Video Games and Violence: The Facts
Scientific research, court rulings, facts and common sense all refute the claim that video games cause violent behavior.
Just the Facts
93 Percentage of parents who monitor the content of the games their children play.
There is no scientific research that validates a causal link between computer and video games and violence, a reality that has been acknowledged by the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, by other courts and by leading U.S. government authorities such as the Surgeon General, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
In overturning the California law, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the state “has not produced substantial evidence…that violent video games cause psychological or neurological harm to minors.” Additionally, the court found fault with research that links games and violence:
“Dr. [Craig] Anderson’s research has readily admitted flaws that undermine its support of the State’s interest in regulating video games sales and rentals to minors, perhaps most importantly its retreat from the study of the psychological effects of video games as related to the age of the person studied. Although not dispositive of this case, we note that other courts have either rejected Dr. Anderson’s research or found it insufficient to establish a causal link between violence in video games and psychological harm.”
What Others Are Saying
As video games have become more violent and more sophisticated and the sales of video games have skyrocketed in the last few decades, youth violence has plummeted.
|—||Chris Ferguson Texas A&M University Professor, Psychology
The Los Angeles Times, May 3, 2010
In their 2008 book, “Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth about Video Games and What Parents Can do,” Harvard Medical School psychology professors Lawrence Kutner, PH.D., and Cheryl K. Olson, wrote:
“The strong link between video game violence and real world violence, and the conclusion that video games lead to social isolation and poor interpersonal skills, are drawn from bad or irrelevant research, muddleheaded thinking and unfounded, simplistic news reports.”
Similarly, in their May 2009 study, “The Public Health Risks of Media Violence: A Meta-Analytic Review,” Drs. Christopher J. Ferguson and John Kilburn of Texas A&M University’s Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice said there was no support “for either a causal or correlational link between violent media and subsequent aggression in viewers. Why the belief of media violence effects persists despite inherent weaknesses of research is somewhat of an open question.”
Ferguson further evaluated existing research on the impact of violent video game play in a June 2010 study, “Blazing Angels or Resident Evil? Can Violent Video Games be a Force for Good?” In light of increased video game consumption and declining youth violence rates, he concluded that there is “little reason for speculation that violent video games are a significant factor in promoting youth violence.”
Crime statistics over the last 17 years provide additional data to back up the academic research. The chart below graphically demonstrates that violent crime, particularly among the young, has been decreasing dramatically as video game popularity has been soaring -- exactly the opposite of what would be expected if there was a causal link between these games and violent behavior.
Juvenile Violent Crime Index Compared to US Game Software Sales 1990-2009*
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Statistics show that in 1994, there were 497 arrests for violent crime for every 100,000 youths age 10-17. In 2009, that number fell to 262 arrests per 100,000, a decline of 50%.
Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. – and some with more violence – are also sold in foreign markets. However, the level of violent crime in foreign countries is considerably lower than that in the U.S. This strongly suggests that other influences, such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other societal factors are more relevant to understanding the causes of criminal behavior.
It is sometimes said that the interactivity of video games separates it from books and movies. However, as Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner wrote in a 2001 ruling dismissing an Indianapolis video game ordinance and asserting that children have First Amendment rights:
“All literature (here broadly defined to include movies, television and other photographic media, and popular as well as highbrow literature) is interactive; the better it is, the more interactive. Literature, when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader’s own.”
In short, on the subject of video games and violence, it is important to distinguish between the reality and the rhetoric.