The Exposure Of Violence In Video Games To Young People


With technology advancing rapidly on a daily basis, it is no surprise that video games have had a huge increase in demand and popularity. Playing video games was not as accessible twenty years ago as it is now. At the present time, it is easy to play from the comfort of your own home with a games console, or you can play on the go with handheld devices. Video games attract people of all ages; however, the main audience is typically young people. The games offer entertainment for the many different interests that people have. For example, there are diverse genres such as sport, role-playing, shooters and many more. With several popular video games continuing to involve various forms of violence like shooting, gore and assault, it has raised questions and controversy over the years as to whether the violence in the games promote violence within young people in the real world.

The purpose of this essay is to examine different sources and studies, which have already been conducted, to assess whether video games do promote violence within teenagers or not. It will discuss the exposure of violence in video games to young people and how effective the studies relating to this topic have been.

Main Body

A study carried out over a two-year period, between 2017 and 2019, argues that violent video games do not promote hostility within youth. The authors of this specific journal article claim that previous studies carried out related to the same issue may have used questionable methods or had a shortage of theory-driven assessments. The article also intends to abolish theories of a connection between violent video game exposure and social violence within young people. In this study, there was a sample size of 3,034 teenagers from Singapore. The participants were evaluated for links between aggressive game play and seven aggression or prosocial outcomes after two years. Relevant factors included in the study were prior aggression, gender, and family connections. The study then compared the effect sizes to six non-relevant outcomes, which were completely unrelated to violent game play. Interestingly, the results found that it would take a play time of around 27 hours a day of ‘Mature’ rated video games to produce any substantial changes in personal aggression. Hostile video games were found to be unrelated to any of the outcomes used in the criteria. Therefore, this study concludes that violent video games do not promote violence within young people.

A different study which looked at the long-term effects of violent video games concluded that violent video games do have an impact on the aggression within young people in the real world. The assessment was carried out three times every six months on teenagers from China, involving 1,340 participants. The examination had multiple characteristics with one being that this was the first longitudinal study carried out with Chinese teenagers. It also contemplated moral disengagement within the participants as a factor. This is because violent video games allow many immoral acts such as killing. Lastly, it looked at whether violent video games had a greater effect on early teens in comparison to late teens, and for males more than for females. So, the results found that moral disengagement was a significant mediator of the long-term affiliation between exposure to violent video games and aggression. The results also found that aggression was stronger in early teens compared to late teens, and that gender difference did not influence the effects. It is important to consider however that even though violent crimes carried out in China have had links with video games, Singapore holds the highest video game play time in Asia, yet they have lower crime rates than China.

Another study conducted in 2019 investigated to what degree violent video game exposure increased levels of violence in young people. It compared the findings to young people who do not play video games. There is a lot of concern within the general public regarding the effects of video games, specifically violent ones, and this article aims to show that these concerns may be exaggerated. The method included a sample of 1,004 British teenagers, aged 14 and 15 years old. The carers of those teenagers were also involved. It was a survey-based study where a gaming engagement measure was used to count how many of the participants had recently played video games in the past month. Next, it assessed aggression and prosocial behaviour using the carers’ answers from a behavioural screening questionnaire. Results show that one of the surveyor’s predictions that there are statistically substantial links relating violent gaming to adolescents' aggressive behaviour, was actually incorrect. There also was no indication for a critical tipping point connecting violent video game exposure to hostile behaviour.

One study goes even further to suggest that violence from video games not only affects the direct player, but also spreads to those acquainted with the player (Greitemeyer, 2018). It also mentions that those who do not play these type of video games themselves still found an increase in aggression. This is due to the fact that their social network contains individuals who play violent video games. In the study, there were 998 participants with half being male and the other half female. The participants were presented with a questionnaire, which contained a number of questions such as “How often do you play violent video games?” and “I have hit another person within the last six months”. The contributors had to provide an answer using a five-point scale with the number one being ‘never’ and number five being ‘very often’. Participants were also asked questions about the five closest people to them. The results suggest that violent video game exposure for both participants and their friends was actually related to aggression. Results also indicated that the relationship between the participants’ aggression and their friends’ violent video game exposure was significant.

