New Report Claims Violent Video Games A Huge Public Safety Threat… But Fails To Actually Provide Evidence

from the not-this-again dept

Some psychologists are getting a bunch of press today for putting out a report claiming that violent video games and TV are the greatest threat to public safety, short of cigarettes. Of course, we’ve been seeing claims about the threats of violent video games for years, but every time you dig into the research, you find that what the research actually found isn’t at all what’s being claimed. Most of the research claiming that violent video games leads to more violence has been dismantled as it usually shows that while people are playing a violent video game, they’re likely to be more aggressive and emotional — but that makes sense. You are aggressive and emotional because you’re tied up in the game and you’re channeling that aggression and emotion towards the game. What none of the studies seem to show is that this aggression and emotion then carry over into violent acts after the game is done. Some studies suggest people become desensitized to seeing more violence — but again, that doesn’t mean they go out and commit violent acts. In fact, as we’ve noted repeatedly, as violent video games have become increasingly popular, we’ve actually seen violent acts dropping. That, alone, isn’t enough to say there’s no impact, but it certainly raises questions about anyone claiming that violent video games are a threat to society.

So is this new research that has finally found a link? Unfortunately, not at all. This is simply a psychologist who has published some of the dismantled research above claiming that he’s “reviewed” all of the research on the topic (apparently, much of which is his own research) and declared that the sum of all that research means violent video media are the number two threat to public safety. That’s pretty hard to take seriously. Basically, he’s cherry picking research, much of which has already been shown not to say what he thinks it says, and then jumping to a conclusion that doesn’t appear to be supported by the research. But, of course, it generates plenty of headlines.

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Comments on “New Report Claims Violent Video Games A Huge Public Safety Threat… But Fails To Actually Provide Evidence”

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Sean says:

Dungeons and Dragons

Does anyone remember when D&D was warping kids minds? I remember a made-for-TV movie that showed how D&D caused a kid to kill in real life because he was so caught up in the game.

I imagine some of this research is well-intentioned, but most is politicians and researchers taking the safe route and protecting their interests.

SteveD says:

As old as time

What people never seem to mention is just how long this debate has been going on. Just because Games are in the spotlight now doesn’t change the fact that the same issues of the effects of violence in media have been debated all the way back to Plato and Aristotle.

Given the fact that despite all the great minds that have pondered these issues, no ones every been able to fully explain the effects, and I doubt ever will.

The thing that is important to remember is that games should never be considered in a vacume, and that violent imagery on TV or in Movies will always have an equal (if not greater) effect on society.

Also, no end of government legislation or guidance is ever really going to be a replacement for good parenting.

Pat says:

Violent video games

Anyone who can stand there and try to pretend that all the violence from television/movies and video games is not contributing to the violence reflected in society is either a fool or…well, a fool. Between the pornography and violence we are breeding a society of degenerates…take a look at how many pedophiles there are, how many kids as young as 8 or 9 are raping and killing people. Somehow this needs to be reigned in and folks need to stop screaming about freedom of speech and get a grip..enough is enough! Freedom of speech is one thing – a training ground for violence is quite another.

Hermit says:

Re: Violent video games

“Anyone who can stand there and try to pretend that all the violence from television/movies and video games is not contributing to the violence reflected in society is either a fool or…well, a fool.”

Yes, reading a book would be better ……. opps wait a minute those have violence also. Better just hide in a cave from it all.

Pat says:

Re: Re: Violent video games

Evidently you never read a book…or listened to radio…the violence is limited to your own imagination. It isn’t hideousness thrust right in your face. There’s a big ‘ol difference between reading and watching blood and gore. And speaking of hiding in a cave, drag your head out of the sand and try to get your brain in gear.

Sarcasm says:

Re: Re: Re: Violent video games

“And speaking of hiding in a cave, drag your head out of the sand and try to get your brain in gear.”

I think the sarcasm was missed, no ?
In addition, I’d like to point out that there is a significant amount of violence in literature which is described in great detail. And how would I know this if I had not ever read a book? I must be making it up. Your logic is flawed.

dorpass says:

Re: Re: Re: Violent video games

Pat, you are simply an idiot.

