Violent Video Games, Weak Statistics And Sensationalistic Headlines

from the details-please? dept

It seems one of the more controversial areas of study lately surrounds violent video games. It seems like every few months a new study comes out, and the results are always sensationalized, even if the details of the study usually don’t add up to very much. Much more telling is the fact that as graphically violent video games have become more popular, incidents of youth violence continue to drop when you would expect it to go the other way. Obviously, this is an area that could use more research — but so much of it seems to have serious problems. The latest “research” has come out on violent video games, and it’s grabbing lots of headlines, claiming that violent video games are linked to “risky behaviors” and increase paranoia. Other headlines point out the “major public health issue” and the “negative impact on youth”. Of course, the most sensationalistic claim is that somehow this study suggests violent video games make young males more likely to smoke marijuana. Of course, given that the effects of marijuana are supposed to make people less likely to go out and do stuff, it would seem to go against the view that violent video games lead to actual violence. Either way, it would seem that the press covering this story might want to dig a bit deeper into the facts. The study involves a fairly small sample size (100 young men) to start. Also, the fact that playing such games increases your blood pressure seems sort of obvious. People who are engaged in a video game are likely to have their blood pressure rise. That just means they’re really engaged in the game. As for the “leads to pot smoking” claim, this one deserves the most investigation — and one person who claims to have seen the study (if anyone has a copy, we’d love to check it out) says that what the study actually showed was that both the violent video gaming group and the control group said that marijuana was bad for your health on a six point scale. It’s just that the violent video game play group found it slightly less bad. To suggest that this means violent video gamers are more likely to actually engage in such things seems like a huge stretch — but it sure makes for good headlines.

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Comments on “Violent Video Games, Weak Statistics And Sensationalistic Headlines”

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Exiled From the mainstream says:

Gee haven't I heard THIS before?

I wanna hurt people who come up with this junk. Video games bad even though its usally a great way to let out stress from the daily grind? Anyone that seriously looks into this whole “video games are evil” thing can tell the media just wants something to get ratings from.

As for the marijuana thing, yes its bad for your health but what kinda crap is this? Video gamers find it slightly less bad? Oook…anyone wanna chalk that one up to false info or something? If it wasnt obvious yes I game and find these “studies” offensive. Playing the “Evil games” sure beats sending my fist into everyone I hate’s faces.

Saves a ton on tickets and court fees too!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Gee haven't I heard THIS before?

Yah dude i would much rather destroy orcs and zombies then go out and beat people up. Games arnt real they based on real things maybe, but people need to understand that they dont cause violence. People that go out and shoot people didnt get messed up from video games, blame it on their upbringing.

Cherieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee (user link) says:

Re: by TriZz on Apr 11th, 2006 @ 5:33am


dorpus says:


The average college graduate knows the cliche that correlation does not imply causation. But do they know that:

– Causation may not show up as a correlation?

– In a multiple regression setting, a correlation between the outcome and a single covariate may not show up at all? (The association is present only after adjusting for other covariates.)

– Correlation (the Pearson version, taught in Stat 101 courses) cannot detect nonlinear associations, such as a quadratic curve? (It will show up as correlation=0.)

Joel Padot (user link) says:

I just wanna cut people's heads off...

… In Star Wars Jedi Academy that is.

Exiled has it right. The stress relief accompanied by taking master chief into a room full of Covenant goons killing them all and then shooting them as they lay dead on the floor just to watch the blood spatter is priceless. Imagine how many people violent video games have saved. lol. Seriously though.

The problem is that the young video game playing male is under attack by society for the Columbine incident. Since those truely psycotic kids played violent video games, all kids who play video games must be murdurous psychos.

Coestar says:

People have always feared what they can’t understand…

And as our parents’ generation is hitting the golden years, they can’t understand why “us kids” (now in our 20s and 30s) haven’t dropped the video games. So, silly, baseless research is the hero of the day!

Imagine if one of the guys who played the “tame” videogame was also prone to making sacrafice of small animals… obviously, then, the only possible thing that could be inferred is that ALL PEOPLE WHO PLAY NON-VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES WILL MURDER SMALL ANIMALS!!!11 There just couldn’t be another option.

…call me when you can survey 300 million people efficiently.

