It's a debate that has been raging for decades now, and yet after all this time, it doesn't seem to be all that close to any kind of resolution. Yet for many people, the concept of whether or not violent video games lead to kids committing real-world violence is one that sparks strong opinions from every angle.
The topic comes up after most school shootings, which unfortunately have occurred at a higher rate now than they used to. In searching for an explanation to the tragedy, many point to entertainment -- oftentimes specifically games -- as for if not the reason, at least part of why the shooter did what they did.
There have been numerous studies into the matter, with researchers trying to figure out what, if any, role violence in games may play in tragedies that play out in real life. According to one that was just released, it looks like there is a correlation.
The study only wants to help
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and if you are wondering what the goal was, it was presented right at the top:
"To clarify and quantify the influence of video game violence (VGV) on aggressive behavior, we conducted a metaanalysis of all prospective studies to date that assessed the relation between exposure to VGV and subsequent overt physical aggression," it read.
In other words, they were simply hoping to determine whether or not there was a link between video games and real-world violence.
With that in mind, they looked into the lives of more than 17,000 participants aged nine to 19 years old across 24 different countries. Each study looked into how violent games may have led to increased aggression, with each participant being watched over a period of three to four months.
What they found was that children who were sent to the principal's office for fighting or hitting a non-family member were more likely to have played games like "Grand Theft Auto," "Call of Duty" and "Manhunt," all of which are given ratings that indicate children should not be playing them in the first place.
Yet, clearly younger kids are getting a hold of games that are not meant for them, and the study found they are making a difference.
"On the basis of these analyses, the authors concluded that violent video game play is positively associated with aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect, as well as negatively associated with empathy for victims of violence and with prosocial behavior," it said.
Fun Fact: The best selling video game of all-time is Tetris, which was released in 1984. And unlike violent video games, some studies have shown that playing Tetris can actually have long-term benefits for gamers as it can help increase brain activity, while improving critical thought, reasoning, language and processing skills.
Going deeper, the study revealed the games having a stronger impact on white participants. The effects on Hispanic children were insignificant, while Asian children were in between the two groups.
Of course, this is not the first study to find a link between it all, nor is it a surprise that this could be the case. Still, the kind of impact video games have on children is still very much up for debate, with people choosing which studies they prefer to believe.
And for what it's worth, this is not Hull's fist foray into this kind of research. Back in 2014, he was part of a study that also showed violent games led to an increased rate of being sent to the principle's office for fighting, with the results from that being included in this newest research.
Blame the games? Maybe not
Whether you believe violent games lead to real-world violence or not, even the most anti-gamer person around would admit that they are likely not the sole reason for any violent act occurring.
In an interview, Jay Hull, one of the study's lead authors, acknowledged the connection could be more of a symptom than a cause. What that means is violent people play violent video games rather than violent video games creating violent people.
If that seems wishy-washy, it's important to remember this was not meant to definitely determine whether violent games are a danger to society or anything like that. Instead, as stated, it aimed only to provide a bit more clarity for the discussions that will happen around this topic in the future.
In fact, the study ended with this note:
"We hope these findings will assist the field in moving past the question of whether violent video games increase aggressive behavior, and toward questions regarding why, when, and for whom they have such effects."
Tech clues to catch a killer - Part 1
Gaming expert or mass murderer? In many cases, the two are closely linked. With public shootings on the rise, you need to know the clues in technology that indicate a potentially dangerous person. In part 1 of this special Komando on Demand, Kim looks at the connection between violent video games and what goes on in the mind of some of these culprits. She also gives some insider tips, case studies and interviews to help you spot trouble before it starts.
Tech clues to catch a killer - Part 2
You may or may not have heard of Kimberly Proctor, a teenage girl who was brutally murdered by 2 young boys. Following a trail of digital clues like texting, emailing and even a World of Warcraft chat room, police tracked down her killers. In this episode of Komando on Demand, Kim talks to retired FBI agent James Fitzgerald and linguistics professor Tim Grant at how digital forensics can help solve crimes.
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