If you ever read King Lear, you will find depiction of violence that makes people sick and sometimes even faint. And that’s from Mr. Shakespeare.

People that lament about “good ol’ days” apparently know very little history, which is ironic considering that they base their theories on the past. Corporal punishment has been part of society for a long time, most often public. Yes, why don’t we go back to the days of public hangings, beheadings, quartering, torture and all that other pleasant stuff. And after we electrocute our convicted, lets hang their bodies on the bridges, just like they used to do it in all Anglo-Saxon countries. That will remind those damn kids not to play the violent games!

Dani says:

Re: Violent video games

I am a female and I have a hard time accepting your view. First, you’re introducing a new idea into this argument, that was not present in the article, thus misleading people from the “true” issue at hand (pornography being the argument, the issue being violent video games).

Second, pornography is usually consensual–I won’t say always–and so long as that is made clear to the viewers it shouldn’t be an issue. I dont’t see where porn and video game violence are the same principle.

Third. I’m quite sure pedophiles have always existed. However, as our technology and science has increased, so has our ability to monitor their actions and bring them to justice. So, there may be proportionally the same number of pedophiles, and we simply have a better grasp of how many there are. And I’m sure pedophiles existed before porn as well, so it is hard for you to prove that porn led to pedophiles.

Freedoms of speech refers to our right to say what we want so long as it is not insulting (ie, libel) without consequence. This was intended especially in regards to government, since colonizers were not able to voice their negative opinions about the Crown without it being considered treason. Freedoms of speech does not generally refer to people’s right to “publish” material.

Yes, people are a product of their environment, but you don’t know that those 8 and 9 year olds you say are out killing and raping played those games. You don’t know that they saw porn or violent movies. And even if they did, you would have to try and prove that those games or films influenced their actions, which, from your argument, you haven’t. If they did view those things, they are probably the exception to the rule.

All in all, you have a very unsound argument. If you’re worried about what your children/relatives/friends or whomever view, I suggest you look at the ratings available on many products and employ parental controls.

are you kidding says:

Re: Threats to public safety

“The major threat to public safety is the government, not video games. The concept of government has killed more people than any video game could dream of.”

And how many people has government saved?… You know what, your comment is just so off-topic and retarded I don’t even know how to respond. I would expect that from a 16-year-old pothead who is pondering the reasoning behind government based on what he learned in his high school government class, which may be the case. But, you most likely are not that kid; and that’s just sad.

Sorry for the flame, but I cringed so badly when I read that.

Barrenwaste (profile) says:


Violence is part of human nature. We all have the fight or flight reflex that can kick in at any given time under the right stressors. One of the ways that psychologists tell you to deal with this is to go outside and beat a tree with a bat when your violent urges get to strong. How is this different from blowing up a thousand pixelated images? Both are safe conduits for the violence that end with no person being hurt. Both release the urge in order for you to continue on your way safely. If anything, psychologists should be pushing violent games on us. “Here, take this, kill twenty nazi’s and call me in the morning.” I know I often feel better after beating hell out of the baddies for an hour.

It’s also a safe outlet for realizing fantasies. The game doesn’t judge you. It doesn’t castigate you on the basis of what your fantasy is. People need this as well. It’s nice to have a time where you can do something without your “peers” making judgements on every action you do or do not take.

You don’t hear any of this in the reports the psychologists make and there are many more “good” aspects to games. This said, how can anybody seriously think that games are a threat to our society?

TheDock22 says:

Both Sides

I can see both sides to the argument. On one side, people are saying just because violent video games are played doesn’t mean people are ready to run into the streets and hijack a car to run over some pedestrians (I think we all agree though that a disturbed individual might take the violent game into real life, but those are rare).

On the other side, the argument is that violence is training our children to be more immune to violence, therefore breeding them to experience even greater and more horrific violence.

I believe that parents should shield their kids from violence. That doesn’t mean backing down and buying them the latest GTA because the brat is whining for it. Grow a back bone parents. One the other hand, video game/television/movie makers need to back off on the grotesque violence (like Manhunt 2, there is really no need for a video game like that). Both side needs to admit fault and some responsibility so we can all move on.