Rawnchie14 says:


It’s a stupid and baised generalization about people who play violent video-games. I know plenty of different types of people who play video-games, of every different race, gender, society, and personality. This study is trash, with a bunch of half-baked conclusions drawn from shoddy data.

I do not play these games because I feel like I need to get pent up aggression out, nor do I feel paranoid after playing them. I play games b/c they’re fun, like most people should. After, I feel like crap b/c I just wasted a ton of my time on it, when I shouldn’t have. But it was a good high. Does it make me want to light up, or suspect my roomate will blame me for the stench in our dorm?

Naw… I don’t see the connections. It’s just a statistical excuse for moralilty freaks to spread thier ideals and opinions around, until everyone abides by them.

wolff000 says:

mary jane is good for you.

well maybe not good for you but it won’t do even half as much damage as liquor or cigarettes. that little piece of info came from the london medical journal, they studied people over a twenty year period, if memory serves correct. As for video games causing violence we all know that is a load of bs. the only thing that causes kids to be violent is parents not teaching them any kind of home training. all it takes is parents to do thier jobs and the #s would drop dramatically.

Alex C says:

Violence in the media...

Video games are just another medium, like television, radio, the internet etc…

I did a study on this subject back at college, and reviewed a lot of sources.

It seems that the truth is not in the gray area…

Kids arent transformed by violent video games or murder scenes on TV.

The problem is that there is a small group of kids, those who have certain psychological problems, or have some predisposition to violent behaviour. It seems that violence in the different media can inhibit violent behavious in this “problem group”.

But i guess that’s just like saying we wont make fast cars because people are more likely to go fast, crash, and die in them…

Bobo says:

Re: Violence in the media...

To piggy back on your point..

The media and entertainment folks only give us what we demand. Sex and Violence themes are at the top of the list.

Here’s a few additional thoughts.

Maybe the special intersest folks should do a study on which is a greater negative influence friends or video games? I think that answer is clear.

No video game ever made smoke pot. Peer pressure did. My sense of right and wrong made me decide it was a bad idea after I caved to per pressure. And, I’m not harshing people who smoke. That’s their choice.

The whole thing is kinda funny too. For example, some people think I am nutz. Becasue I allow my kids (ages between 6 and 12) to play violent games. The two younger one play games like Sonic and Crash Bandicoot – which are mildly violent. And the older two play things like Grand Theft Auto, Manhunt, Half-Life, Gun… But, I also make sure they understand the diffence between reality and the game.

In the end, it comes down to choices.

If my 6 year old can tell the differnce, there no logical reason a teenager can’t either.

Tyson says:

Re: Re: Violence in the media...

“I also make sure they understand the diffence between reality and the game. ”

When I was in college, I actually wrote a 20 page paper over the effects of violence in video games on teenagers. (ha got an A on it too) 90% of the studies that I came accross said almost the exact same thing…. If parents allow their children play violent games, they need to ensure that they understand the difference between reality and the game. It is that simple. Parent have to take responsiblity for teaching and educating their kids. Seem to me that most of the topics concerning kids these days link back to that central subject.

I also dont understand why the media and government is only blasting the gaming industry about violence. About 4 years ago the United State Army released a FREE first person shooter for people to download and play. There goal was to evaluate users various “combat” skills for the purpose of recruiting people. (If I am remembering all of this correctly, it has been a while) Interesting that the government dis-approves of violent games but allows the army to release its own….

BTW, in all my research I never came across a link between pot smoking and video games…….

Sky says:


Violent video games are awesome. I don’t care what people say. The thing is, I CAN’T do violent things in real life because there are punishments for said things. But in the video game world, I can kill as many folks as I please. That’s right, take it to the bank.

Why do people care anyway? Movies are more real and more graphic. I know I was more ready to do violent things in real life after watching ‘The Wizard of Oz’ than I ever was playing a little GTA.

Gacky says:

Re: Huh?

I agree completely. Like, for example~ somewhere around three weeks ago, I was fully ready to open my gun safe and go to the nearest densely populated area with several magazines of ammo. However, after killing hookers and policemen for several hours (on GTA, not in real life) I was rejuvenated and ready to return to my job at the local post office.

My life in cyberspace is not that which I live in real life. Many people need to realize this.

Professor Highbrow says:

Me Too, Otto...

I have a similiar problem, Otto. I think the voices in me head might have something to do with this but let me take a moment to explain my selves (all 4.)

