Do Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior?

Do Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior?

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Does playing video games cause aggressive behavior? Because children and teenagers spend an increased amount of time each day playing video games, they are shaping their values, attitudes, and behaviors. For people who do act out aggressively, the results can be deadly. Monthly, the news is filled with blood-chilling accounts of crimes committed due to a copy-cat obsession with violent video games. This paper will present a brief review of literature and reveal the difficulties in answering this question with certainty.
For the past 40 years, since the first video games were created, the gaming industry has developed games that would surpass other games before it. Since the late 1970’s, when the first two games of “Pacman” and “Space Invaders” were created, video games have changed tremendously over time. The late 1970’s through the 1980’s video game makers used what was called an 8-bit graphic system, which limited many features they could put in video games (Porter & Starcevic, 2007). Violence was not realistic, blood was not red, and so violence in video games was not incorporated into the new games that appeared on the market. In the early 1990’s, video game makers began using a 16-bit graphic system which would enable them to incorporate much more detail of violence and blood into video games. This caused an increase in violent video game demand and an increase in realistic violent events incorporated into these games (Porter & Starcevic, 2007).
With technology in video games enhanced, the productivity on violent videos games moved up as well. When a game called ‘Mortal Kombat’ was released in the early 1990’s with a gruesome death seen in the game, the US Congress had to intervene. They told the gaming industry they had to come up with an accurate grading system to rate the games on age-appropriateness and content-appropriateness. This brought on the “Entertainment Software Rating Board.” While rating each video game and posting that rate on them has improved access by small children, teens and young adults can still buy and view very violent scenes(Porter & Starcevic, 2007).
In 2007, there was a tragic event at Virginia Tech University. A young man by the name of Seung Hui Cho went on a rampage on the campus and killed a total of “32 students and faculty” (Ferguson, 2007).

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Cho admitted to watching videos games before the rampant killing, and just like the “Columbine massacre,” people blamed the Virginia Tech shooting on violent video games. There were also other mental health factors that attributed to this senseless act of violence. In the year 1999, a tragic shooting at Columbine High School occurred. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students, along with one teacher. Shortly after the attack and killing of their fellow students and teacher, they both committed suicide. After the massacre, a police investigation revealed a video tape of both the boys. In the video, both boys made the comment saying it would be “just like doom” (p. 423). “Doom” is a violent video game that burst on the market in the 1990’s shortly after the new genre of gaming called “first person shooter,” a 3-dementional environment type of video game, showed up on the scene. Since the “Columbine massacre” and the shooting at Virginia Tech, scientists have more thoroughly studied whether violent video games causing aggressive behavior can be linked together (Porter & Starcevic, 2007).
Since the inception of media, especially after violence was introduced to it, hundreds of studies have focused their research on viewing these violent acts and aggression. When violent video games emerged, researchers turned to analyzing these much more closely. Many of the studies focused on the sex of the person and studying male versus female aggression after viewing and playing video games. Some studied viewing violent video games versus playing the violent games to find if there was a connection between the two (Polman, de Castro, & van Aken, 2008). But the question remains: Can scientists, with certainty, conclude that an activity that most children and teenagers partake in, lead to violence in such a small percentage of those children and teenagers? In 2007, C.J. Ferguson from Texas A&M University reviewed articles/studies based on the positive and negative effects of violent video games. In his research, the “relationship between video game violence and aggression…have produced mixed findings” (p. 310). Throughout Fergusons study, he “specifically found significant problems with publication bias in the video games effects literature, as well a tendency for the use of unstandardized measures of aggression…” (p. 310). If there are no standardized ways of testing aggression, how can a relationship between aggression and video games be concluded? Ferguson also found in the studies he reviewed, most of them leaned toward focusing on the negative aspects of video games (Ferguson, 2007).
Very few studies have researched the positive effects of video games. The studies that Ferguson reviewed revealed that viewing violent video games appear to increase a person’s “visuospatial cognition” (p. 311). According to Webster’s Dictionary, visuospatial is defined as: “Of or relating to visual perception of spatial relationships among objects.” Watching video games tends to improve hand eye coordination, and gives the person an increased ability to view multiple scenes taking place, like finding where that missing piece of the puzzle is (Ferguson, 2007).
Ferguson found no correlation between violent video games and negative behavioral effects, only the visual effects noted above. Ferguson concluded that research from current studies have been analyzed cannot link watching violent video games to aggressive behavior (Ferguson, 2007).
In the study conducted by Jim Blascovich, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, he concluded that the more elaborate the graphics are the more of a tendency exists to exhibit aggressive behavior after viewing video games. Explicit viewing material tended to be more realistic, thus eliciting aggressive behavior in the real world. As stated earlier, Pacman’s graphics were very elementary in content, and as graphics have become more sophisticated, the violence and death scenes have become more realistic in today’s video games (Persky & Blascovich, 2008).
Each study reviewed, tended to suggest there is some link between viewing violent video games and aggression. As stated in the article by Porter and Starcevic, “Several lines of evidence suggest that there is a link between exposure to violent video games and aggressive behavior. However, methodological shortcomings of research conducted so far make several interpretations of this relationship possible” (p. 422) (Porter and Starcevic, 2007).
Can aggressive behavior be completely linked to watching video games? Or are there other extenuating circumstances that influence this behavior? Studies suggest a link in video watching and aggression, but researchers have not been able to find a direct causal relationship between the two. As in most behaviors, there are many other factors that may contribute to the person’s behavior and their actions to a specific event. To conclude that watching violent video games causes aggression cannot be said with certainty, unless other variables can be controlled for. Those variables would include sex, family history, tendencies toward aggressive behavior prior to watching video games, and many other factors that influence our behavior (Persky & Blascovich, 2008).
With the sale of video games in the United States being in the billions and the number of people viewing these acts of violence being so numerous, there had to be other factors that influence this aggressive behavior. The sheer numbers of people who view these violent video games versus the number of aggressive acts are not even close in numbers. After each mass killing that has occurred, the events leading up to it are dissected and studied. It is agreed upon that viewing or playing violent video games were part of these murderers’ lives, but other influences also were involved.
From studies reviewed and conclusions that were drawn from data, there were no consistent correlations between viewing violent video games that resulted in an increased tendency toward aggressive behavior. If that correlation is to be drawn, then more studies will need to be conducted to exclude variables that so far have not been addressed.

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