William Tecumseh Sherman says:

" A good Injun is a Dead Injun" ...

Yeah, let’s stop this video game violence and get back to playing games like cowboys and Indians like when I was little. It was easy then, we just used our BB guns and home made bows and arrows to fire at each other, and surprisingly, nobody lost an eye. We did, however, usually kill all the Indians, but then again, they were the bad guys and supposed to die. Sometimes we were marines who used to kill the Japs, Krauts, Wops, Chinks, Rebels, or what nots … but back then they were bad guys too.

I think we actually play the same games now as we did 50 years ago but now there is a computer with more visual graphics and goals to kill more faster more efficiently. Also, unfortunately, there is just as much bigotry now as back then, just that now we hate muslims instead.

What seems to be happening is that parents who are in a “me” and “rushing all the time world” are not taking the the time to teach their kids any moral values. Just take what you can when you can, everybody for themselves, and screw the other guy. What should we expect of kids who are taught that by role model. That’s what breeds 21st century violence … not the video games.

Regarding the shots at religion, well, I’m not very much into it myself, but, in the past it did teach people some moral values, at least the “soft” religions as were in North America. It still seems that is evident today … how many violent Mormons, Amish, or Hutterites are there.

Interesting though that when US people call religion a public safety threat, there is an implication that these are the “hard” religions like Shiite Muslims on a jihad would be viewed. They seem to forget that a lot of people in the world consider US corporate greed as a bigger evil than the Al Q’aida on a jihad. Just differing views on what is “right”.

Old_Paranoid says:

impact of violent media exposure

I am quite willing to accept that immersion in violent media will increase the violence rate in at least some fraction of the population. The question is, what do you do about it? In the US, you have to show something approaching a “clear and present danger” before you can start litigating controls. It appears to me that the different political persuasions are intolerant of different social “evils”. The left demonizes “violence”, “intolerance”, and “weapons”. The right demonizes “drugs”, “immorality”, etc.

The damage done by alcohol abuse and the associated DWI, criminal, and generalized misbehavior is so high that anything being discussed here is not even a rounding error.

The attempt to supress drug usage, one of the demons of the right, has been a clear failure with enormous collateral damage. An attempt by the left to supress / regulate violent media is all but certain to be less successful than the anti-drug campaign and would also impose enormous collateral damage.

As for me, I don’t fit into either camp. I won’t let my 7 year old son play the current violent video games or watch current TV or movies, but I have promised him that if, after he is 10, he has shown himself to be responsible and behaved, I will take him to a local rifle range and enroll him in a NRA marksmanship course (I am a NRA life member). If he follows that through properly, we can then move on to some of the more capable weapons I have.

Patrick McKinney says:


Last year I did a research project for my English class that was about kids who play video games and have a parental figure watching over what they are doing and kids who play video games and the parent pays little to no attention to the kid or what he is doing. I found that the second was way more aggressive… why can’t real researchers look at the real issue parents. Violent video games don’t make kids violent parents who don’t care make kids violent. I hate stupid researchers.

William Tecumseh Sherman says:

Guns are Are Just As Bad As Video Games

To Old Paranoid … interesting, I let my kids play all and any video games they wanted, as well as letting them have alcohol at a young age (wine or beer) and never restricted their alcohol use when teenagers (like in European countries). I also didn’t try to bubble rap them and they took jui jitsu and karate when younger, not as an offensive “weapon” but as defense to stay away from the violence of a tough world. However, I did spend some time teaching them on what our society considers right and wrong. One thing though, is that I would never let my kids have guns.

My kid’s are now in their mid twenties, rarely drink at all (and no binge drinking like so many US kids), nor were they picked on or bullied in school, nor did they bully others, and are generally non violent calm types.

Why no guns??? Well I/they didn’t need them, and they would be just an accident waiting to happen. I also preferred that my kids didn’t associate with drug users or gun users in their formative years … I certainly wouldn’t consider the NRA to be the most rational group of humans on the planet.

