Violent Video Games and Aggression

Violent Video Games and Aggression

The area of video gaming violence and its influence on aggressive behaviors among children participants is an interesting one. As thus, a vast array of research has been conducted on the same with different results achieved each time. Past studies have shown that increased aggression in video game players depends on the nature of the game (Glock & Kneer, 2009). The factors affecting this relationship have not been adequately studied in the past. Results of these past studies show a similar trend in the fact that they are all consistent with the social learning theory. Generally, however, the most aggressive participants tend to be those that identify with the violent characters in the video games that they play (Konijn et al, 2007). This identification with the characters among the participants is due to an attempt to be like them as is shown in the development theory.

The most vulnerable video game participants are young adolescents and especially ones that have low educational ability (Fraser et al, 2012). This trend is explained in the fact that these adolescents tend to play games that are most realistic thereby tending to be immersed in the game. In addition, adolescents who seek sensation the most are more likely to turn violent once they identify with the violent characters. Although wishful identification has been proved to have a direct impact on the aggressiveness of participants, empathy for violence has not been explored (Konijn et al & William, 2005).

Recent studies show that young cyber bullies mostly prefer violent and mature video games as evidenced by children and parent respondents. A research by Decamp, (2015) discovered that older kids and boys prefer video games with violent content that both parents and children generally agree on, than younger children and girls. This revelation is perhaps because naturally, the former tend to be inclined to games that contain more violent content than the latter. Reports from children and their parents show that bullying from boys is generally oral, and more physical. In contrast bullying in girls is on a relatively lower scale due to the fact that they rarely watch games with high maturity. Generally, reports show that boys are more involved than girls.

It is astonishing that these participants concentrate on the perpetrators of the violent acts rather than on the victims of the violence in the video games. Researchers have explored this linkage and even suggested that aggression can be toned down through a shift in focus among the young participants. Other studies (Konijn et al, 2007) have however found this not to be true. Although all studies agree that immersion and game realism have an influence on the participants’ wishful identification, they disagree on whether the same affects aggression levels. One study showed that boys that identified with violent game characters were more ready to channel noise levels that were loud to an extent of causing permanent ear damage.

According to Glock & Kneer, (2009) gender differences in cyber bullying are usually inconsistent. For instance, some reports show that more girls are involved in cyber bullying than boys. In other studies, boys are reported to have the highest involvement in cyber bullying as compared with the girls. Interestingly and quite shocking, other studies report no gender difference between violence among boys and girls. Despite the differences in the various findings, research seems to agree on the fact that bullying in general is related to children’s clamor for participating in games having violent content (Willoughby, Adachi & Good, 2012).

Studies in the current era have found a relationship between partaking in mature video games and violence among children. Additionally, playing games that depict violence is to be blamed for the increase in antisocial behavior among children. Past studies have consistently found that video games that have violent content negatively affect the participants in terms of their social behavior (Konijn et al & William, 2005). More specifically, playing video games affects the decision making involving the cooperation of the children with other individuals. This is explained in the fact that violent video games undermine altruistic motivation in decision making amongst children.

That notwithstanding, it is not clear that mature and violent video games directly result to aggression and bullying especially. Research has proved that the choice of violence-filled video games amongst youths is due to preexisting traits of hostility and aggression. Whatever the medium of violence transfer in the participants, it is possible that the games repeat derogatory words prompting children to use the same against their friends (Fraser et al, 2012).

A study found that violent video games contribute to the willingness of the participants to exploit their partners (Decamp, 2015). Despite these findings, studies have not linked violent video games and the perceptions of the players about their partners. Just like the players in the violent state, the participants in the non-violent state did not think their partners would distrust them or exploit them instead, they expected their partners to cooperate with them and trust them. Results also show that taking part in a violent video game affects the player’s behavior. It has been found that, violence is effective in undermining cooperative behaviors and interactions.

Other studies have prompted participants not to be aggressive or violent to their counterparts during assessment. Rather they provide opportunities for the participants to interact with their partners in exchange for monetary gain (Decamp, 2015). The results show that violent games influence the participants into choosing to exploit or harass their partners. These has however availed a gap in research. As thus future research should concentrate on the link between the psychological mechanisms of the participants and their likelihood to become aggressive and/or violent (Sheese & Graziano, 2005).

There is a growing concern about the linkage between media influence and the decline of empathy amongst children. Top of these media influence is the type of video games that children select in their day to day activities (Fraser et al, 2012). Researchers have consequently shown that video games that are marred with violent content induce a desensitization impact on the minds of the participants thereby prompting them to have lower emphatic concern for their partners who are probably in need. Further, violent video games have been found to influence lower levels of social behaviors thereby decreasing the empathy in children participants.

