Does Violence In Video Games Cause Violent Behaviour?

Only recently another study was released linking violent behavior to violent video games, this time from Harris Interactive. Given how often these studies appear, is it time to accept that this link exists?

If we take at look at the study it shows that 58% of adults believe there is a direct link between playing violent video games and violent behaviour. However, 71% of the adults asked were either unaware of ESRB ratings or let their teenager/child play any video game regardless of ratings and only just over 2,000 individuals participated in the all American study.

At face value these results are inconclusive, yet we will no doubt see the media jump all over these findings and hammer home the idea, misleadingly, to the non-gaming population and worried parents. In no time at all we can probably expect a horrific gun crime to be blamed on violent video games; we’ve seen it happened in the past.

[drop]Usually I would always defend the gaming world and suggest that if we are to find the real link to violent behaviour we need to look deeper into social aspects, such as parenting and mental health issues.

However, I find my opinion edging ever closer to believing that this link between games and violent behaviour exists and is, personally, worrying.

In my own experience I find gaming to be the most anger inducing activity I undertake.

Forget competitive sports, it’s online gaming, and sometimes single player campaigns, that see my blood pressure rocket and my patience wear thin. It has even reached the point that I keep a stress ball handy when I game. I’m sure other gamers can relate to this.

Whilst this doesn’t lead me to exhibit truly violent behaviour, what I have noticed is a small rising anger problem. At the moment it’s nothing major, but it’s surely unhealthy.

Of course one could suggest other reasons for this change in mind set, ones that have nothing to do with gaming. Although I’m a stranger to the stresses of the real working world, mounting university work is certainly applying pressure. Another cause may be my football refereeing, an activity where I regularly receive verbal abuse.

Both of these could easily be triggers for my anger, yet deep down I know gaming plays a role. Gaming’s an integral part of my life, so it has a significant effect on my day to day actions.

From an early age I have been allowed to play games, and watch films for that matter, rated well above my age. For example, Grand Theft Auto is one of my earliest gaming memories. Although my play time’s been limited and I was supervised occasionally whilst playing these high rated games, the fact still remains that I’ve played violent video games from a young age – wrongly some may say.

However, despite consuming entertainment rated for those older than me for years, I’ve seen no detrimental effects from those particular games and movies, and my rising anger has only emerged recently. This leads to me believe that any source of violent behaviour arising from video games, including my own recently developing anger issues, is the result of modern day gaming. By this I mean online multiplayer.

Now don’t get me wrong I think the feature is great; playing with friends online is a must these days. It also promotes healthy competition most of the time. But sometimes this competitive nature crosses the line, and you can find gamers taking the game in question too seriously (this Call Of Duty Championship is a prime example). It’s not even limited to violent games, online gaming for racing and sports games yield the same problems.

I think it’s time for these studies to disregard the actual violence in video games and focus on this extreme competitive nature shown in modern gaming.

So do I believe there is a direct link between violence in games and violent behaviour? No, but what I do believe is that online multiplayer is a direct source of violent behaviour, not the violent actions undertaken in a game. It is only natural for us to defend one of our favourite past times, particularly when attacks on gaming can be seen as unjust and unfounded.

However, I think that problems arising from online gaming need to be further explored before we truly understand if they’re having an effect on those playing them.


  1. Question : Does Violence In Video Games Cause Violent Behaviour?

    Answer : No.

    • Its much more deeper than a “no”

  2. I think this’ll be an interesting discussion. Depends on how you define ‘behaviour’ of course – a quickening of the heart, tense fingertips – that’s behaviour, and yes – absolutely.

  3. Precisely as the article suggests, it’s other people who cause frustration and anger, not the game itself.

    This shouldn’t be a surprise really as it’s highly unlikely we’d find every random person in the street a joy to interact with. Throw in differing perceptions of fun and the long time excuse that alter-egos give people to be dick’s in an online environment, and you’ve got a perfect recipe for frustration and anger….. Making people more connected online hasn’t improved this, it’s made it worse.

  4. Omnipresence of violence, just like sexuality is a problem that society as a whole needs to confront.
    Violence like sexuality it’s ingrained so far into our lives that we do become oblivious to it and ignore it a conscious level, but subconsciously & to certain types of people? Independent research is definitely needed.

    Despite many parents now of an age where they probably gamed whilst they were younger, if not for far longer, gaming is still frequently seen as a harmless toy when in actual fact, strong parenting skills are needed when it comes to gaming.

    I suppose it’s the kind of atrocious parenting that sees parents ‘subcontract’ parenting out to a combination of TV & the state, as they personally don’t have to do any parenting because TV, a Nintendo DS and an Xbox 360/PS3 keeps their child occupied whenever their child isn’t in school… whereby parents think their role begins & ends with occasionally putting some food on the table & getting their kids to school and everything else the child needs from parents & role models is a hassle.

    It always comes back to poor parenting, but that aside… a constant stream of violence, especially the glorified, huge set-pieces in gaming which importantly are interactive, not passive… surely has an effect at some level worthy of further quality, independent investigation.

  5. I don’t think games are related to violence, I mean maybe now & then you might take it out on your controller but that’s normal, when I’m playing a game then stop & go on about my business, games don’t even come to my mind to attribute to my everyday behaviour, robbing people, running down prostitutes, stealing cars lol.

