Media reports: New study links games to aggression

Britain's Independent newspaper reports that a new study has proven a link between violent imagery in games and movies, and desensitization of teenage boys to actual violence. The study, which has been widely re-reported in news media and gaming sites, is being positioned as the “smoking gun” that links videogame violence and angry young men, which naturally scares a lot of gamers and makes moral grandstanders happy. The problem is that it actually does nothing of the sort.

Above: A screenshot of GTA IV, as is required in all articles about videogame violence 

The actual study – which is freely available here (though it makes the manual for Civ 5 look like light reading) – suggests that if young men passively watch a lot of violent media, particularly media that depicts violence but isn't really all that graphic, the less they'll respond to it (doy). The experiment didn't involve games or gaming, so the study doesn't really mention gameplay except to say that it might have a similar affect. Tellingly not quoted, in the report or media coverage thereof, is the extensive 2007 study (again, yeesh with the reading and the big words) by Britain's film classification board.  That study concluded that it's dangerous to equate passively viewed violence (which the new study focuses on) with interactive conflict (you know, the stuff with the chainsaw bayonet in Gears of War) because the “interactive” bit makes the two forms too different to compare.

Above: And here's Manhunt 2. Honestly, these images basically find themselves

Whether you hear this story reported by alarmist game-phobic media or equally alarmist media-phobic gamers, calmly reassure them that you're all for a discussion of whether or not Mortal Kombat has led you to kill anyone, but ask that they read the actual study before telling you what it says. This should give you ample time to rid yourself of their irksome company and find someone more fun to talk to.

Oct 21, 2010


  • ArcaneGhost - November 6, 2010 1:16 p.m.

    The only games that make me aggressive is online fps's. I'm not going to deny that something happens in that type of competition, but the ACTUAL violence... pshh.
  • CERyan - October 24, 2010 7:09 p.m.

    Is this supposed to be emerging science? There has been controversy on this for quite a while.
  • DeepIsh - October 23, 2010 12:09 a.m.

    After all these years, people are still on this "Videogames create murderers thieves and bad citizenz!" crap. It's been 10 years. If every person playing violent games killed a few guys, then the worlds population would be reduced to 2 billion. maybe less. It just gets me mad seeing people performing these bullshit "experiments"
  • Letterbomb - October 22, 2010 3:33 p.m.

    Violent games don't cause people to be violent. It's common sense. People who are mentally unstable are the ones who become violent. They can't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. People are stupid.
  • andymacsa4 - October 22, 2010 2:46 p.m.

    I was going to kill this guy I know, Bill, on account of his awful table manners, but then I started playing Fallout: New Vegas, and I just don't have the time to kill anyone anymore.
  • Soulmantle - October 22, 2010 8:17 a.m.

    So if this is true does that mean the Italian football supporters who hospitalized, with stab wounds some Liverpool supporters were playing Fifa 11 before they attacked them?...or can we agree that more people are killed and harmed by acceptable (non violent) sporting activities than electronic gaming.
  • aliengmr - October 22, 2010 4:41 a.m.

    I could release a study making the case that the color BLUE is in fact, the color YELLOW. Which incidentally causes purple to go into a jealous homicidal rage and kill the color YELLOW. Also that this is fundamentally caused by the color RED's closet homosexuality and we must immediately ban LEGO's for the sake of the children.
  • PipBowl420 - October 22, 2010 2:38 a.m.

    they would be better looking at whether you are willing to kill someone if you have the chance to do it as u will, and as u wish, rather than if certain things make people more violent... because video games give you the will, (if you want, or not in many cases) and a "fun" way to do it.
  • CreeplyTuna - October 22, 2010 1:14 a.m.

    people have been killing each other for thousands of years. Who played GTA and then went out and crucified Jesus Christ(too far?) cuz they got a violent urge?
  • BazyLastard - October 22, 2010 12:20 a.m.

    @SideOfBeef: Amen. And to answer your question: No, most of the posters for this article only read the title and immediately began flaming. Why be bothered with the facts. You're also dead on in pointing your finger at GamesRadar for being part of the problem. Personally I think they intentionally twisted the facts to illicit this exact response (the title is misleading to put it mildly). Either that, or they really are that poorly skilled at reading comprehension themselves.
  • BazyLastard - October 22, 2010 12:09 a.m.

