At some point in their lives, everyone has played a video game. Also, most people have played a game that they would consider to be ‘violent. Finally, you, like most people, have probably heard somewhere that video games cause people to be violent in the real world. According to a 2017 survey, roughly 61% of the UK residents that were asked believed that, in some cases, video games can be the cause of aggressive acts, so it is very likely that you would have heard this theory from somewhere. But is it necessarily true? I’m going to discuss my thoughts on the matter today, and the ideas and theories as to why some people think that video games cause violence.
On the eighth of October 1992, an iconic video game was released to the public. Its title was ‘Mortal Combat. It soon became recognized as the ‘first game to feature realistic and graphic violence. Indeed, as most violent games are, this game was instantly the subject of many controversies. In fact, this game’s graphic detail of injury was the reason that the Entertainment Software Rating Board and other rating boards for video games were established. Some would say there was now a moral panic of sorts over the series, which was being hammered in more and more by the outrage and possibly overreaction of the media. Mortal Kombat became an outlet for discontent, something parents could use to excuse their child’s naughty behavior. Sounds stupid, right? Of course, it comes as no surprise that some negative tendencies can be learned from video games (such as fighting in Mortal Kombat), but these effects will only come into play when the child decides to start to use these things in the real world, which in most situations is a very unlikely occurrence. Children don’t want to fight or sell drugs even if they have witnessed it in video games, so it’s unfair to make sweeping generalizations.
In 2019, a study, published by the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Oxford, was carried out. It was one of the most comprehensive and in-depth investigations on the matter at the time. This is because it used a mix of subjective and objective data to come up with their final result about teen aggression and violence due to video games. To further its validity, the study gathered its data from parents and carers, as opposed to relying on information provided by the teenagers themselves. What’s more, the study used the age ratings on the games to indicate the level of violence, as opposed to the player’s perception. In total, 2008 subjects were involved in the experiment; the sampling consisted of British 14 – 15-year-olds and an equal number of parents or carers. The study’s results showed… with absolute certainty… no link whatsoever between violence and video games. As this is not the first study to show these kinds of patterns and results, this in-depth study proves that blaming video games for outbreaks of aggression and hatred holds very little weight whatsoever.
But wait. What about all of the other studies that seem to prove the counter-argument? Well, as it turns out It’s virtually impossible, and mostly illegal to monitor the everyday responses of players. Since they can’t see how the child would react in a real-life situation after playing video games, they are only left with one other thing to test; their changes in aggression. They have to test whether or not they are slightly more aggressive in a period of time after the child plays video games. Even if they are shown to be more aggressive in some situations, this cannot usually be translated into real-life violence and crimes. All of this means that these studies are nowhere near as accurate as of the Oxford example, due to the fact that their data is largely subjective. These tests are underdeveloped as a result, and cannot give us an answer as certain as the one that the Oxford Internet Institute and the University of Oxford have provided.
So, why are we witnessing a trend in young people becoming more aggressive and likely to commit crimes? Well, it could be due to a range of reasons, but following research, I can deduce that the main and most common reasons that young people tend to act aggressively are due to either stress from school or home life.
As a result of my research, I can conclude that video games are not the primary cause of violence in young people. In the rare case that these games may have influenced a child to act on their temper, this will not be the only factor. Notwithstanding this, I can appreciate that people are often desperate to find an explanation for their child’s aggression. This, in my opinion, is the real reason that violent and graphic video games have become somewhat of an enemy to our parents.