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Violence in Video Games

Experts estimate that the video game industry will generate over $230 billion this year. At the same time, other researchers suggest that over a half of the current top-selling games are violent. For the past few decades, the debates on the effects of these video games have been heated, with different researchers trying to establish whether or not getting exposed to violent video games increases the risk factor of aggressive and violent behavior. Although a series of studies has provided the impacts of playing violent video games on aggression, longitudinal studies are rare. Despite years of study on the impacts of violent games on behavior, the suggestions for the real-world impacts remain highly debated. Some studies relate playing violent video games to depression and anxiety. The behavioral impacts of violent video games are complex and varied, and they vary depending on the personality of individual players, family and peer interactions, and cultural variables. However, drawing from the framing theory, social learning, and critical theory, it cannot be concluded whether these games’ violent nature results in real-world criminality.

Framing Theory

In general, framing involves the process whereby the media may (and do) represent the same issue in various ways, supporting a specific problem definition, moral judgment, causal interpretation, or treatment prescription for the item portrayed. In 1999, the Columbine school shooting was not among the worst school shootings in American history, but it was also dubbed the most carefully followed news event of the year (Przybylski & Weinstein, 2019). Researchers still question why dominated news coverage and public debates in the days following the massacre since the fundamental journalistic inquiries of “who,” “what,” “when,” and “where” could not be addressed fast (Coyne & Stockdale, 2021). Products of popular culture, such as music, movies, and, not least, video games, were blamed for the brutality of the young shooters, while the media first ignored socioeconomic isolation, bad parenting, and gun accessibility. Similar trends surfaced in the aftermath of the Red Lake tragedy and the Sandy Hook Elementary School incident a few years later (Coyne & Stockdale, 2021). In addition, playing video games was swiftly identified as a critical contributory role to the events, despite the lack of proof for this imagined association. These examples show no inherent meaning to any issue, situation, or incident. “Interpretations of issues are contested, negotiated, and modified over time,” says the author. Media frames may be seen as crucial organizing concepts to shape public perceptions and political choices (Przybylski & Weinstein, 2019). Indeed, studies have repeatedly demonstrated that media frames significantly impact evaluations, preferences, and attitudes toward the topic at hand.

Social Learning Theory

Theoretically, video games can either develop or release aggressive inclinations, as anticipated by social learning theory. Further study shows that social learning theory proposes that playing aggressive video games stimulates aggressive behaviour, implying youngsters will replicate what they see on screen (Gonzalez & Greitemeyer, 2018). In direct opposition to this, catharsis theory proposes that playing violent video games has a soothing effect by channelling latent hostility, which has a good impact on a child’s behaviour. It is evident that most of the video games are violent, with death and destruction being a common theme. According to recent research, twenty-four of the twenty-eight video games analysed included players in simulated damage, death, or violence, nearly 85 percent (Coyne & Stockdale, 2021). The long-term repercussions of playing violent video games are little understood. However, because of the child’s active engagement, video game violence may have a more significant negative impact on children than television violence; television watching is merely a passive, one-way communicative media, but playing video games is a two-way active interaction. Various studies have also found that youngsters prefer video games over television because they give them more control. Despite the ongoing debate, only a few empirical studies have been published (Coyne & Stockdale, 2021). Recent researches are looking at the strong correlation between video games and kids’ subsequent behaviour, although most have only looked at the short-term impacts.

Critical Theory Analysis of Violent Video Games

Computer and video games are sophisticated symbolic systems supplemented with many activities that generate experiences. Findings from critical reveal the relation between exposure to media violence, including, movies, television shows, and video games. Various experts attempted to investigate the moderated mediation impact of normative beliefs about aggressiveness and family conditions on getting exposed to violent video game and adolescent aggression (Kühn et al., 2019). The participants self-reported their experiences with violent video games, their familial context, their normative ideas about aggressiveness, and their physical violence (Gonzalez & Greitemeyer, 2018). The studies found a significant positive correlation between getting exposed to media violence and childhood and adolescence aggressive behavior; normative beliefs about aggression moderated the link between playing these games and adolescent aggressiveness, while the first part of the mediation process is highly linked to interactions with family members (Coyne & Stockdale, 2021; Gonzalez & Greitemeyer, 2018). Getting exposed to violent video games directly influenced aggressiveness in persons with a good home environment. Still, it had both consequences mediated by normative attitudes about violence in those with low-income family backgrounds.

Social Effects

Unlike twentieth-century video games, most of today’s video games are social in nature. The average video gamer no longer fits the 1990s description of “nerdy social isolation.” The statistical analysis reflects that sixty-six percent of today’s game players play with others, either in person or online, and 77 percent play social games (Gonzalez & Greitemeyer, 2018). Due to the social aspect of modern video games, gamers may be acquiring social skills, particularly prosocial skills, to the extent that the game necessitates collaboration and mutual assistance in order to attain desired goals (Kühn et al., 2019). In addition to video games, these social skills may be valuable in family, social, corporate, and other relationship contexts. Playing prosocial video games is connected to or predicts prosocial behavior, according to studies (Gonzalez & Greitemeyer, 2018). Prosocial games, for instance, provided immediate, short-term advantages in terms of assisting others. There were also long-term repercussions revealed. Children who played more proactive games at the start of the school year are highly likely to show positive behavior later on. Therefore, violent video games are just as likely to inspire prosocial behavior as those that stressed prosocial behavior.

Further critical examination supports that video games are different from television shows and movies mainly because they are more participatory. The interactive element of violent video games puts them close to acting out violent conduct, at least for people who are inclined to violence or who have difficulties distinguishing fiction from reality. Although roughly ninety percent of all video games contain some form of violence, astonishingly realistic and entertaining video games like Grand Theft Auto and Mortal Kombat have received special attention. The basic purpose in these games is typically to kill or be killed. For example, players in Grand Theft Auto have the option of engaging into criminal activities such as thefts and robberies. Throughout the game, participants regularly engage in shoot-outs with victims and law enforcement officers. However, drawing from the theories as mentioned above, it cannot be concluded whether these games’ violent nature results in real-world criminality.


Coyne, S. M., & Stockdale, L. (2021). Growing up with Grand Theft Auto: a 10-year study of longitudinal growth of violent video game play in adolescents. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking24(1), 11-16.

Gonzalez, J. M., & Greitemeyer, T. (2018). The relationship between everyday sadism, violent video game play, and fascination with weapons. Personality and Individual Differences124, 51-53.

Kühn, S., Kugler, D. T., Schmalen, K., Weichenberger, M., Witt, C., & Gallinat, J. (2019). Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study. Molecular psychiatry24(8), 1220-1234.

Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2019). Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report. Royal Society open science6(2), 171474.


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