violent video games != aggression

It’s interesting to compare two studies that have been done on violent video games. In one, published in the June issue of Communication Monographs (which is devoted mainly to scientific and empirical investigations of communication processes. Link.), video games are painted in a good light. From the article:

… researchers found “no strong effects associated with aggression caused by this violent game,” said Dmitri Williams, the lead author of the study.


Nor was game play a predictor of aggressive behaviors. Compared with the control group, the players neither increased their argumentative behaviors after game play nor were significantly more likely to argue with their friends and partners.

While the game in question was Asheron’s Call 2, a fantasy based MMORPG, there is an element of violence in the game. You’re killing monsters, after all. Even if they are helpless giant rats. In the end, the article makes a couple other good points. It says that games and their effects are complicated and that, “If the content, context, and play length have some bearing on the effects, policy-makers should seek a greater understanding of the games they are debating. It may be that both the attackers and defenders of the industry’s products are operating without enough information, and are instead both arguing for blanket approaches to what is likely a more complicated phenomenon.” It also says that kids run home from school, where they are bored, to run home to play games and “solve problems.” There must be something good about that!

Now, contrast that to a study that is constantly touted by super-lawyer Jack Thompson, by researchers at Indiana University. (Can we really trust a university that employed Bobby Knight for decades? I kid, I kid). Anyway, this study’s subjects were, “aggressive adolescents diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorders (DBD)”. It would take a super genuis like JT to use a study of “aggressive adoloscents” to prove the point that violent video games have an effect on them. That’s like doing a study of thirsty people to find out if hydrogen dioxide dihydrogen oxide dihydrogen monoxide (thanks, Bobster thanks, Good Chem Student) made them feel better. The study proved that aggresive kids’ brains react differently to stimulus than “normal” kids do. This may not be obvious but it seems to logically follow that kids who already suffer from “disruptive behavior disorder” would of course be excited by violent media. The study doesn’t really do much to prove that violent media has negative effects on “normal” kids.

I find it interesting to see what sources of “proof” each side of the violent video game argument uses.

(This was also mentioned on GGA here)

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This settles it


  1. This is one of those subjects (violence in video games) that I hate to keep harping on, because I feel like I’m either preaching to the choir or talking to a wall, but it’s also one of the topics that gets me the most animated.

    In the end, I guess it’s less about the evidence and more about personal experience for everyone…we need to elect some gaming senators 😉

  2. Worse is that as soon as he has a shred of evidence to go on, guys like BatJack just decry “the debate is over!” … when it clearly is not.

    There is a great divide between what is being researched and what is being said anyway. Research is focusing mostly on behavioral changes and the witch-hunters are talking about violent crime.

    It’s like trying to determine if red meat is bad for you and then running an ad declaring that it’s as dangerous as smoking and will give you cancer.

  3. hydrogen dioxide?

    I think Tony meant Dihydrogen oxide, which is H2O aka water, in which case I agree with him.

    Jason pretty much nailed it. Arguing with an ‘anti’ is like butting your head against the wall. At least it feels good when you stop.

  4. Worse is that as soon as he has a shred of evidence to go on, guys like BatJack just decry “the debate is over!” … when it clearly is not.

    Which is exactly how these guys argue. Volumes and columes can be written against their arguments, but as soon as one bit of anecdotal proof and they’re all over it.

  5. I think Tony meant Dihydrogen oxide, which is H2O aka water

    Yes, that was indeed what I meant. Thanks for keeping me honest. It’s been fixed.

  6. Good Chem Student says

    The chemical name for H20 is Dihydrogen Monoxide.

  7. Thanks, Good Chem Student. As you can see, Bobster and I were bad chem students.


  1. […] As an aside, the Opinion Journal mentions the study done by Dmitri Williams at the University of Illinois (which I mentioned here) which uses the game Asheron’s Call 2 for its study. I’ve never played AC2 (or the first one, for that matter), but it doesn’t seem like that game would be explicitly violent or very gory. Is it? Are the violence and gore on the same level as a Resident Evil 4 or a Grand Theft Auto? And if so, can fantasy violence really be compared to a game with more “realistic” characters? Is running over an innocent bystander with a pick-up the same as smashing a goblin with a mace? Just a thought. […]

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