Since the early 90s, video games have been used as a scapegoat for real-life violence and other societal ills. While the video game industry has long tried to buck that association, violent games are often dragged back into the conversation, often following tragic events, such as mass shootings. Numerous studies have debunked the idea that video game violence leads to actual violence, but the American Psychological Association has reaffirmed their stance on the matter, in a statement released by APA president Sandra Shullman. The statement comes as a result of a review of the APA's 2015 ruling on the matter.
"Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence," said Shullman.
It seems unlikely that the statement will change the minds of anyone that believes there is a correlation between violence and video games, despite the fact that it should put the debate to rest. It is interesting to hear Shullman point to other factors that don't receive nearly as much media attention, however. Violent behavior tends to be the greatest indicator for future acts of violence, but too often there aren't follow-ups on this kind of behavior.
“Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound & draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know ... is a major predictor of future violence.” @sandyapa2020 https://t.co/R6KmB8U2MR via @APA— Alicia Aebersold (@aliciacollin) March 3, 2020
While the APA does not find evidence to support a direct tie between video game violence and actual violence, the association finds there is a small tie between video game violence and "aggressive outcomes, such as yelling and pushing." Anyone that has ever participated in a heated video game session with friends or online players can likely agree to that, but the same could also be argued for any other competitive event.
Franchises like Mortal Kombat and DOOM tend to be the most frequently trotted out as scapegoats for violent acts. Of course, no game received a less deserved amount of negative attention than Night Trap, a 1992 Sega CD game that resulted in a 1993 senate committee hearing on violent video games. The game was re-released on modern consoles, a few years back. Despite the attention it once received, the game looks quite tame, today. Like those other violent games, it certainly doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would have inspired actual violence. Perhaps the hysteria over violent video games of the early 90s truly is just that.
Do you think video game violence has an impact on real-life violence? Should a greater effort be made to study the potential effects of violent games? Let us know in the comments or share your thoughts directly on Twitter at @Marcdachamp to talk all things gaming!