With the recent release of the trending video game, ‘Call of Duty’, eliciting divided opinions across board, a new research has shown that contrary to the widely held belief, violent video games do not lead to increased human violence.
Despite limited evidence to support the claim, the Mass media and a large section of the general public often-times link violent video games to real-life violence with debate on the topic most times coming to the fore after mass public shootings. This has made analysts and commentators believe that the perpetrators are being conditioned to violence due to their interests in violent video games.
Another section of the populace, though not as vocal as those above has pointed out that different factors like mental health issues and/or easy access to guns, as more plausible causes.
It’s in cognizance of these conflicting claims that in 2013, the then United States President, Barack Obama, advocated for more government funding for research to examine the relationship between video games and real-life violence.
It is the widely held and logical view then that before policies are made by authorities to restrict access to violent video games, it has to be thoroughly established that indeed violent video games do make players behave violently in the real world.
This may have prompted a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Economics at City, University of London, Dr. Agne Suziedelyte to begin research using data from the United States to ascertain if truly violent video games instigate violent behavior in children.
In the study, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Dr Suziedelyte had his focus on boys aged 8-18 years, the age group she believes is most likely to play violent video games.
She examined the probable effects of violent video games on two types of violence: aggression against other people, and destruction of things/property, using econometric methods that identify plausibly causal effects of violent video games on violence, rather than only associations.
In the methods used, no evidence was found linking an increase in violent actions against other people after a new violent game gets released even when parents reported that their wards were prone to destroying things after playing violent video games.
In the words of Dr. Suziedelyte : “Taken together, these results suggest that violent video games may agitate children, but this agitation does not translate into violence against other people – which is the type of violence which we care about most.
“A likely explanation for my results is that video game playing usually takes place at home, where opportunities to engage in violence are lower. This ‘incapacitation’ effect is especially important for violence-prone boys who may be especially attracted to violent video games.
“Therefore, policies that place restrictions on video game sales to minors are unlikely to reduce violence.”
Reference: “Is it only a game? Video games and violence” by Agne Suziedelyte, 4 June 2021, Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.