Aggression and Violent Behavior, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 203–212, 1999 Copyright © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd
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VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES
A REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
Nottingham Trent University
ABSTRACT. One of the main concerns that has constantly been raised against video games is that most of the games feature aggressive elements. This has led many people to assert that this may have a detrimental effect on individuals who play such games. Despite continuing controversy for over 15 years, there has been little in the way of systematic research. This article reviews the empirical studies in this area, including research methodologies such as the observation of free play, self-report methods, and experimental studies. The article argues that all the published studies on video game violence have methodological problems and that they only include possible short-term measures of aggressive consequences. The one consistent ﬁnding is that the majority of the studies on very young children—as opposed to those in their teens upwards—tend to show that children do become more aggressive after either playing or watching a violent video game. However, all of these come from the use of one particular research methodology (i.e., observation of children’s free play). © 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd
KEY WORDS. Video games, violence, aggression, adolescence
ONE OF THE MAIN concerns that has constantly been raised against video and computer games is that most of the games are claimed to feature aggressive elements. This has led some people to state that children become more aggressive after playing such games (e.g., Koop, 1982; Zimbardo, 1982). However, these assertions have been made without the backup of empirical evidence. Despite the continuing controversy for over 15 years, there has been relatively little systematic research. The issue is ever more important because new games like Mortal Kombat are using more explicit representations of extreme and realistic violence.
There has been a much reported (and debated) link between television violence and violence in children’s behavior, that is, those children who view television violence subsequently show increases in their aggressive actions (e.g., Andison, 1977; Berkowicz, 1970;
Correspondence should be addressed to Mark Grifﬁths, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Burton Street, Nottingham NG1 4BU, UK.
Eron, 1982). With this in mind, Silvern, Williamson, and Countermine (1983) noted that there were similarities between television and video games in that they both have (a) entertainment value, (b) violent content, and (c) various physical feature similarities (e.g., action, pace and visual change).
Many authors claim that most computer games are violent in nature and feature death and destruction (e.g., Dominick, 1984; Loftus & Loftus, 1983). In a survey reported by Bowman and Rotter (1983), 85% of games that were examined (n ϭ 28) involved participants in acts of simulated destruction, killing or violence. A more recent study of computer game content by Provenzo (1991) reported that of the 47 leading Nintendo games that he analyzed, only seven of them did not involve violence. He reported that video games were populated by terrorists, prizeﬁghters, SWAT teams, robotic cops, and the like, and that women were cast as “victims,” and foreigners as “baddies.” Findings, such as this, led Provenzo to conclude that video games encourage sexism, violence and racism by conditioning children to view the world in a way that they see on the computer screen. Although analyses of video game content have led researchers to conclude that most computer games are violent, their choice of games for analysis does not necessarily coincide with those games which are the best selling. By looking at any of the “Top 10 Games” charts...
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