I trully think that video games have ruined my live(s.)

After Pong, I started throwing rocks at moving objects like people or cars, thinking they would just bounce off. Pacman made me start shoving plastic toys into my mouth since I was a child, and Frogger got me hit by a car more than once.

Needless to say, I started kicking and punching the other kids at school because I eventually thought I was a ninja, and I lost my paer route after Paper Boy came out. Mortal Kombat only made things worse with the ninja problem.

Once, I even had to go to the emergency room because I thought I could eat coins and poisonous mushrooms, and kept banging my head againsts bricks. Most of the coins came out the other end though.

You can imagine how dangerous I became after Wolfenstein 3d and then Doom 1 came out…

Now I’m in a “special” place where they give me fun pills every 4 hours and they only let us play checkers. Of course I choked on a couple of those too, when they didn’t give me my medicine once and I dreamed I was PacMan again.

tim turner mcgee says:

i have found that all of my friends that smoke excessive amounts of weed play excessive amounts of video games because it lets your mind play w/o having to do any physical activity because when you’re high you get lazy and just want to sit there… but your mind still feels adventurous..

the video game offers the perfect solution for this seemingly paradoxical state

Gomorrah (profile) says:

Video Games do make you violent

Why just last week as I was sitting down to some good ol blow the crap out of the aliens with the Master Chief, was on my favorite level playing, about to whoop my friend, the power went out. That was dangerous, they better be glad the transformer was over a mile from my house, cause if I hadn’t of smoked that pot I would have went out there and killed the power people.

Come on people, give me a break. Violent video games cause no problems except those people who allow them to cause problems.

sami m says:

it has always been about violence

I have been following video games development since early 90s, and video games back then were just as violent as today : PROOF: doom2…

i know that you’re thinking “what the heck, doom2 is far from being as violent and bloody as its successor doom3 !!!”.

but let me tell you one thing : ONLY THE GRAPHICS HAVE ENHANCED.

if the blood wasn’t so real in old days video games , it wasn’t because programmers and players were afraid, it was simply because they didn’t have the technology to make things look more real which was by the way a DREAM.

statistics and studies are not evil, they are indeed most informative. but i think whoever is involved in this kind of studies should have at LEAST a general idea about the theme of study, which in our case is Violent Video Games.

hers a brief history for those who missed the evolution:

–ill start as far as i remember and go back to old school games, and you’ll always find that the main idea is: KILL OR BE KILLED (PacMan, nibbles, space invaders…) and many many more.

–then ill go to the 90s and there we find (doom, quake, prince of Persia, F22 air dominance and much more)

and the main objective was usually total destruction, and the only difference again is of course graphics.

therefore its like if the study says: -higher graphics details are making players more violent-.

well i played my self video games since i remember, yet I’ve never been in a fight ever, and I’ve never enjoyed torturing anything.

the video games concept has a philosophy in it, it is much more complicated and delicate than it seems, for me playing is discovery, challenge, adrenaline rush, eternal life(there is no permanent death in games you can always have another chance), making the impossible come true, being anybody(a prince, a commander, a soldier, a doctor, a hero, a winner, a looser sometimes) , a small escape from the stupid world i have to live in everyday.

if video games would have to look like reality one day, then where would the fun be?

imagine a speed cars game where you have to respect the speed limit!!! and to stop for the police car the is trying to pull you over!!!.

well, this i have in my life, what i want and expect from such a game is definitely the opposite, i want to try things, i want to go 300mph and crash, i want to loose the police car behind me and maybe ram it. not because I’m evil or i want to kill police officers, but simply because its something NEW for me, its FUN, its like watching this bad Boys TV show , but I AM running the show!!! its that simple, and maybe ill try to play as a police officer and chase the 300mph car!!! which i could never do in reality because, well, I’m not a police officer. ๐Ÿ™‚

Jeremy says:

dear god

dont they get that when they run these violince in games is bad campains it only gets more violent? the made them pull GTA 3 for it being to violent then the next one only went 5 times father and so have other games even the sims.