    It's amusing to watch all the idiots up in arms over this article. Despite even the author's disclaimer that "The experiment didn't involve games or gaming, so the study doesn't really mention gameplay except to say that it might have a similar affect," AND despite the fact that NO WHERE in the article does it say the study linked playing violent video games to real world violent actions, so many people are railing on this study with "Just cuz I play violent games don't mean I'm gunna go out an kill somebody!@!!" comments. Save your anger for a study that deserves it. And read this article again. The study cited only asserts that teenage boys who passively observe violence in media are desensitized to it. In fairness to those posters however, the author of the article was a little misleading with their title which plainly states the study "links games to aggression" when the details of the study actually contained in the article never mention any link to aggression, merely a desensitization to violence. Or to quote the article, "The actual study...suggests that if young men passively watch a lot of violent media, particularly media that depicts violence but isn't really all that graphic, the less they'll respond to it." Notice it *does not* say, "The actual study suggests GamesRadar readers who play or watch violent games will go out and kill people in grizzly, gruesome fashion and should be locked up for the betterment of society." Now if you'll excuse me, I'm so angry after reading all these angry comments I need to go commit a violent crime!!
  • Bonesqaw - October 21, 2010 11:51 p.m.

    So it's a study that's of no harm to us or use to the detractors. As usual, theh have no case in their favor
  • SideOfBeef - October 21, 2010 10:59 p.m.

    Did a single person here actually read the media article in question? It doesn't say video games are linked to violence. It`s headline is Violence Link To Screen Images, and video games are only even mentioned once, in the following sentence. "Watching violent television programmes or video games can (etc)." For christ`s sake, Games Radar, you`re part of the problem. The media shouldn`t respect video games if gamers are going to flame the media for correctly reporting a story.
  • JohnDagger - October 21, 2010 10:44 p.m.

    Do violent and graphic images desensitize people to violence, maybe. Do they make people violent, no. I have been playing violent games and watching violent movies my entire life (I saw Aliens for the first time when I was five). Has this turned me into a violent lunatic? No, since i am more desensitized to graphic imagery I am now going through biochemical engineering courses and have to deal with cadavers on a weekly basis. Due to desensitization I am able to actually learn from these bodies rather than focusing on the fact that these are dead bodies and learn nothing from them. Video games make better doctors. Fact! (but maybe not, just in my case it's true)
  • theintellectual - October 21, 2010 10:40 p.m.

    you want heightened aggression? do a brain scan on a football player or a fucking boxer. MIKE TYSON anyone?
  • ikodo - October 21, 2010 10:37 p.m.

    I will admit, I get a little jacked up and aggressive from playing violent video games and so do a lot of people. But the one thing that all these researchers forget to include in the results is how long said person is aggressive after they stop playing. I calm down in just a couple minutes max. So for any of these studies to be correct, one would have to play the game and immediately go out and kill somebody. We all know that this isn't the case. So these studies aren't even testing the right situations. For a real study, they would need to test how calming down after playing the game correlates with their aggression. And I do agree that all the people that played games and also went out and killed somebody have something wrong with them. It would have happened eventually anyway. recaptcha: ruccuta I64;
  • Robx - October 21, 2010 10:31 p.m.

    See, the comments are funny because people angrily expresses that they are not affected. I'm just saying.
  • BoltActionRevolver - October 21, 2010 10:12 p.m.

    GOD! THIS MAKES ME SO MAD! I AM GOING TO KICK THE HEADS OF INNOCENT LOLKITTEHS AND THE NUNS THAT CARE FOR THEM... Then have a nice cup of Earl Grey and listen to some Halo Orcistral music and maybe some Bach to spice things up.
  • RebornJacob - October 21, 2010 10:07 p.m.

    Wow... Everyone I know has played violent games since elementary school and look at this... none of us have come to school with a gun or gone and stabbed someone because we saw it on a game. These test are always retarded biased bullshit because the people who usually run the tests haven't ever really played modern games or like this study, didn't even use video games as the variable for the test. And if anything it allows people who have a bad day to vent those feelings of anger into games because they can run around and shoot some people up on GTA or what not and cool down.
  • Gameguy94 - October 21, 2010 10:06 p.m.

    Doesn't everyone know already that violent games can cause a slight increase in aggression. This is nothing new.

Showing 1-20 of 33 comments

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