman 353-359). Videogames make the players depend on them. As a child is very often left alone, while playing a videogame, he or she can develop this dependent behavior. A study, which was done at a Minneapolis-based national institute for media, found out that kids can get addicted to videogames and exhibit social phobias. Video games are quite different from other visual types of media, because of their interactivity. The games allow players to be active participants in the storyline. In games the players, who benefit from acts of violence, are able to proceed to the next level.

Violence in children behaviour has increased, as a negative result of playing videogames. There are a lot of incidents of violent and aggressive behaviour among children, who play violent videogames worldwide (Gunter).  Right after these incidents, the most of newspaper articles claimed that the key cause of that incident was violent videogames.

The effects of violent games aren’t equal for everyone. Short-term effects in the lab are discovered to be bigger for undergraduate men than women (Bartholow and Anderson 283-290), and younger children are at a bigger risk of being affected by violent games if they’ve got a high level on a personality trait, called ‘neuroticism’, and a low level on the traits ‘agreeableness’ and ‘conscientiousness’ (Markey and Markey 82-91). In terms of the game, playing with a customised avatar was found to cause more aggressive and violent behaviour, than when playing with a generic character (Fischer, Kastenmüller and Greitemeyer 192-195).


Although the link between real-life violence and video game violence is still debated, and certainly other factors have a more significant influence on aggression. The impact of video games violence on the behavioural development of children is quite obvious both in the short-term and the long-term. The effectiveness of video games is a very important issue for society, and at the same time a benefit, because their effects can be both negative and positive; indeed it would be extremely hard to argue for one of these positions without the other. What is crucial is that we understand what aspects of game play behaviour have an influence, and on whom they have it. So what’s the final answer to my question: “Should any restrictions be applied to violence in future video games to prevent any negative changes in children’s behavior?” It’s quite simple. No new restrictions should be applied to violent video games in the future. Partly, it’s because the effects of this kind of violence are different from one person to another, so they can also be positive; and partly because other factors usually affect children’s behaviour more, than video game violence. Althogh, parents can take some action to prevent possible negative impact of video games. For example, limit the number of ours, their children spend playing, or simply not allow kids to play games, which they consider too violent.

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