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Disputed Study Claims 'Conclusive Evidence' Of Game/Violence Link
Disputed Study Claims 'Conclusive Evidence' Of Game/Violence Link
November 4, 2008 | By David Jenkins

November 4, 2008 | By David Jenkins
More: Console/PC, Serious

A new study led by Iowa State University has concluded that violent video games do have a negative effect on children, with test cases examined in both the U.S. and Japan.

Although previous studies have proven inconclusive or negative in terms of the harmful effects of video games on children, the new study claims to be unambiguous in its findings. The research, published in the journal Pediatrics, is a combination of three separate studies: two from Japan and one from the U.S.

In particular, the study looked at the effect of violent games over time, with findings showing increased physical aggression continuing for months afterwards in some children. The study also showed little variation in results between Japanese and American children, despite the reduced levels of crime and violence in Japanese society.

Speaking to the Washington Post, lead author Craig A. Anderson commented: “When you find consistent effects across two very different cultures, you're looking at a pretty powerful phenomenon. One can no longer claim this is somehow a uniquely American phenomenon. This is a general phenomenon that occurs across cultures."

"We now have conclusive evidence that playing violent video games has harmful effects on children and adolescents," added Anderson.

The U.S. study examined 364 children aged between 9 to 12 in Minnesota and found an increased likelihood of physical aggressiveness up to five or six months after playing violent games. The Japanese research studied 1,200 children aged 12 to 18.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is now in the process of revising its recommendations on media violence, as a result of the study. A new statement is expected in four to six months, but the academy already recommends limiting screen time -- including television, computers, and video games -- to one to two hours a day.

[UPDATE: Website GamePolitics has pointed out a letter to Pediatrics by Christopher Ferguson, a researcher at Texas A&M International University, which notes:

"The authors fail to control for relevant 'third' variables that could easily explain the weak correlations that they find. Family violence exposure for instance, peer group influences, certainly genetic influences on aggressive behavior are just a few relevant variables that ought either be controlled or at minimum acknowledged as alternate causal agents for a (very small) link between video games and aggression."

In addition, the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) has issued a statement on the survey, which has president Hal Halpin commenting as follows:

"For the better part of the past decade we -- game consumers, makers, sellers and creators -- have been waiting for the results of an unbiased, longitudinal and comprehensive study to be done which will inform us about the potential harmful effects of entertainment products on our children. Unfortunately, with the report published in the latest issue of Pediatrics, we remain wanting.

One of the ways in which our stance is likely very different from others in the discussion on the subject is that the ECA would encourage more and better research on the matter.

The problem has been, and apparently continues to be, that the agenda of the researchers supersedes our want and need for inclusiveness of all media... not just games -- for the overtly sensationalistic spin that will inevitably be employed -- to the exclusion of music and movies. We remain optimistic that longitudinal research that is truly comprehensive, objective, and inclusive will be performed and shared, but sadly that day has not yet come."]

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Eric Gilbert
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Everything we do influences us...especially if we do it a lot. I was actually talking with my friend just the other day and he was telling me about how his 9 year old son got hurt (not badly) because he was jumping off stuff (stairs, the mailbox, etc.) trying to act like the new demo he'd been playing...Mirror's Edge ( We laughed about it and I told him that at least his son wasn't playing GTA ;)

Richard Cody
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We need one rating system across all mediums to simplify the responsibility for parents. Many parents are aware of what their kids are playing and I do buy into the fact that games can cause increased aggression and agree with the ECA too in that it's not just games.

But, games are a practice, they're active. It's a common argument but it's important. There's no doubt kids should not be playing these games, studies need to show at what age this stops effecting people (not necessarily kids). I definitely think past a certain age it can be a way to satisfy curiosity, something that dreams may otherwise try to fill in.

Patricia Krehbiel
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Why would anyone buy their child an ultra violent game? A nine year old isn't going to have $60 to buy a shiny new copy of Manhunt, that money comes from most likely the parents. I am so sick of people blaming games and not bad parenting.

Jonathan Balser
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Perhaps the question being asked is also adding to the "inconclusive" nature of the results produced by these studies. It may be a bit misguided to pose the question "Do video games cause an increase in violent behavior?" The question that often arises during my conversations with peers and my spouse regarding violent entertainment media is "Are people inherently violent?" There is a reason that people enjoy violent games and movies. I think many would agree that violent tendencies are an innate aspect of the human psyche. So perhaps, we should be posing the question "Are violent forms of entertainment media serving as an outlet to help quell violent tendencies, or do they exaggerate those tendencies?" Whether a person chooses to act upon those tendencies is a completely different issue. (One also worthy of careful study). However, until a comprehensive study is executed to determine how violent tendencies, not behavior, are affected by violent entertainment media, we will struggle to find a conclusive answer regarding the link between violent games and behavior.

David Delanty
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I miss the days when delinquent behavior was blamed on Comic books. =(

Brian Handy
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I read a similar study once showing the relation between violence and watching Power Rangers. The answers appears to be that any exposure to violence leads to more violent activities.

Wolf Wozniak
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"The answers appears to be that any exposure to violence leads to more violent activities."

Monkey see, monkey do.

Roberto Alfonso
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When child I used to watch Captain Tsubasa, an anime about school children who were able to play soccer in strange ways (shooting so strong they could break nets, jump dozens of meters above the ground, etc). After every episode we would go out and play soccer, calling out shoot names and simulating the positions done to execute the shoots.

