Are Video Games Really Making Us More Violent?


– So I’m hanging out with my
little cousin the other day, right? And he’s on his laptop and
he’s playing some video games or whatever. And then I notice he’s
just kind of walking around in this world with all
his other little friends and they’re not really doing anything. So I’m looking over at
it and I’m like, dude, where are the explosions? (up beat music) Video games over the years
have gotten more sophisticated and with the rise of
e-sports and the popularity of these games, the video game industry has really grown grossing
$43.8 billion in 2018 and some of the most popular
video games, however, are pretty violent. My call of duty, grand
theft auto, mortal combat, and so many more. And it’s these kinds of games
that are causing more and more controversy as politicians
claim they might be contributing to the rise of mass shootings in the U S you see it in the news all the time. – We are training children
whether we intend to or not, whether it’s anyone’s desire
or not through video games, through movies, through musical lyrics. – Students are desensitized to violence. May have lost empathy for their victims by watching hours and hours
of video violent games. – So today we’re gonna to
dig deeper into the research and ask are violent video games causing gun violence in America? Now I gotta be honest, I’m
not really a big gamer. So I turned to some people who are, these students are part of
a national youth journalism program called PBS News
Hour Student Reporting Labs. They researched, wrote and
helped produce this episode of above the noise. So give a nice warm welcome to David , Reed, Maria, Hannah and Trevor. (up beat music) – Now before we get into the research, let’s set the scene a little. First of all, this debate
is in anything new. Violent video games have
always had a bad reputation. Beginning back in 1976 with
the release of the game death race, where basically players
ran over stick figures. After an outcry over death
raised in other games in 1994 the entertainment software
rating board or ESRB for short began placing recommended age
restrictions on game covers. And then, in 2005 California
passed a law that ban the sale of violent video games to minors. The bill was later struck
down by the Supreme court as unconstitutional because
it jeopardized free speech. And more recently president Donald Trump has expressed his opinion about the issue. – We must stop the glorification
of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome
and grizzly video games that are now commonplace. – But the one perspective missing is from the gamers themselves. We wanted to know why are
these games so popular anyway, so we turned to some gamers to find out. – I think violent video
games are so popular because it’s like not
something that you usually like experience in like the real world and it’s like you don’t get to do it. So it’s kind of like a different, like it’s just different and I think that that’s
why they’re so popular. – It’s mostly due to the
interaction that you get when playing a violent video game. It’s like you’re directly
interacting with like other people almost with most violent video games. – It’s a side society that
we can’t do in person. – So from the research it’s pretty clear that there’s no evidence
that volume video games lead to mass shootings. Now there’s little scientific evidence to support the connection
and it may distract us from addressing those issues
that we know contribute to real-world violence. We sat down and talked
with Chris Ferguson, he’s a psychology professor
at Stetson university in Florida who’s been researching
the effects of video games on behavior for 15 years. Now since he’s based in Florida
we didn’t have the budget to fly all of us there, so we had to settle
with a webcam interview. – We’re looking at like violent crime. It’s really what people
are concerned about. It’s everything from
bullying through assaults, through mass homicide, right? It’s a range of stuff
people’s worried about. I think we can definitely say
that the evidence we have now from a variety of pools of evidence, it does not suggest
that violent video games are contributing to
these types of outcome. – When it comes to mass
shootings, some of the countries that play the most video games don’t have the same issues we have. Check out the numbers from
this Vox News analysis. Video games are even more
popular in Japan and South Korea and they don’t have nearly
the same number of deaths from gun violence as America. – But even if you look at
assaults, you know, you might say, well they have tight gun control laws, but even if you look at assaults,
they’d tend to not to have as you know, very high assault rates. – So the effect of violent
video games, on real world violence is not really up for
debate in the research field. Well, what is up for debate is the effect violent video
games have on milder forms of aggressive behaviors. Back in 2015 the American
psychological association did a huge analysis of all
the research on video games and aggression and basically
concluded that playing video games can lead to aggressive
thoughts and behaviors. Okay, so you might be thinking Miles, that kind of sounds like
video games lead to violence. But here’s the catch. There is a difference between
violence and aggression. And that’s what often gets
confused in the media, which can help explain the
hype around video games causing real-world violence. Just so that we’re all on the same page. Usually violence refers to
physical harm and aggression is a more general term
that refers to angry or hostile thoughts,
feelings or behaviors. So everything that is
violent is aggressive, but not everything that
is aggressive is violent. So generally speaking,
hitting, kicking, punching, those are all violent behaviors and yelling, getting irritated
or frustrated, arguing, talking back. Those are all aggressive behaviors and this is an important
distinction to understand the research. So to learn more, we
talked to Deborah Nichols, a professor at Purdue University and director of the Children’s Media Lab. – There is considerable
research in this domain that there are links between
playing violent video games and aggressive thoughts,
aggressive behaviors. But there are two caveats
that, we need to talk about. First, when they measure aggression, sometimes it’s measured
as aggressive thoughts, sometimes it’s measured as, actual how many physical
acts have you engaged in and aggressive behavior? You have to be very careful
about how you define what aggression is. And then the other aspect of it is, even when these relationships are found, they tend to be fairly small and weak. – But as Trevor said before, there’s debate in the
field about the influence. – Even if we’re talking
about like milder aggression, we still don’t really see my
opinion evidence for fact. – So there seems to be a
bit of conflicting data on the influence of video
games on aggression. But what is clear is there isn’t evidence to suggest they lead
to real world violence or mass shootings. – Yeah. Historically, concerns about
video games were bipartisan. So we had both Democrats and Republicans that were concerned and you
know, about video games. And I think a lot of that had to do with catering to an audience. And that audience is old people, you know, so they’re the people that vote, you know, so old people don’t play video games. They don’t like video games. And they vote, you know, so
it was largely beneficial for politicians to kind of make a big fuss over video games because
it made it look like they were doing something. – So now that you know
more about the research, how concerned are you about the effects of violent video games on behavior? Let us know on the comments below. Hey, thanks for watching. If you’re into video games, check out our video on
Video Game Addiction, or if you want more from
these student reporters, check out our video on
School Address Codes. And if you’re a teacher, get your students talking about this video on
our website KQED learn. And as always, I’m your host. Miles Best til next time y’all peace out. (up beat music)

