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Mark David S.

Francisco

11 - Service

Position Paper

Do Violent Video Games Promote Real-Life Aggression


The connection between violent video games and real-life aggressive behavior is a topic
that has received a lot of attention from the media and academic community in recent years.
However, the connection between violent video games and real-life aggression is still far from
conclusive, and therefore we cannot assume that violent video games promote real-life violence
and aggression in general.
As video games become more popular and receive more mainstream media attention, the
study of video game violence has also become a hot topic for the academic community. Many
published studies have found a correlation between playing violent video games and increased
levels of aggression (Anderson, 2003). The results of these studies are often used by media or
advocates to demonstrate that violent video games promote real-life violence. This is however an
invalid assumption, because finding a correlation is not the same thing as finding causal
relationship, and many studies on video game violence have been questioned on methodological
grounds (Jenkins, 2003).
Most studies conducted on video game violence are either experimental studies, which
focus on the short-term physiological effects of playing violent video games in a laboratory
setting, or correlation studies, which involves participants filling out surveys (Porter & Starcevic,
2007). One problem with experimental studies is that they analyze only short term effects right
after the participants play violent video games, which does not necessarily reveal anything about
whether if violent video games make the participants more aggressive in the long term (Porter &
Starcevic, 2007). Some other problems with experimental studies include small sample sizes,
arbitrary definition of which games are violent and which are not, and inability to control certain
variables such as the level of excitement of participants (Porter & Starcevic, 2007). Correlations
studies have fewer problems in terms of methodology, but they are affected by certain biases
depending on the group of respondents that were sampled (Porter & Starcevic, 2007).
The most important problem with both experimental and correlation studies is that their
results are up to interpretation. Many experimental and correlation studies do not account for
important factors such as the participants personality and prior experience with video games.
Laboratory experiments also fail to recreate the usual conditions under which most people play
video games (Goldstein, 2003). Moreover, experimental studies also tend to have arbitrary and
ambiguous measures of aggressiveness, due to the fact that real aggressiveness cannot be
observed in an experimental setting (Goldstein, 2003). Are blasting some stranger with white
noise or killing characters in video games accurate measures of a participants aggressiveness?
Not necessarily. Because various factors are not controlled or accounted for, the results of many
studies can be interpreted in many ways. For example, we cant really tell if a subjects increased
aggressiveness is a result of playing video games or just a personality trait that was brought forth
during game-play (Porter & Starcevic, 2007). The relationship between violent video games and
real-life aggression is very complex, and studies such as the one conducted by Wallenius and
Punamaki have shown that the effects of playing violent video games are dependent upon many
personal and situational factors (2008). The point is that while many studies have shown
correlation between violent video games and increased aggressive and violent behavior, they do
not prove that violent and delinquent behavior is caused solely by the exposure to violent video
games.
There is a third type of study, called a longitudinal study, that overcomes some of the
flaws of experimental and correlation studies. Longitudinal studies try to link habitual exposure
to violent video games to level of aggressiveness one or two years later, and at the same time
controlling variable such as personality traits and other risk factors (Anderson, 2003). These
characteristics make the results of longitudinal more relevant to the question of whether violent
video games promote real-life aggressiveness. Unfortunately, the current number of published
longitudinal studies is very small compared to the other types of studies (Anderson, 2003; Porter
& Starcevic, 2007). Some longitudinal studies such as the one conducted by Hopf, Hubert, and
Weib (2008) also include the effects of violence from films and other media rather than focusing
just on video games. Until more longitudinal studies are published, we cannot conclude anything
about the long term effects of violent video game exposure because most of the current published
studies do not focus on this issue.
In conclusion, the current research has not resulted in conclusive prove that playing video
games promotes real-life aggression. While studies have found an association between violent
video games and increased aggression, researcher cannot yet determine if the increased
aggression is a sole consequence of playing video games or something else such as the
personality trait of the person being studied. We also should not buy into the perception that
violent video games cause violent youth crimes, because there is little evidence to support these
claims. From the results of the current research, we can make the recommendation that
adolescents with certain hostile traits or history of delinquency should be discouraged from
playing certain violent video games. We should also further our efforts to educate youths and
their parents about games that may encourage violent behavior.
In order to find a conclusive relationship between violent video games and human
behavior, the academic community needs to develop more advanced research techniques and to
conduct more long-term studies such as longitudinal studies. Until we have a clear understanding
of the relationship between video game violence and human aggression, we should not and
cannot conclude that playing violent video games will make a person more aggressive as a
consequence.