Violent Video Games and Violence

Friday, January 18, 2013


On Wednesday, President Obama outlined his proposals for gun control. Among them was a request to Congress for $10 million to study the impact of media on violence, with a nod specifically to video games. Brooke talks to Jason Schreier, a reporter for Kotaku, about 25 years' worth of studies on the effect of violent games, and what researchers have found.


Jason Schreier

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [15]



Mar. 05 2013 03:02 PM
kylesia from flint,michagan

i think kids should not have violent video games utile they are 13 years of age!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feb. 28 2013 03:50 PM
Jeff M.

With the comic violence of the Three Stooges, or even the violent "action" cartoons of 1960's Saturday mornings, the viewer was a passive observer watching the action. With video games the viewer/player BECOMES the "shooter" as well.

Feb. 01 2013 11:46 AM

I find both views equally baffling: That video games directly cause violent behavior vs. video games have no impact on our psyche or tendency toward violence.
But taking the latter view, how then does one explain the impact of meditation? Granted, meditation won't stop war, but it does have some effect, at least on some people, some of the time. And how about the billions, probably trillions of dollars spent on advertising? A complete waste of money? I don't drink Coke, but I am affected by advertising, especially by products I'm already biased toward, and especially when I was a child. Do books have no influence on people's ideas? Has a movie never changed anyone's perspective? Was all that propaganda in 1930's Germany for naught? What about the US Army's development and use of its own video game for recruitment and training? What about fight songs at soccer matches?
I can't help but think that anyone saying that 1st person shooter games have absolutely no effect on children is either afraid that someone will either take their toys away, or truly believes that human beings and the art, media, songs, words, and stories they create for each other never inspires, teaches or has any correlation to anything. Does a fight song ~make~ people fight? No, but it can really set the mood, and it sure is fun to sing while you're fighting.

Jan. 27 2013 04:10 PM

It's not violent its just that we want to see how it feel to be the person in the game. We just like using our minds.

Jan. 22 2013 02:33 PM
John Suter from San Francisco

If our government had difficulty trying to decide whether or not extreme violence in videos causes aggressive behavior, maybe they should consider what they might do if someone creates a video game about doing harm to a government official. Call it "Kill the Politician [fill in the blank]" - or whatever. I don't think many people at the FBI or CIA would have problems deciding whether or not this kind of game was good for our society. I agree that it is not good, but it would be interesting to interview someone from those agencies on their thoughts of violent videos.

Jan. 21 2013 08:57 PM
magister ludi

Mary Beth, what I can say is that the Swiss have access to the same video games, films and other media as Americans do, as do many countries with media as violent and omnipresent, if not more so. So it seems silly to blame violence on, specifically, guns, media, divorce (which has also been mentioned, stupidly), or most of the other theories I hear. The case calls for some regression analysis, and imagination. And I don't have a great answer, besides that stuff happens.

Jan. 20 2013 09:13 PM
Mary Beth Hansen

Dear Brooke, Re possible connection between video games and violence: Video games may be only a very small part of the role media play in increasing violence. While I do not watch what is referred to as 'Reality Programming,' spot ads for such programs are almost impossible to avoid. Going all the way back to "The Weakest Link," there has been an exponential increase in snarky, mean-spirited behavior encouraged on television. Programs like "Survivor," "The Apprentice," "The Bachelor," etc., etc. glorify trash talk. Also, the forming of 'alliances' where participants then back-stab and tell how dumb everyone else is. Bullying and nastiness is common fare.

Violence is also commonplace in movies. There was a time when "Scarface" starring Al Pacino was shocking. Now such mass murder is a feature of most so-called blockbuster movies. Television ads for such movies are also almost impossible to avoid unless one uses one's TV only to watch old movies, or turns off the set altogether.

Why is it that despite a law in Switzerland that every household with a male resident between certain ages must maintain a rifle in the house, violent crime using such ready-to-hand weapons is so rare as to be insignificant?

Proposed new laws strengthening background checks would have done nothing to prevent the Virginia Tech, Aurora movie theater or Sandy Hook elementary school tragedies. A better question to ask, and a better issue to explore, is why there seem to be so many mentally unstable people walking among us, threatening innocents everywhere, in all sorts of ways, including Bed, Bath and Beyond stores and subway platforms.