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34 Responses

  1. Above The Noise says:

    How worried are YOU about video games and their effects on our behavior? Let us know in the comments below!

  2. Gustavo Ladeira says:

    Short answer: nope.

  3. Infectedstyles_Chris says:

    No.
    Because video game =/= real world. Politicians who don't even know what a video game is. How about the parents being parents? And finally, watch the evening news to see real violence. Days on end after 9/11 the stations had those videos on repeat over and over which would have contributed to more anxiety and stress because it was real.

  4. Dhindara Vrel says:

    You also need to differentiate between aggressive and defensive behaviour. Talking back is a perfect example of defensive behaviour. If you're accosted by someone verbally, defending yourself verbally is not a sign of aggressive behaviour. That's a question of defence. It's the same with physical violence. If you're attacked and you defend yourself, that doesn't make you violent. That's just the common sense of not wanting to be hurt and taking steps to avoid it.

  5. hauuau says:

    Of course correlation is not causation but it might be useful to compare general level of violence in the world before video games became a thing and afterwards. It's pretty clear that modern societies are much less violent compared to 50 or a hundred years ago. And it's also clear that most violent places in the world don't have any access to video games.
    It's more productive to try to solve real problems which cause real violence like poverty, religious extremism, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, international criminal organizations, lack of mental care, lagging behind communities, etc than to try to blame all the hard problems on video games.

  6. Ryan Miller says:

    I wonder what game politicians were playing that made them have Jeffery Epstein killed? One of the Hitman series maybe?

  7. Jolly Gator says:

    Kinda is like this – If you play a cooking game you will not become a great chef. Will it make you more hungry though? Well maybe, it's hard to tell.

  8. Evil Otto says:

    Glad video games could take some heat off the J. D. Salinger estate

  9. bg674dh7rd says:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge%27s_law_of_headlines

  10. EasyGoingDude 99 says:

    @6:25 PREACH!

  11. Jonathan says:

    Yesterday I was watching "Adam Ruins Everything – Behind the Myth that Video Games Cause Violence" he was making similar statements.

  12. A3Kr0n says:

    Videos about videos wondering if video games make people more violent, make people more violent IMO.

  13. DoseOfAwesome says:

    This was a very poor episode, there's much more to say, all against "video-games cause violence". This episode just makes it seem like there's not a strong correlation. In fact, There's a negative correlation according to the research out there.

    This was a poorly made episode

  14. kittenclaws says:

    Correlation ≠ Causation. Are video games creating aggressive behavior or are people with aggressive tendencies using video games as an outlet?

    I kinda expected that point to be brought up in the episode. Either the studies must address this or their results are suspect. How do they isolate for this variable?

  15. c'est la vegan says:

    Not really worried. But we should certainly look out for our children. Exposing young children to graphic violence, even if it's fictional, just can't be good for their mental health. Age matters. I mean, a 12-year-old playing GTA might not be that terrible; but a 5-year-old playing a game like that could really be tragic.

  16. MindLaboratory says:

    The research is quite clear that the biggest link to mass shootings is the availability of weapons that allow mass shootings.