If video games and TV breed violence, then probably guns do as well. Society doesn’t need either, but unfortunately they are there so we have to live with them.

Last point, just curious, what kind of weapons will your 7 year old move on to … a grenade launcher perhaps??

Barrenwaste (profile) says:

William Tecumseh Sherman

Funny you should say that. I grew up much the same way your children did, with the exception that every member of my family owns at least one gun. If you are tought right from wrong, then you know that it applies to guns as well.

Every holiday my family gets together, has a meal, catches up, shoots skeet and trap, and then the kids go to bed while the adults play cards and have a few drinks. There is not a single alcoholic in my family. With the exception of one or two, we all know some form of hand to hand combat. And every single one of us knows the proper ways to handle firearms. Most of us can do everything but make our own firearms. That said, not one of us has been jailed because of violence and there have been no accidental shootings. Guns are dangerous if proper care isn’t taken while handling them, but so are cars. In fact, most everything is dangerous if proper care isn’t taken. It’s not the games that are dangerous, it’s the parents neglecting the children that is dangerous.

Old_Paranoid says:

Guns are not inherently evil

As for weapons, I have a house full of cutting implements of various types. I just make sure my kids don’t take them to school. I have carried knives since I was in 3d or 4th grade and currently carry a Spyderco lockblade knife. Many of my other security co-workers carry similar knives. Until Sept 11, I carried my knives on airplanes as well. They are tools, and very useful at that.

My 2d daughter is grown, a 2d dan black belt with a Glock and a concealed carry permit. She has worked as a bodyguard at times. She is Mormon and doesn’t drink.

As for my younger kids, after they have proven themselves responsible and been adequately trained, we will see about 12 GA shotguns (field loads), a .223 semi-automatic rifle, and a 7 mm long range heavy barrel elk rifle. They have both expressed interest in hunting. As an old fart, I am not too interested in hauling a deer or elk over miles of logging stubble – it is hard enough walking through that stuff collecting mushrooms.

We are seeing a conflict here between a urbanized population and populations that are more comfortable in the field. Among other things, guns are tools. You use them to hunt and you use them to kill pests. Popping targets can be fun as well.

Buzz says:


I’m glad they at least lumped TV in this time. I attend a very Christian-based university, and there is nothing I hate more than self-righteous students who try to tell me, “Video games are a waste of God-given time on this planet. Every day is a gift, and video games throw that gift away.” I always respond, “You know what? You’re right. Let’s toss cable TV out the window, too. TV is an even BIGGER waste of time since there is less brain activity than during video games.” The student usually grows uneasy at that point as I am always sure I struck a nerve.

Video games are a waste of time, but apparently watching Law & Order is a wonderful investment. Riiiiiiight…

Video games can be dangerous if that is all your kid does all day, but if kept in moderation, it won’t leak into their real life. JK Rowling said that she has NEVER had a kid come to her saying they want to become a wizard or witch. Fantasy is fantasy. It’s fun, but sensible people know it is not reality. If they don’t, well, they have other problems to worry about.

4-80-sicks says:


Well, watching Law & Order is a wonderful investment. (So are video games) Many (well, a few, at least) times have I entered a moral discussion with myself or someone else prompted by an episode of SVU. There is good tv and there is bad tv. Anyway, great job stumping those goofballs who hold a double standard against video games holding them separate from and below television!

Anonymous Coward says:

I play violent video games, and I haven’t killed anyone.

Sure, I have stabbed and shot random people and run over children with hijacked cars, but after I put in the cheatcode or restart the level, everyone is back to normal!

People who say games make people violent just need to be informed of the cheatcodes, and where they can find the hidden healthpacks.

Le Blue Dude says:

Re: I think it's screwy

Here: I’ll say it a bit more eloquently.

In our society we seem to consider violence less bad then sex. Our cartoons, games, movies, books… they tend to center around violence, which actually hurts people, rather then sex, which feels good. This is absurd. Further ones that center around sex tend to be considered less moral, and are protested, or are chintzy or glitzy or otherwise poorly made/done/written. It seems to be getting to be that even ROMANCES have some car-chase or gun-fight scene.

