There is a large body of evidence which suggests that violent video games lead to increased aggression and even violence. There is some mixed evidence on the psychological effects of video game violence, but Craig Anderson (2003) offers overall implications that can be reached by looking at all studies that relate video games to risk factors:
Some studies have yielded nonsignificant [sic] video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior.
In another study which considers available research on media violence, several relevant conclusions were reached (Anderson, et al., 2003). It was found that there are “sufficient studies with sufficient consistency” to back up several important findings (Anderson, et al., 2003, p. 93). Video game violence is linked to aggression in the short term. Cross-sectional studies have been able to show a correlation between long term exposure to video game violence and real world violence. A few longitudinal studies are also able to suggest that video game exposure has long term effects on aggression. It should be noted that Craig Anderson, one of the authors of this study has been criticized for overstating the data on video games and its link to aggression and violent behavior.
A study in 2008 considers the correlation between increasing interactive digital media usage and unhealthful behaviors (Escobar-Chaves & Anderson, 2008). The researchers looked at five major areas of risky behavior. These include obesity, smoking, drinking, violence, and early sexual activity. These categories were chosen because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified these areas among the activities that “contribute to the leading causes of death and disability in the United States among adults and yout.
The study found that, in general, there is at least a modest link between electronic media consumption and obesity, smoking, drinking, and violence. The study focused largely on TV and movies as the basis for the first three, but specifically mentioned the effect of videogame violence as increasing the risks of violence in teens. The research in this study concluded that “brief exposure to violent video games increases aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
Violent videogames seem to affect men differently than women. One study of 43 undergraduate students yielded particularly interesting results. The study used a nonviolent game (PGA Tournament Golf) as a control game, and used Mortal Kombat as the violent video game (Bartholow & Anderson, 2001). It then placed participants in different rooms and told them that their reaction time would be measured. The participants were able to “punish” their opponents by playing extremely loud white noise over a speaker. The study found that men’s aggression in the retaliation test was affected much more than women’s. Admittedly, the study was small, and it was difficult to choose games that were not inherently gender biased already, but the study does still serve to show that in at least some cases, men experience more added aggression than women after playing violent videogames.
that modern videogames have borrowed much of their material from Hollywood. The player character in many games, referred to as the avatar, is generally created to be at least somewhat superhuman. Just like in movies, this portrayal of what an individual is supposed to be contributes to identity development. Many games involve male characters that are incredibly well built and tough, and female characters that are physically attractive. As Burrill puts it, “in short, avatars are sexy.
This analysis reveals that traditional gender roles and violence are central to many games in the sample. There were no female characters in 41% of the games with characters. In 28% of these, women were portrayed as sex objects. Nearly 80% of the games included aggression or violence as part of the strategy or object. While 27% of the games contained socially acceptable aggression, nearly half included violence directed specifically at others and 21% depicted violence directed at women. Most of the characters in the games were Anglo. (The study concludes that the portrayal of women in video games is generally “stereotypical and traditional in nature” (Dietz, 1998, p. 439). Another study in 2007 found that “hard-core gamers see the average woman as much larger than do nongamers” and “body type preferences for hard-core gamers possessed larger breasts than those of nongamers” (Rask, 2007, p. 2). These findings indicate that video games, like many other forms of mass media, are contributing to the ongoing gender imbalances in our society.