  17. Randy Saunders says:

    This "these relationships aren't strong" and "there is debate in the field" sort of thing seems a lot like "the connection between humans and climate change isn't very strong" and "there is debate in the field". Sure, gamers don't think games are bad – just like companies with coal-fired power plants don't think CO2 is a problem.

    This video didn't get very far "Above the noise", it was just the noise on both sides. It's also not very good framing to think that "old people" (nothing judgemental there) hate video games because they cause children to become violent. That's the "only humans cause climate change" argument that's a bad frame, intentionally easy to refute. The actual argument "lots of experience killing others in a video game might desensitize some people to killing in the real world" is a lot more nuanced. The gamer saying she likes games because she doesn't get to do that sort of thing in the real world is actual an argument against violent games. She sounds like she might be intrigued by the opportunity to kill kids at her school if offered, a scary concept.

  18. Sarah Claasen says:

    I am more concerned with the fact that despite all the types of data we can get over all the years it takes, the talking heads, politicians, and pundits will always manage to win over the people.

  19. Patrick Luy says:

    Nope. Politics makes us more violent.

  20. Robert Skitch says:

    "Why are these games so popular anyway?" I'd say it's because the core mechanics for these games are relatively easy to iterate and innovate; generic in that they can be adapted to multiple titles; and are an easy sell because players are already familiar with them from previous experience.

    I'm not saying that making these games is necessarily easy, but I'm not sure what other types of games there are out there which could as naturally dominate the market? It's pretty easy for a type of game to be popular when the majority of games are of that type.

  21. persivefire says:

    Watch game theory's take on this

  22. Torax Malu says:

    🙀OMfG!!! Frankly? Again these discussion‽ You're nuts…

  23. Michael S says:

    I have never been more violent then while playing Tetris. A non-violent video game.

  24. Thomas R. Jackson says:

    Nice overview of the research. In the last comments, not so sure about the “old people” reference. Sure, but parents have also been a target audience for politicians. I guess those are “old people” from some perspectives. Regardless, pandering with “do something”-ness is a good warning. Current politics is awash with this sort of thing, from all camps. It makes for bad policies, and distracts from real problems, or worse, their real solutions.

  25. Smith14J says:

    Great video and message! I appreciated setting apart the difference between aggression and violence. All of these student reporters did a great job on this topic, who else could cover it better than the teenagers who exist within that world. Always carries more weight when teens are allowed to contribute and sound off on topics that really affect themselves!!

  26. Steve Deasy says:

    I am disappointed you have allowed mass media consumerism to influence your argument. Violence is a smokescreen for other real problems. Depersonalization for one. Violence will only be triggered in a very small subset of any community. Aggression is the bigger problem. We're supposed to be a cooperative society. We don't just cooperate on killing each other.

  27. Jess Schweitzer says:

    I don't know about anybody else playing a violent or what some people would call Violennt" video game yeah that's because I'm trying to put effort into doing something but I get all this just excited when I finally beat that level cuz I took out my frustrations out on a game 🎮😜

  28. - says:

    • (1) All countries have violent video-games, (2) the US has more guns than anywhere else, (3) the US has more mass-shootings than anywhere else. Hmm, there must be some sort of connection, but what? What could it be? 🤔
    • 2:18 – "The trump-in-a-blender games are the worst, most egregious games and they must be stopped now."
    • 4:02 – Armoured Skeptic showed that too ( youtu.be/VQqZRNwzG68?t=461 ) and it's just so obvious when you see it like that.
    • As IGN put it: "Every Country Has Video Games, Only One Has A Mass Shooter Problem" youtu.be/Qzp8zKjfRw

  29. Jacob Longwell says:

    I think anything that reduces empathy is something we should take very seriously. I do believe however we should not start to ban things, people need aggression outlets. We should instead think about how we can make games that lead to more empathy. Then if the government wants to change behaviours they can just promote the nice to each other games.

  30. Ramon Quiroz says:

    It's fantasy.

  31. Altair 21 says:

    Politicians: Video games coz violence.
    * A random nation finds oil & is unwilling to give it to US for cheap *
    Politicians: Oh Boy! Here we go killing again!

  32. angeldeb82 says:

    Thanks for the info, Mr. Bess. BTW, the notion thought up by those clowns who think that violent video games lead to violence… this is just like saying that playing Red Dead Redemption 2 (shown in this video) can give you tuberculosis and cause you to spread the disease on other people. No offense, guys. (P.S., R.I.P., Arthur Morgan.)

  33. Johnny Dotson says:

    The most violent a person gets is when he rages from dying too many times and punches he computer screen.
    Other than that, why would a video game give me inspiration to shoot up a place? Any and every gamer knows it isnt real. They can make look and sound real but it will NEVER feel real. Hence the term Video game entertainment.

  34. Aidan Visentin says:

    Will Donald Trump

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