I’ll say it again: This is absurd. Sex is harmless, and perfectly natural, and yet we have all of these deep taboos against mentioning it. The stores that sell toys designed for sex, oh, sorry ‘martial aids’, are chintzy and have an aura of taboo compared to stores that, say, sell toy guns.

Compare K-mart to the adult ‘book-store’ down the block. In my town there are two. One had a gay-man beaten up outside it. One is so chintzy I’m afraid there are cockroaches in it. K-mart is brightly lit, and comfortable.

Now, I know I’m going to get flamed for this, and called a pervert, and all sorts of other things if I post it anywhere but here. Which really proves my point. Sex is so taboo that it is apparently acceptable to respond to sexuality with violence. Oh, and for the record, Rape is an act of violence and sexuality. They work so poorly together, but in our society they’re both lumped under ‘taboo evil things’.

And people wonder why there is so much violence and hurting in our society?

Ringmeat says:

Kill me now

You know what I say? F*ck the children, the hell with your kid, and yours ….and yours. I have as much right in this life to experience things as much as your snot-nosed little larvae and do it with all sharp corners intact.

We’ve become a country of finks and cowering pussies who are afraid to offend anyone or do anything considered over-the-top lest we raise the ire of some special interest group.

I will give a years salary if this study wasn’t backed or in some way connected with a christian family values group or some others of their ilk.

normal parent (user link) says:

good points

I agree that the parents are the ones that need to be more responsible.. I am a step dad and the kids go see their dad every Sunday and all they do is play video games all day and mature ones too, and they come back and are not the same, a warped sense of what is real or something.. Just the other day my step son was mad at his friend and said “I hate bobby, I am going to snipe him”. Not something you would expect from a ten year old. I have to say that it is good that games are rated because we do see a change in them when they play certain games, getting frustrated easily, agitated at normal everyday events.. And for those of you who say what about my rights, screw you if you want to be a loser that doesn’t contribute to the good of society and leaches off of everyone else, spending all nighters playing in your fantasy worlds, still living with your parents. As I tell my kids video games mean nothing, its not real, and video games do not make you a better person.. Its entertainment, nothing else.

Le Blue Dude says:

Re: good points

Rating things is good. It helps people (like parents) make informed decisions.

Makin the content unavlible for others restricts freedom for no good reason, and is bad.

Everyone, remember: It’s your own damned fault if your life in in shambles because you lack self control.

Mind if your life is in shambles because someone, say, hit you drunk driving and crippled you it’s something different.

Benefacio says:

Asked and answered

Yet another wasted researcher attempting to prove what has already been proven. Ladies and gentlemen I offer as proof the multi- (trillion?) dollar world wide advertising industry; an industry based entirely on the fact that being repeatedly exposed to content will DEFINATELY effect you behavior. Any one brave enough to call it all a scam?

Here are a few observations about this whole subject of violence in video games that just fascinates me.

Every company I have observed that has a had a game under fire for its level of violence has protested that content does not affect the viewer while at the same time spending quite a bit on advertising that very same game using the premise that content DOES affect the viewer.

Study after study and statistical analysis after statistical analysis have shown that advertising works, to a varying degree. Fortunes have been made and lost; elections won and lost; careers have been made and broken due to advertising. Yet no one really knows how or why it works and no ad company I know of offers a guarantee that it will produce specific results other than a transfer of money from your account to theirs.

Do a quick search through Techdirt’s own archives. Mike and others have repeatedly shown that being repeatedly exposed to content effects people’s behavior. From using free as advertising for not free products to the extent people will modify their behavior just to get away from advertising to the much touted Streisand Effect. Yet few are the people that get the fact that the premises are the same.

I think there can be no doubt that being repeatedly exposed to violence in any and all media will definitely effect your behavior. The real question is when and how that effect will be realized. I don’t believe anyone will ever be able to answer that for us.

Anguel says:

The true evils of the world.