As far as pot thing goes… it makes u not want to go out sit home munch on stuff and hmm that leads to bordem so they play games, I want to know if those people that said its not that bad and they play games if they smoke pot already im sure u would get alot of yes’s back

Shaun says:

One thing that I really enjoy is playing GTA:SA and just running around killing cops, stealing their guns and blowing stuff up. And yet I believe that killing people, except in the imediate defence of yourself or others or possibly (but not allways) in war is pure evil. This even extends to executing someone. I also believe that in the majority of cases it should be illegal to own any sort of gun(self defence is only a valid reason if there are openly armed gangs walking the street in your area). Now I don’t want to debate this opinion of mine, I am perhaps wrong in it and I admit that might be the case. The only reason I am sharing it with you is to point out the difference to what I believe in real life and what I do in video games.

I also play many other video games for large amounts of time such as Halo and 99.9% of the time the game involves killing things. I also play a RPG similar to D&D. I have never even touched a gun in my life (nor do I want to), have never done any drugs, have drunk alcohol only 6 times in my life (I can legally drink) and never speed.

Aparantly I would be doing even less than the zero crime I have ever commited if I didn’t play violent video games.

candle says:

I play CSS, so I must be a murder

I play games like CSS, CS 1.6, DOD, COD2 and MOHPA. All these games have a moral theme and some have a historic theme. So tell me why does letting a kid shoot terrorists, or a Nazi make them evil. In all honesty video games 90% of the time are inspired by real life events that you read about, and you see in real life. So whats next say our kids can’t read history books. Games like Grand theft Auto, sure they have a theme that I don’t agree with, but they are also real, and I would hope that people can see that its real in our world, just make sure kids know this isnt the right way to live its all very simple. Do you ever see the media attack Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Counter Strike, or any other game themed with a morality behind it. No you see them pick the worst of the bunch, GTA. When the rant about GTA lets make sure they forget Driver. Lets not mention a game of the same style has you playing an under cover cop. This is all very silly on the media’s part. One or two bad games doesn’t make the entire video game industry evil.

Murderous Carnivores says:

Look. No one needs to look any farther than their own dinner tables or those of their neighbors. Ever since the BURGER TIME arcade came was released in the 1980s, we have steadily maintained our diet of MEAT and COW FLESH in a variety of burgers and sandwiches. CHICKEN FLESH is not safe as most places offer grilled, breaded and nuggeted varieties of PETA’s feathered friends. PIG FLESH is also readily available for consumption in fritterized form across the nation. Need I go on?? It is obvious that the release of BURGER TIME has caused untold suffering on PETA’s friends since the game was released. EVEN YEARS LATER, THE ATTROCITIES AGAINST ANIMALS ARE STILL GOING ON. And I for one have to say, GREEAAAAAT. And, um, can I have fries with that??! (short version for the humor-impaired: correlating statistics can be a tricky business.)

A.A says:


Do you pple have a life???… if you did have a life u wouldnt spend time on this stupid website about games….and then comment on how gay it is. ur probably sitting at home wasting ur time on carck and complaining about how everything is going wrong…yeh BLAH BLAH. im actually trying to find SOME fricken facts about this topic for skool.

wats ur excuse???

The video gamer who wants to kill others!? lol, wo says:

I play COD2, world of warcraft, halo,and battle for middle earth 2, along with doom 3, gta, and any war game ever made pretty much, and guess what? I don’t sit at home and draw in my binder pictures of satan, nor do i go to school and think of raping girls or blowing my teachers head off. It just doesn’t work that way. I have a normal job and a normal life. Video games are an escape from reality to usually meet a goal in us: either to make us laugh, feel good about accomplishing a goal in a game, or just kill anything that moves in some games, but real life doesn’t reflect that in people that play video games, they nor I wish anyone harm except for maybe people that believe this ignorant type of shit. Video games make people violent! hah, we should put them in gta and steal their car! How would they like that!

X says:

Good for a laugh, not for facts...

Now this is amusing. Where’s some back up reasoning/logic? Ooh! Even better, how about some facts!?!? Yeah, that’s what I thought. I can go with that it could possibly ( 4% chance?) cause slightly more agressive behavior but not full fledged crime or marijuana (that’s a new one for me) When all’s said and done, real life will determine what we do, not video games.

Shadow says:

Video Games are not viiolent

Video games are not Violent ists the people you play with online that make you violent…becasue you get competitive and just want to best the other player but when you lose the other player usally talks crap after then you just wanna kill them just for talking crap…see if a person said good game or nice job i would belike thanks dude..hope we play again

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