There is an existing controversy with regards to the negative impacts of video games and especially violent ones (Glock & Kneer, 2009). As thus, this has presented a gray area that is subject to examination by different scientists with each concluding different and/or similar results. That notwithstanding, the nexus between engaging in video games containing violent content and violence amongst children participants form the focal point of most of the studies in this subject. Perhaps it is for this reason that most researchers have explored the direct link between the two variables thereby leaving the indirect linkage unexplored. One study sought to bridge this gap by exploring the indirect correlation between violence-filled video games and pro-social behavior (Fraser et al, 2012). This, the study did by exploring the empathic concern of the participants as a mediating factor.

Other studies have also linked violent video gaming to decreased pro social behavior among the young participants. While the studies have always found there to be a positive correlation between the two variables, they have failed to explore the influence of the participant’s target in their conclusions (Elson et al, 2015). In addition, most studies continue to explore the linkage between empathic concern and violent video gaming only in relation to strangers and not friends or family. In another study, playing violent video games was found to negatively influence pro social behavior amongst the participants. The sampled participants were found to be aggressive and anti social towards friends, family members and even strangers. The study further found that video gaming had a significant influence on the empathic concerns of the participants and by extension their pro social behaviors. Although the association is not very strong, as with other studies, it still explains the role of psychological processes in pro social behaviors among young children (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011).

The debate concerning the correlation between violence-filled video games and the outcome of aggressive behavior in participants has always been a heated one. In fact, the empirical evidence as to the causal relationship or the lack of it is mixed and not clear cut. While a majority of the researchers tender an assertion of a positive and direct correlation between the two variables, others do not find support for such assertions (Decamp, 2015).

Sheese & Graziano, (2005) asserts that even where this relationship has been proved to be true in its direct sense, evidence of the same is usually low and the significance levels equally minimal. In fact, it has been argued, and rightly so, that uncontrolled background characteristics do affect the impact of the video games to an extent far beyond the one explored. It is perhaps for this reason that recent studies have been conducted in controlled environments where the background characteristic are at a minimal influence.

The results of the influence of video gaming have been minimally low and insignificant when background characteristics are maintained at a controlled level. One such study found that playing violent video games does not necessarily necessitate a high probability of hitting a partner. In fact, the probability was lower than one percent expressing an impact that is far below the significance levels acceptable in science. Rather, other factors including the incidence of violence at home had a significant influence on the probability of one hitting a partner during such trials. It comes out clearly, therefore, that it is not violence from entertainment that solely influences aggression levels amongst children (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011). Rather, the major influence is from real life situations which entertainment is a part of. It would thus be difficult and equally cumbersome to try and draw a line between the two spheres when one is clearly a part of the other.

Generally gender has little influence on the levels of violence attained from playing violent video games. However, a study found that while males were not likely to carry weapons to school as a result of engaging in violent video games, their female counterparts were. It is right to assume that the reason for this outcome is because females feel inferior and are more afraid of being violated as compared to their male counterparts. It is for this reason that they tend to carry weapons to school (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011). On the other hand, male children feel superior and do not expect to be violated as much as their female counterparts do. The belief that men can handle any form of violation upon them is enough belief to prevent them from carrying weapons to school. The author further argues that although video gaming has an influence on the aggressiveness of the participants, it is only restricted to the short term period and does not extend into the long-term periods. Ideally, violence amongst children is not a reserve of those that chose violent video games, an assertion that the study proves (Fraser et al, 2012).

Most research studies on the sphere of violence and video games among the participants inflict a limitation based on the assumption that only two variables exist. It is common to find that two groups of participants are enrolled in such studies with one set playing violent games and the pother playing non violent games (Elson et al, 2015). The result of this layout is that the research does not provide room for the study of other variables but is only restricted to two types of results. It is not surprising therefore that most of the correlation has been found to be insignificantly low prompting researchers to explore other variables. This revelation is based on the fact that violence as depicted in video games is not the only differential factor in such studies. Essentially, there exist some confounding variables (Dittrick et al, 2013) that are literally assumed and avoided thereby leading to conclusions and inferences that are limited in scope.

Some studies have explored other variables in an attempt to observe more detailed results and to come up with better insights on the relationship between these variables. One such study explored not only the difference in violence levels in the video games but also the pace of the action in these games and the impact that it has on the participants’ aggression levels (Dittrick et al, 2013). In the experimental setting, all other variables were kept constant. The study observed that participants’’ body movement was inhibited by fats paced video games especially when the game was non violent. In contrast, the players exerted greater pressure on the controls when the games were fast paced and in scenarios where violence was depicted in the games. While these results point at a possible interaction and is a pointer to a successful finding, it poses a grey area that needs to be researched on in future. It means that scientists should consider other variables far beyond the violence in the video games when studying such influences (Willoughby, Adachi & Good, 2012). Essentially, it is important to control the influence of other confounding variables in such studies to avoid results that are distorted and invalid.