I’d have to say that there are far more damaging things than video games. As I sit here in my school’s library, the two young men on either side of me are both doing what? They’re on, I think it’s safe to assume at least half the people in the room with me are wasting time away on myspace. Why do I think myspace is bad, a worse waste of time than video games or Film or TV? Well, take for one all the bulletins, I have around 30 friends on my page, and never see any of them post a bulletin that’s relevant to any events. They waste their time with chain mails, forwarding lists of so-called “facts” which, upon taking ~3 seconds to google them, can be disproved.

People spend hours and hours, what do they REMEMBER from it? When I play video games, or wrestle(jiu-jitsu) I do interesting things which I later remember with those who were there with me, or tell them the story. Myspace has possibly left me with the one memory of when my account got hacked and I went deleting the posts it made on all my friend’s myspaces. Not to mention the messages along the line of “wtf was that?”. Needless to say it’s a short and not-so-satisfying memory.

Now, I am NOT saying it causes people to go killing, but it’s far from inducing any significant mental stimulus like Portal. Sure, I PORBABLY won’t ever need to understand the odd logic of jumping DOWN into a pit and firing a portal in front of me to go UP, but it was interesting to see how it had changed the way I percieve things(if only digitally).

Even now, I may not be writing a paper, or researching to cure lung cancer. But I AM partaking in a thought provoking discussion. Not to mention that i’m avoiding re-freshing my message box every few minutes, as I have seen somebody repeatedly doing in the next row.

Constant exposure to ANYTHING will effect you. As Benefacio said, the ad industry is proof of this. There’s nothing wrong with a little exposure, just so long as it’s not enormous, and if it is, it’s still ok as long as measures are taken to ‘re-align’ yourself with reality. In the case of children this would mean encouraging them to play with the “Companion Cube” a little more, and little less with Freeman’s Combine pals. If they do only play with the Covenant, or Combine, or whatnot, just be sure to remind them that it’s not reality, and that those such action in real life has serious consequences. This worked for me as I grew up, and it has worked for everyone I know.

Lastly, though it’s used as such a teriffic waste of time, myspace itself is not evil(likewise with anything else), neither is any other waste of time. But it can get to be too much, and some people obviously can’t restrict themselves. If you’re reading this and are logged in, PLEASE just sign out, and go READ A BOOK instead of a Bulletin.

demon_neko says:

violent video games

i don’t know maybe it’s because im only 17 but i know for a fact that i was introdused to violent video games when i was like 6 and most people see me as the “nice guy” i think all this crap about how violent video games make kids more violent is just a a bunch of people that were shielded by their mommys and daddys and they pounded that into their head and now they are trying to take away my “violent games” and they is what is going to make people violent because as someone stated before shooting people on a game is a major outlet of violence i go play americas army every day after school and for some reason blowing somebody up with a rpg brightens my day up just a little. dont get me wrong i can say that im not impressed when somebody dies in real life but i am still simpathetic towards the person that got shot/stabed/blow up nor do i think that killing is right. maybe its because most my family is red-necks and hicks but in my eyes if you got the ball to kill someone then you should get the death sentence. i mean it should go back like the old day where we actually used the death sentence instead on being “nice” and letting a killer live. all in all the people that are trying to put this crap of “violent viedo games is bad” are just gong to start something much much worse because when you cut off peoples outlet then your just going to make violence more common because sence they can’t do it on a game they are going to kind something(or someone) to vent on and that can turn very very grusome. i have more that one vent (shooting range) so i can keep my sanity but alot of people one have games to vent on before they actually hurt the person that they rare pissed at

Justin Lee says:

I Beleve that Violent video games mess up kids min

I am a young artist of 15 that is thinking of becoming a Video game designer. I believe that today’s video games have messed up kids minds up. Even though I play violent video games at home, I have been raised up to know what to do and not to do. In the future the kids will become more upset and violent.

nicky confreda says:

violent vidogames shouldnt be banned

violent vidogames shouldnt be banned because i am a one who cant live without playing violent vidogames.people thing there bad but there not its becaused there really depressed or because they were teased on not because they love playing violent vidogames.take me for examle i play really violent vidogames for my age but never did anything against the law.that is why they shouldnt be banned.

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