The vast majority of people would agree that video games promote critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork among children who play them. On the other hand, many people also believe that violent video games promote aggressive and violent behavior in real life, yet existing research on the matter is very limited.
One of the key catalysts for the prevalence of this discussion is mass public shootings, with some people believing that violent video games are potentially influential in the time leading up to the event. However, there are usually other more obvious contributing factors, such as relaxed gun laws and mental health issues.
In 2013, President Obama called for more government-funded research to explore the link between violence and video games. He wanted to establish whether restrictive policies should be put into place to reduce access to such games.
A recent study led by Dr. Agne Suziedelyte from the Department of Economics at the University of London has set out to investigate the link even further, specifically focusing on violent behavior among gamers.
The study was focused on violent behaviors among boys between the ages of 8 and 18. This is the demographic which is believed to be most likely to play violent video games.
Violent tendencies that could potentially result from playing games were split into two categories: the destruction of property and aggression against others.
As opposed to using basic association methodology, Dr. Suziedelyte used econometric methods that could identify the potential causal effects of violent video games on violence. However, no evidence was found of such causality, with the data showing no correlation between increased violence and the release of a new violent video game.
Despite this conclusion, parents commonly reported that their children were more likely to destroy things around the house after playing violent video games.
“Taken together, these results suggest that violent video games may agitate children, but this agitation does not translate into violence against other people – which is the type of violence which we care about most,” explained Dr. Suziedelyte.
“A likely explanation for my results is that video game playing usually takes place at home, where opportunities to engage in violence are lower. This ‘incapacitation’ effect is especially important for violence-prone boys who may be especially attracted to violent video games. Therefore, policies that place restrictions on video game sales to minors are unlikely to reduce violence.”
The research has been published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.