Jan. 20 2013 11:03 AM
Ramesh from NY

Look at law enforcement personell's dipiction on media; the gun, dark glasses, chiselled body, dangling mouth piece, sense of duty (or patriotism). This image is very influential and many people will fall to this power trap.

Jan. 20 2013 12:35 AM
Dave P.

Violent video games are always the easy scapegoat, but what about the society in general loving to promote violence by glorifying the military?

Jan. 19 2013 09:46 PM
magister ludi

STEVEN PINKER: The Supreme Court made the right decision. In fact, I signed on to an amicus brief in California when the law was first challenged, because the science that attempts to show that watching violent video games makes kids violent is bad science. Most of it is blank-slate science: they do correlations showing that the kids who like violent entertainment are also kids who commit more violence, and they leap from cause to effect without factoring in the possibility that violent people like violent entertainment.

In terms of cause and effect, there's little, if any, evidence for a causal relationship, aside from irrelevant findings like, if you show kids the Three Stooges, they run around the lab a lot more—that's the "science." And historically, the great age of video game violence, which has been since the 1990s (and it is gruesome stuff) are exactly the decades in which violence in the United States plummeted.

Violent crime in all western countries has declined. There was an opposite trend I haven’t talked about, but you may have noticed in the graphs: when I plotted the rate of violence in European countries from the Middle Ages to the present, it went way down, and then there was a little uptick in the 1960s. It was a little bounce in violence that lasted through the '60s, '70s and '80s then got reversed in the '90s. This decade has brought us back to some of the lowest rates of violence in American history, 4.8 per 100,000 per year. (The lowest was 4.0, in the late '50s.) The new decline took place exactly when video games exploded. And there's a reason for the lack of a causal relationship.

Violent entertainment goes way back, including special effects by Shakespearean actors who would have concealed bladders filled with pig blood, so that when one stabbed the other, there would be a big spurt of gore. People have always liked violent entertainment. The correlation with behavior is poor because of the way human motivation works. When are people violent? It's when they want someone else to come to harm. That accounts for most of the variance in violence. How often you see it done, whether you see it done in your imagination, is separate from how many other people in the world you want dead. And that's why I think that video games are a red herring.

Jan. 19 2013 07:04 PM

Of course competitive games make people aggressive, any competitive games makes people competitive look at the game dodgeball, people go WAY overboard with that game, yet no one links this to gun violence. Gun violence is caused by guns... can we please stop acting foolish now?

Jan. 19 2013 02:33 PM
Ann_Kjellberg from New York CIty

Jane Katch wrote a beautiful book called Under Deadman's Skin, observing that young children appear to become more aggressive under the influence of violent media not imitatively, but out of anxiety. Weren't there also DOD programs to develop video games that would refine skills that would be useful to the military? I was shocked that the Smithsonian Sea, Air, and Space museum includes rides that put kids' fingers on the triggers in simulated war planes.

Jan. 19 2013 12:45 PM

An Executive Order requesting Congress for $10 million for even more studies into the impact of fake violence from the same administration that evoked Executive Privilege to stifle a singular Congressional investigation into real violence from the Fast & Furious program?

Could "requesting" research into video games and these other superfluous Executive Orders be yet another manufactured political crisis meant to distract from a ruinous debt while financially benefiting academia and other sectors that largely supported the Obama campaign? Of course anyone questioning the expense, effectiveness and Constitutionality of all of these orders which conspicuously left out the film industry will be demagogued and derided.

The President stated "we don't benefit from ignorance" while surrounded by children but hasn't he and his party clearly benefited from ignorance on this and other hot button issues by provoking emotional reaction over the facts with the aid of the news media?
...but now for more indignant coverage about a "liar and a bully and cheat"....athlete.

Jan. 19 2013 11:46 AM
Hugh Sansom

Here's evidence of how politically laden American investigations into the causes of violence are: How many, if any, are investigating a possible correlation between the US lust for war and violence among Americans? There's general agreement that the US has a problem with violence not seen in other countries. The US is also engaged in more wars in more places than any other nation. American politicians, educators, and journalists lionize American warmakers (e.g., Diane Sawyer and Chris Cuomo at ABC News regularly refer to America's "warrior heroes"). What's the connection between America's Orwellian "war is peace" ethos and violence?

Think any researcher would even dare suggesting such a line of investigation?

Jan. 19 2013 07:21 AM

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