Video Games

Violent Video Games Don't Make Players More Violent IRL

New study trashes crappy consensus correlating gaming violence and aggression in real life

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VideoViolenceViniciusBacarinDreamstime
Vinicius Bacarin/Dreamstime

Video game violence does not lead to real life violence, finds a terrific new study in the journal Royal Society Open Science. The title lays it out plainly: "Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents' aggressive behaviour." Oxford University psychologist Andrew Przybylski and Cardiff University psychologist Netta Weinstein set out to test the findings of researchers who claim violent video games induce aggressive tendencies in players. Their "aim was to rigorously test the hypothesis that time spent playing violent video games is positively associated with adolescents' everyday behavioural aggression."

Their top-line finding is that their study "did not support the position that violent gaming relates to aggressive behaviour."

This contradicts the consensus hammered out by an American Psychological Association task force on violent video games in 2017. That task force "found that violent video game exposure was associated with: an increased composite aggression score; increased aggressive behavior; increased aggressive cognitions; increased aggressive affect, increased desensitization, and decreased empathy; and increased physiological arousal." The task force also "concluded that violent video game use is a risk factor for adverse outcomes, but found insufficient studies to examine any potential link between violent video game use and delinquency or criminal behavior."

Przybylski and Weinstein set out to devise a particularly rigorous study by pre-registering their empirical approach so that they could avoid the persistent problems in psychological research of "p-hacking"; that is, running multiple tests on a dataset until the researcher finds a result that achieves statistical significance, and then "HARKing," an acronym that stands for "hypothesizing after the results are known." In Przybylski and Weinstein's review of prior literature, the two researchers strongly argue that earlier research is beset with such problems.

In this study, the pair recruited 1,004 British video game players ages 14 and 15, of which 540 participants identified as male, 461 as female, and 3 as another gender orientation. For each player, they also recruited their carers (mostly parents). They determined which games the kids played and coded the level of violence in each game using E.U. and U.S. industry ratings. They measured youth aggression and prosocial behaviour with carer responses on the Strengths and Difficulties questionnaire that has been extensively used to assess interpersonal aggression across a wide range of cultures. Then they ran their various regressions.

"We found adolescents were not more or less likely to engage in aggressive or prosocial behaviours as a function of the amount of time they devoted to playing violent games," they report.

Przybylski and Weinstein add, "This pattern of findings further suggests that links reported in the literature might be influenced by publication bias, selective reporting, or an artefact of unobserved or hidden moderators." In other words, the 2017 task force's conclusion that video game violence makes players aggressive is highly suspect.

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21 responses to “Violent Video Games Don't Make Players More Violent IRL

  1. Royal Society Open Science

    Talk about your white privilege.

  2. “Carers”? Is that their gibberish or Bailey’s?

    1. VD: Theirs alas – they still are psychologists after all.

    2. Seems like a British analogue to “caregivers,” which is somewhat more common in the US.

  3. Andrew Cuomo blames sneaky foreign propaganda for upsetting New York’s delicate democracy.

    We’ve previously talked about the problems that New York State has in terms of hanging onto its population. People have been fleeing the state’s high taxes and oppressive liberal government for years now, dropping the state’s congressional representation by several members and putting the state through redistricting every census cycle. Rather than acknowledge what’s really the problem, however, Democratic leaders in the state government continually come up with new and interesting theories to blame these changes on. The latest is a real humdinger. Governor Andrew Cuomo came out this week and blamed the exodus on? Florida.

    1. People that cause problem rarely ever fault themselves.

      I know people, liberals, that are now up in arms over his new MTA Taxi surcharge of $2.50. I didn’t know it was in affect until a friend posted her receipt on facebook a week ago.

  4. “””This pattern of findings further suggests that links reported in the literature might be influenced by publication bias, selective reporting, or an artefact of unobserved or hidden moderators.” In other words, the 2017 task force’s conclusion that video game violence makes players aggressive is highly suspect.””

    In other words, dishonest.

  5. Video game violence does not lead to real life violence

    Tell that to the SWAT team outside your door.

  6. I don’t think it would lead to violence, but I’m certainly open to the possibility that people should (*voluntarily*) avoid the games with purely nihilistic violence (eg, where you get points for shaking down shopkeepers), lest it coarsen the sensibilities.

    1. I’m going to assume that conflating fantasy violence with real world violence is a sign of mental instability.

      If there’s a correlation between cruel, pointless violence in video games and players of those games acting violent in the real world, I would suggest there’s selection bias taking place: people with violent impulses are drawn to those things. But gamers as a population tend to be less violent than the general population.

      Also, I love people having freedom to make their own choices.

      1. As someone said above, “I don’t think it would lead to violence.”

        As someone also said, I’m thinking not of violence but of coarsened sensibilities.

        1. If that doesn’t translate to something quantifiable, like violent actions, then it’s probably not worth very much.

  7. Holy fuck! New York lost Amazon! Hahahaha!

  8. Violent Video Games Don’t Make Players More Violent IRL

    Ah, but does church make attendees more kind IRL?

  9. Violent Video Games Don’t Make Players More Violent IRL

    Do violent video games make players more violent IRL? No. Now, do they make people more like NPCs IRL? Come back later after I’ve had a chance to Google my opinion on that…

  10. I attended a purported “Gun Sense” meeting recently and one guy in audience stood up and asked if violent games could account for the increase in mass shooting violence. Panel really didn’t know. It got me thinking: if guns were readily available to kids 100 years ago (you could order Winchester repeating rifles in the Sears catalog, no questions asked, and have them delivered in days) what has changed in the youth culture that now makes it acceptable to nutjobs to go into school and mow down their classmates? Something(s) are responsible and it doesn’t appear to be lack of tougher gun laws.

    1. It’s between nostalgic romanticism, disinformation, and ignorance;

      March 30, 1891 Liberty, Mississippi 0 Dead 14 Injured During a school exhibition and concert at the Parson Hill schoolhouse, an unknown gunman fired a double-barreled shotgun into the mixed audience, made up of black and white students, parents and teachers. Fourteen people were wounded, some seriously.

      December 13, 1898 Charleston, West Virginia 6 Dead 1+ Injured During the school exhibition, a group of young men tried to break up a student performance. When teacher Mr. Fisher tried to throw them out, they turned on him. Audience members joined the fray. Harry Flasher was shot and instantly killed, Henry Carney was fatally shot in the back, Ralph Jones and two others were also fatally shot, and George Gibson was shot in the hand; Haz Harding had his skull crushed, and several others received minor wounds.

      January 12, 1910 New York City, New York 2 Dead 0 Injured “A black bearded maniac drew an automatic pistol” and fired five shots into a crowd of boys at the Harlem School, who were taunting him. 6-year-old Robert Lomas, was hit and died instantly; 6-year-old Arthur Shively, was critically wounded.

      Two people getting killed by a maniac gets drowned out when hundreds starve to death in the dust bowl or a cholera outbreak kills a dozen people.

    2. After one recent shooting, I kept hearing repeated discussion about how Millennials have just become numb to mass killings and that no other generation has had to deal with them with this frequency or on this scale before. It must be kinda nice to have the age privilege to downplay Jim Jones, Oklahoma City, Vietnam, etc., etc., etc. One recent story, here on Reason, ENB or Robby or someone played down the clown panic and/or contrasted the school shootings with the clown panic and it was pretty clear that they had either forgotten or were oblivious to John Wayne Gacy.

  11. What violent video games incited the Holocaust?

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