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Analysis of Correlation between Violence in Video Games and Human Aggression

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Media depicted violence has been around for over a century now and has evolved from literature to comics to film and finally to video games, and each stage of progression has been met with societal backlash. In the past ten years however, the rise in mass shootings has caused many politicians to point a finger at violent video games as a key factor. In the wake of these tragedies, many scholars began looking for a link between violent media consumption and violent behavior. This paper will dive into studies that look at the relationship between media violence and human aggression and determine if such a correlation exists.

To examine if a correlation exists between movie violence and human aggression a study selected ninety highest grossing films from 1920-2005 and reviewed them for violence with strict parameters. This data was then compared to homicide rates from the same time period, and found that in the middle of the 20th century movie violence appeared to coincide with societal violence, but in both the early and late 20th century, movie violence was associated with decreased societal violence, making this an ecological fallacy. (Ferguson, 2015) This does not mean that there is no link between movie violence and aggressive behavior, but it does suggest that there are many other factors that play into human aggression.

Studying the relationship between video game violence and violent behavior is vastly different than studying movies, because of how new they are and the way that media outlets sway public perception on the topic. The term violent video game itself is so broadly defined that technically even Pac Man can be classified as a violent video game because the player has the ability to kill the ghosts. (Ferguson, 2014) The weak definition of violent video games contributed to the California 2005 law prohibiting children from buying a M-rated game without an adult present to get struck down in the Supreme Court. (Ferguson, 2014). The controversy surrounding violent video games only got worse with the rise of mass shootings in the past decade.

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Following the tragic 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left twenty children and six faculty/staff members dead, there were no simple answers to be found as to why this event took place. In the weeks that followed the tragedy, media outlets began making assertions that Adam Lanza was primarily influenced to commit this heinous act by an obsession with violent video games. Not long after these stories started circulating, policy makers began to take action by ordering studies on the effect that video game violence has on youth behavior. When the police report regarding the shooting finally came out in November 2013 it was revealed that Lanza did in fact play violent video games including a game that simulated a school shooting, though most of his time gaming was spent playing harmless games such as Dance and Dance Revolution. This makes it quite apparent that other factors were stronger in motivating Lanza to carry out this attack, but nonetheless the societal debate about violent video games was reignited by this event and may have caused more harm than good, given the degree to which they distract from more pressing issues such as mental health care, poverty, and educational disparities that may actually contribute to violence. (Ferguson, 2014)

When it comes to research looking for a correlation between violent video games and real-world violence there are an abundance of studies that claim to prove a correlation by using a questionable research methods. One such study based its assertions on the premise that pre habitualization of violent media predicts faster accessibility of aggressive cognitions. In the study 77 male college students answered a questionnaire to determine their habitual use of non-violent and violent media, after completing the questionnaire the subjects were broken up into two groups, half played a game of Counter Strike: Source on an urban city map, and the other half played on a ship map. The study concluded to have shown that the habitual use of violent media predicts faster accessibility of aggressive cognitions in a laboratory task. (Busching, Krahé, 2013) The problem with this experiment is that little evidence exists to suggest that signs of the aggression that the experimenters were testing for would even translate into real world violence outside of the laboratory setting.

In a different study a sample of 6567 8th graders participated in a straightforward survey that was trying to measure if violent video games had an effect on their behavior in general. After answering a baseline question determining what type of video games (if any) that they played, they answered several questions ranging from “Do you ever skip school?” all the way up to “Have you ever carried a gun?” The results gathered did not entirely dismiss a potential link with violence, yet they also clearly do not show the level of support that correlation-based research has shown. (Gunter, W., & Daly, K., 2012) This survey method used yielded much more reasonable results than a study that gathered data from a group of college kids playing video games for ten minutes ever could. This suggests that many of the studies that launched after the surge in mass shootings claiming to have found a direct correlation may be apart of an agenda.

In conclusion, there is a possible correlation between media violence consumption, but at best these findings suggest that assumptions made by the popular media and by policy-makers may be exaggerated at best and erroneous at worst. (Gunter, W., & Daly, K., 2012) There are far larger problems in the United States that media outlets should be covering such as mental health care, poverty, and educational disparities definitely pose much more of a threat to contributing to the nation’s next tragedy. Walmart removing violent video game displays is certainly not going to solve any problems for a person struggling with a serious mental health issue on the cusp of doing something horrible that they can never take back.


  1. Busching, R., & Krahe, B. (2013). Charging neutral cues with aggressive meaning through violent video game play. Societies, 3(4), 445-456. doi:
  2. Ferguson, C. (2014). Violent Video Games, Mass Shootings, and the Supreme Court: Lessons for the Legal Community in the Wake of Recent Free Speech Cases and Mass Shootings. New Criminal Law Review: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal, 17(4), 553-586. doi:10.1525/nclr.2014.17.4.553
  3. Ferguson, C. J. (2015). Does Movie or Video Game Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When. Journal of Communication, 65(1), 193–212.
  4. Gunter, W., & Daly, K. (2012). Causal or spurious: Using propensity score matching to detangle the relationship between violent video games and violent behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(4), 1348-1355.

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Analysis of Correlation between Violence in Video Games and Human Aggression. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Analysis of Correlation between Violence in Video Games and Human Aggression.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022,
Analysis of Correlation between Violence in Video Games and Human Aggression. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Analysis of Correlation between Violence in Video Games and Human Aggression [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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