It is true that most studies have in the past found that aggression and violent video game play in children are related in their occurrence. However, this relationship is only restricted to the short term period as various studies have found out (Dittrick et al, 2013). In extension, there is far less scientific evidence to prove that video game play containing violence has any impact on the long term aggression among participants. A study addressing the violence amongst high school students found there to be no direct correlation between the choices of video games they played. The study found that continued play of the video games containing violence led to increases in violence and aggression among adolescents. In addition, it was determined that playing violence-filled video games raised the violence and aggressiveness among the participants over time (Dittrick et al, 2013).

The hypothesis that aggression in children is a characteristic of violent video games is found to be null in the sense that most children choose what their peers play (Willoughby, Adachi & Good, 2012). Moreover, children that played video games containing little violence did not portray signs of violence over the long term even when they played the video games for long hours every day (Elson et al, 2015). While these findings are true, it is not true that other factors do not affect the aggression or violence among young participants of video games. Rather, factors such as the pace of action and the violent content in the games continue to influence the incidence of violence among the players. Moreover, the level of competition between different participants is also an important factor to be considered in studying the link between aggression and violent video games among players (Adachi & Willoughby, 2011). Various studies have actually cited competition as significant factor that influences the level of violence among young players.

One study tried to isolate the influence of competition and that of violence in video games on the aggression among the players. In the study, violence in video game was found to have no sufficient influence in elongating aggression among participants (Decamp, 2015). This was in comparison to the influence that the non violent video games had on the participants’ aggressive behavior. In contrast, highly competitive games were found to have more impact on the aggressive behaviors of the participants. This relationship was regardless of the level of violence portrayed in the video games played by the young children.

Even when video game violence has an influence on the aggressive behavior of participants, it does not do so in isolation. Rather, it is the result of a mix of confounding factors that work hand in hand to drive this change. The difficulty and competitiveness of the video games played influenced the violence portrayed by the participants in at least the short term periods. In addition, a moderately competitive game did not bring about the incidence of aggressive behavior even when paired up with games that had violent content. In contrast, a less competitive game with low violent content portrayed the same results and did not influence aggressive tendencies in the participants (Decamp, 2015). Even when violent video games affected aggression in the players, it was through the occurrence of aggressive feelings, thoughts and psychological arousal.

Part of the reason why people associate video games containing violence with aggression among children is due to the role that media reports play. In fact, research on the same is ambiguous and it is unclear whether the correlation is as a result of the media reports or due to active playing (Elson et al, 2015). While some of the research points to the correlation in reference to the latter, the former is the most appropriate. Media reports influence the psychological effects more as they lead non players to play video games with violent content.

According to Konijn et al, (2007) playing violent video games did not warrant the incidence of aggressive communication towards peers and friends. Past research has shown that playing nonviolent games activated positive moods among the participants therefore leading to good pro social behavior. Long term players and those that had prior knowledge of the games responded slowly to the use of aggressive words against them by their partners.



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Glock, S., & Kneer, J. (2009). Game Over? Journal of Media Psychology, 21(4), 151-160.

Adachi, P. J., & Willoughby, T. (2011). The effect of video game competition and violence on aggressive behavior: Which characteristic has the greatest influence? Psychology of Violence, 1(4), 259-274.

Willoughby, T., Adachi, P. J., & Good, M. (2012). A longitudinal study of the association between violent video game play and aggression among adolescents. Developmental Psychology, 48(4), 1044-1057.

Elson, M., Breuer, J., Looy, J. V., Kneer, J., & Quandt, T. (2015). Comparing apples and oranges? Evidence for pace of action as a confound in research on digital games and aggression. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(2), 112-125.

Decamp, W. (2015). Impersonal agencies of communication: Comparing the effects of video games and other risk factors on violence. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(4), 296-304.

Fraser, A. M., Padilla-Walker, L. M., Coyne, S. M., Nelson, L. J., & Stockdale, L. A. (2012). Associations Between Violent Video Gaming, Empathic Concern, and Prosocial Behavior Toward Strangers, Friends, and Family Members. J Youth Adolescence Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 41(5), 636-649.

Dittrick, C. J., Beran, T. N., Mishna, F., Hetherington, R., & Shariff, S. (2013). Do Children Who Bully Their Peers Also Play Violent Video Games? A Canadian National Study. Journal of School Violence, 12(4), 297-318.

Sheese, B. E., & Graziano, W. G. (2005). Deciding to Defect: The Effects of Video-Game Violence on Cooperative Behavior. Psychological Science, 16(5), 354-357.

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