And some years later, when Saint Seiya arrived, I used to watch children fight around simulating their kicks and punches. So, TV, anime and music do influence people, not only children. The question should be "how much" and not "whether".

I agree with Patricia, too. No parent would let his son watch a R-16 movie with him, so why they let them watch while they play or even play with them such games?

Jonathan Balser
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I don't think it's surprising that children imitate the things they see and like. That's why there is a rating system. Parents should be aware of the ratings and what they mean, and retailers should probably be responsible for checking the age of the person buying the game prior to sale, just like a liquor store or movie theater. I also believe that children and adults respond differently to exposure to violence.

Eric Gilbert
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"Why would anyone buy their child an ultra violent game? A nine year old isn't going to have $60 to buy a shiny new copy of Manhunt, that money comes from most likely the parents. I am so sick of people blaming games and not bad parenting."

First of all, the parent I'm talking about is a hardcore gamer and games with his son more than any other parent I know of. He is very responsible in regulating his sons gaming. I agree that it's parents responsibility to monitor what their children play, but my example does not allow the "blame the parents" trump card to be used.

Second, the game mentioned is rated T (Teen) there is no "ultra violent" content in it.

Third, the game is a downloadable demo...the retail copy is not for sale yet. Demos are downloadable on XBox live for free.

lethal ape
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I have been gaming for well over 25 years. I have played the so called "worse" and "violent" games ever produces, yet, I have never attacked a person, I have never raped a person, nor have I ever killed a person. These studies are all BOGUS. It is the individual, not the game or game makers. It's like saying "the devil made me do it" there is no such thing. Completely bias and full of shit. The people they tested this theory on were probably some juvies they found. It is ridiculous. DONT BELIEVE THE LIES!!!

Ed Alexander
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I, also, have been gaming for 22 of my 25 years of life and have only been in one fight in my life. I would call myself a pacifist more than anything, I always do my best to avoid confrontation, even verbal, because I just prefer everyone to be chill.

I personally believe that they're just out to find a scapegoat. Everyone likes to blame other people rather than themselves, so why not take the easy way out and blame tragic events on something so that it can be further regulated by the authorities?

I'd even suspect this Iowa study to be biased with an agenda, because you know as soon as there is a "legitimate scientific research study" that links violence to video games, then you have the slippery slope that awaits pushing the industry down. Give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

Besides, as I've read on other sites reporting the story (which may or may not be true) that the conclusions drawn come from interviewing the children themselves, not from noticing first hand anything that actually links subconscious violent behavior to be stemming from the enjoyment of video games. The old "On a scale from one to five, one being not at all, five being strongly desirable" model, if I'm not mistaken. If that is the case... how incredibly scientific!

Bill Redd
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As a kid before there were even PC's (B.C. PC) and arcades just hitting their peak, I had no video games to influence me, and still I was pretty violent at times, fighting etc.. My friends and I read Conan books and acted out play fights sometimes, using the books as a reference. We also used to mimic Bruce Lee as well using num-chucks etc.

The bottom line is, Art in any form (Music, Paintings etc) is meant to inspire, teach and basically expand or entertain the mind in someway. Video games also do this, or try to.

However knowing right from wrong should be a given outside of any media. Despite my exposure to books and movies I never actually used any of those things in a real fight. I just punched the crap out of the kid until they gave up. ;)

Jonathan Balser
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I think it's all the bad mattress makers' fault. After all, if you're sleeping on a bad mattress, you don't get a quality night's sleep. So it follows that you are more tired. Studies have revealed that sleep deprivation can lead to extreme irritability, which has unquestionably been linked to violence.



Ondrej Spanel
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There seems to be a basic mistake in the study, which is very common in such psychological or sociological studies.

** Correlation does not mean causation. **

When A and B do correlate, A may be cause of B, B may be cause of A, or there may exists C which is a common cause of A and B. (This corresponds to C. Ferguson's "relevant 'third' variables".)

In those articles linked it is very little written about how the study was run. Who was in control to determin how much time individual tested children spent with the violent games? If it was left in their own hands, it is very likely playing the violent games a lot only manifested an inner inclination for violence which was already present before starting the study.

Unless more detail about how exactly was the experiment performed are available, I think there is no way to draw any reliable conclusions from it.

Fernando Secco
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well, I play video game since I was 10, played all Doom, Quakes, UTs, Punch Out's, Street Fighters and never got into a fight, the same with my friends. We actually are very calm and patient people.

I was looking for similar studies and found this:


Daniel Camozzato
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I'm sorry, but looking for violent kids in a militaristic country is like looking for needles in a pile of needles.

Rob Hobson
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I'm looking and looking, but I can't seem to find mention of methodology. Sadly, I don't have access to a copy of the Pediatrics journal in which this study is published. One thing that did make me a little wary was the suggestion that it pulls together two studies from different sides of the world. Two studies related, precisely, how? Did they happen to realise, over beers at a convention, that their studies were in a similar area and they could get double the exposure if they lumped them together as one?

Did they use a control group? Who were they? What effects did they observe? Did all the children play the same games? How often? And so on, and so on, and so on.

Would love to see the full study. If anyone finds a link, will they post it?

Janey Barnett
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I found the link. Here ya go

Rob Hobson
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Jeezus. Time to call the boffin friends.

david allen
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Seems like they're just proving that parents should not allow their kids to play violent games.