    I think society (just America) are trying to use video games as an escape to face up to reality that, they are failing to control gun control, also these shootings happens more in America than anywhere else in the world, if it does happen anywhere else in the world it’s usually racism based (can’t remember the guys name who went on a campus shooting spree)

    At the end of the day, violence is everywhere on your tele, holyoaks, eastenders, emmerdale, coronation street etc (I don’t watch these in order lol) but in all fairness games are being used as an escape goat.

    • Agreed. I get tense playing boardgames like Risk or Monopoly, but I don’t ‘believe’ they make me violent.

  6. I’ve been playing video games for about 25ish years and I’ve not killed or attacked anyone yet.
    I find playing games is a stress relief, I do sometimes get wound up but more often than not it relaxes me. I think if an individual is prone to violent behaviour its more to do with there family and social environment than it is media exposure

  7. No, not on its own. It can strengthen the behaviour already present, especially with children, but it’s only one small factor that really only plays in with people that have difficulty separating reality or suffer from other much stronger sources in their real life.

    The aggressive behaviour spawned by a game, is in most cases aimed at the game itself and should in worse cases only leave a normal adult a little grumpy.

    • This.

      Strengthens problems that are already there. Does not cause them.

      How many of these seriel killers/mass shooting killers eventually get deemed insane? I’d love to know that % as I’m fairly confident that no “game” has caused insanity in the past.

    • With Kenny on this one. It can exacerbate things but is definitely not the root cause of violence.

      I have played video games for over thirty years and am placid and calm during any sort of game. At most I swear and switch it off which is … 1 in a 1000 times of switching a game on in the first place.

      If you’re an angry person it makes sense that there’ll be certain “triggers” in your life that will light the touchpaper to you getting aggressive with people/things/etc.

      Seriously, most people just need to tend to their own anger issues and not blame gaming.

      However, my biggest gripe is the fact that it’s an opinion poll of Joe Public and all they hear is pure nonsense anyway! Seriously, what sort of situation is there when percentages are reported on like they’re even approaching fact (not aimed at TSA). What a load of crap!

      1000 people were asked if the Earth was flat. 600 of them said yes so we’ll go report on that. Yay!

      No!!!! Bad media. *rolls up newspaper* Bad media!

      • Thanks guys, I’m with you all the way.
        I studied this subject last year for an exam, and read up on a variety of publishings on the matter.

        No studies have been done that proves as a fact that video games cause real world violent behaviour on their own. Only that they can add to what’s already present.

        Most studies fail to replicate the way we normally play games and the ones that claim to have proven a link, have only proven a weak link at best and are usually funded into corruption. The only ones I found that seemed more conclusive were the ones that prove gaming to have positive effects in problem-solving and alike. (But maybe I’m biased, just like 90% of studies)

  8. Clearly violent movies also cause violent behaviour – Gary George in the news at the moment for killing his friend in the style of his favourite horror film.

    And violent music – the Columbine murderers listened to Marlyn Manson.

    The only sane course of action is for us all to become Amish and shun technology entirely. Then of course the new scapegoat would be ‘having an untidy beard’ as the cause of violent behaviour.

    Also slightly off topic re: the CoD Championship video – Notable game championships videos that I have watched in the past include Street fighter, Counter Strike, League of legends, Quake 3, Team fortress, Starcraft 2, Unreal Tournament, etc, all with prize money on the line, sometimes BIG prize money – NEVER have I seen that kind of behaviour.

    I don’t really like to generalise but CoD seems to simply attract cretins like jam attracts wasps.

    (That doesn’t mean if you play CoD I automatically think you’re a cretin, to be clear).

    • But you do think that CoD players like jam, and that the best way to fight them off is to chase them with a rolled up newspaper?

      Call of Duty: Picnic Defence.

      • This sounds like a study worth funding.

  9. Good. Article. I genuinely believe there is a link between gaming and violence. It may not be a causal relationship but there’s a link. Maybe naturally violent people are drawn towards gaming for catharsis.
    I’m not saying gaming makes people become violent. That isn’t the question here. But is there a link between gaming and violence? Probably.
    There’s only 1 thing in life that makes me rage and that’s fifa. Fact. I’ve smashed controllers in fifa induced rage. Never in life has anything ever driven me to that sort of behaviour except fifa. And I teach. Trust me those kids can be infuriating.

    • Absolutely true for me too. FIFA can be rage inducing, but can be so pleasing too. Very emotive I guess, for me anyway.

      • I can never rage much in football games for some reason. I’m quite calm but I was ragey back in the days I bothered to play Fifa online. Pes changed me forever since PES10.

  10. personally, i think calling that a “study” it giving it far too much credit, as far as i’m concerned, that’s an opinion poll, not exactly a good basis for scientific research.
    a few centuries ago you could have polled people about the shape of the earth, but that wouldn’t have made it fact.
    even without the small group size i see no scientific merit in this study.

    that’s not to say i could discount the possibility of games causing violent behaviour, though i don’t believe it could in cases where there isn’t some underlying condition that the games could trigger.

    i believe better diagnosis of these conditions would be more helpful than watering down content that is perfectly safe for 99.99% of the population.

    i mean, i get angry at games all the time, lots of swearing, occasional throwing of the joypad, but a couple of minutes after i’ve finished playing that anger is all but forgotten.

    it’s my belief that those few who have gone on to commit violence, have had something in them already that was just waiting to be triggered, and it could have been anything that set them off.

    if the fear of something acting as a trigger to violence in a tiny minority is a problem, then why isn’t society having this discussion about religion?

    • i meant to say, wouldn’t have made it flat.
      not fact.

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