ESA Leadership Desk: Science Says Video Games Don’t Cause Real-World Violence

  • 05.30.2019
  • Industry Updates

By Stanley Pierre-Louis, Chief Executive Officer, Entertainment Software Association

Video games are about more than fun. They make us better thinkers, more creative, more curious, and bring us closer together. Thanks to the passion of video game developers, publishers, and players across the globe, the future of interactive entertainment is brighter than ever before.

That’s why the Entertainment Software Association is so dedicated to telling the video game industry’s story. The prominence of video games in our culture makes it easy to identify examples of all the good they’ve done. Still, critics look to unfairly blame video games for other problems in our society.

Case in point: the claim that video games with violent content can lead to aggressive or violent behavior, or attempts by critics to draw a link between violent video games and high-profile acts of real-world violence.

There is no question that our society has endured far too many tragic incidents of violence. These horrific acts understandably drive us to look for solutions. But blaming the media – and video games in particular – distracts from the underlying issues at play and tarnishes the incredibly positive impact video games have in our society.

You don’t have to delve deeply into this issue to grasp the essential facts. The same video games played in the U.S. are played all over the world by 2.6 billion people, but the U.S. stands alone in incidents of mass violence. Time and time again, the research confirms that there is no evidence linking video game play to violent behavior.

In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Surgeon General are just some of the experts that reviewed the research and found no link between video games and real-world violence. In the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association & Entertainment Software Association (2011), Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority of the Court, noted that:

[S]tudies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.

All of this evidence adds up to a clear consensus against any link between media violence and violent or aggressive behavior. It’s important to call out false or misleading arguments that try to misrepresent this reality, and not only because they recklessly draw attention away from the real issues behind the rise of violent incidents in the U.S.

When policymakers and pundits call for regulating video game content to address the so-called “negative influence” of media violence, what they’re doing is seeking to limit the guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech afforded to video game developers and publishers. In doing so, they risk stigmatizing video games as “harmful” to consumers and promote damaging misconceptions about the 150 million Americans who enjoy video games.

This proves especially shortsighted considering the positive impact video games have on the individuals who play them. Girls who play video games are three times more likely to pursue STEM majors. Educators are finding video games useful for teaching higher-order thinking skills. Employers are starting to recognize the unique skills video games cultivate, including trainability, strategic thinking, and adaptability. Research shows video games can even aid in developing spatial skills.

There’s a mountain of scientific evidence and expert consensus on the side of video games on this issue. So let’s stop the false rhetoric and let video gamers feel free to positively influencing our world.

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