An article written by Jai Raven, who is a part of BBC’s ‘Young Reporter’ publishing group, expresses how video games are often largely blamed for gun related and other violent crimes, even without solid evidence to prove so. The article explains that violent crimes have been on a decline since the later part of the twentieth century, which is when numerous popular violent video games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty were released. In the article, there is also a reminder that many previous studies concerning this topic have proved that young people show little or no increase in violence after playing violent video games.

One particular article posted on the website ‘Psychology Today’ claims that violent video games do actually encourage violent acts from people. In this article, the writer Jean Twenge, who is an American psychologist, wrote following a school shooting in 2012 that violent video games are equally as responsible for violent crimes in the USA as the lenient gun laws are. Jean believes that video games are often overlooked by big media outlets after the occurrence of a major violent crime, such as a school shooting, but plenty of studies show evidence that violent video games increase real life aggression. The article references two meta-analyses, which include data on around 134,000 participants that conclude her theory. Jean goes on to state that removing violent video games would not end terrible crimes like mass shootings, but it could help to reduce real life hostility.

Other articles like one written by Lauren Farrar, who is an author for the KQED media company, stands at a neutral point regarding this topic. She states that it is unfair to blame violent crimes, like mass shootings, on violent video games as research does not back up that claim. Nevertheless, Lauren declares that video games are not completely blameless. Research from the American Psychological Association determined that violent video games increase aggressive behaviour and thoughts while decreasing prosocial behaviour and compassion towards aggression. The article also notes however that it is important to not confuse the two terms: violence and aggression. Violence typically means to carry out physical harm on another person, while aggression is a broader term that refers to angry feelings or behaviours. It can be said that all violent acts are aggressive but not everything that is aggressive is violent. This is a factor that must be considered in future studies regarding this controversial topic.

A journalist for the New York Times news outlet, Kevin Draper, elaborates on how politicians in the USA continue to scapegoat video games after violent crimes have been committed. The article compares situations in the USA, where mass shootings and gun crimes are common, to countries like South Korea and Japan where both countries have a huge annual spending on the video game industry. However, these countries hold some of the lowest crime rates in the world with mass fatalities rarely occurring. Aside from this comparison, Kevin reiterates his point by referring to a policy statement by the American Psychological Association which states that little to no evidence links violent video games to actually committing real life crimes. A contributor to the policy statement, Dr. Chris Ferguson, says “The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive”. This raises the question; are video games just an easy target to blame violent crimes on, or to use as an excuse for violent acts? Other actions could be taken to reduce crime rates, such as tightening gun laws, especially in countries like the USA where firearm laws are lenient.

Limitations & Further Research

An area of concern from the study in 2018 by Greitemeyer is how accurate and reliable the results may be. The study relies on participants to answer completely honestly in the questionnaire that is presented to them. This is a major issue and must be considered in future studies because dishonest answers can lead to invalid data, creating false results and conclusions. Another issue with the same study is that it says that those who are acquainted with violent video game players have an increased aggression due to being in the same social network. However, it does not consider that there may be external irrelevant factors which influence the level of aggression in those acquaintances. A further suggestion one would give for future research would be to use methodologies which compare video game players by genres. For example, examining the behaviours over a period of time of participants who play violent video games, and examining a different group of participants who play non-violent genres, such as sports games. Results can then be compared to see whether those who play violent video games have an increased violent behaviour when compared to those who play other genres. This can provide an insight to whether only the violent genre of games has an effect, and if video games in general do even create an increase in unethical behaviour.


In conclusion, evidence from many studies show that levels of aggression right after playing violent video games are somewhat increased. However, it does not increase to a level where one could confidently say that violent video games promote violence in teenagers. It is very apparent that over the years there have been many mixed results regarding this topic, with some studies being for it and some being against it. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain if they do have a negative effect or not, and if further action needs to be taken. After countless studies, the lack of concrete proof to back this theory gives the impression that for now, playing violent video games does not promote violence within teenagers.


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16 August 2021
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