GTA: no, video games do not make you violent according to this study

A new study attempts to separate the concept of violence in video games and aggression in real life. 500 players took part in an experiment to study the behavioral changes of players over several years. Some of them started playing violent games at a very young age. And yet, these are not the ones who develop the most aggression.


When video games boiled down to Pong, Pacman and Space Invaders, the question of violence in video games did not concern anyone, because it did not really exist. But, with titles like Doom, Wolfenstein, Mortal Kombat, Carmageddon or more recently series Grand Theft Auto (the 6th episodes of which is still officially under development), The Darkness, Gears of War or Postal, worried families are asking questions about the practice, especially among young people. And this despite a precise marking of each production which allows, even the neophytes, to know if a game corresponds to an age group or not. Take Cyberpunk 2077 for example: gambling is prohibited for those under 18, because it is violent and explicit.

Read also – Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony unite to fight harassment in video games

Families are worried. And politicians routinely use video game violence as a scapegoat when drama occurs. When a high school student walks into a school to undertake a mass killing, the first response from the authorities is often “he’s playing GTA” or “he’s listening to Marylin Manson”. A dangerous shortcut. First, because humans did not wait for the video game to kill their neighbor. Second, because, contrary to popular belief, video games can be psychologically beneficial to a patient.

See beyond prejudices and unsubstantiated claims

Some studies show that a good video game can perfectly replace a psychoanalysis session. And some doctors of psychology explain that gambling can help fight some addiction. Especially the video game. So, objectively, does violent play make violent? The question has been asked many times. And no study has succeeded in making the link.

A new study published last week goes further. She asserts that there is no causal relationship between the violence of a game, even when played young, and the aggressiveness of the player in real life. This study is called ” Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents “. Published in the scientific magazine Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, it demonstrates the absence of a behavioral link. GTA is mentioned in the title, but the series was not the only one to pass into the hands of the players studied.

Players studied for 10 years, a first!

This study is quite atypical. Indeed, it extends over several years. And more precisely over a decade. Not all players were studied during this entire period. On the other hand, some participated over several years. Thus, the researchers were able analyze the behavior of some of them at several stages of their development and their player habits (frequency of play, type of games, etc.). Three typologies emerge: those who played violent games when they were teenagers, those who played little or moderately violent games and those who did not play when they were young.

The first ones, very low minority in group (4%), gradually chose less violent games. In this group, boys are more represented. The second, which represent less than a quarter of the sample, sometimes began to play more violent games, but once more adults only. Finally, the last, who represent nearly three quarters of the players studied, discovered violent games as adults. And some devote themselves to it diligently.

Of the three groups, it is the second which shows, on average, a higher aggressiveness. In contrast, the rate of aggression is no different from a non-playful population. This means that violent games do not have a tangible impact on the aggressiveness of the player, but also that the practice in adolescence of a violent game does not promote the appearance of more violent behavior. The authors of the study note that its results can obviously include a margin of error, since the results depend on the honesty of the statements of the people studied.

Source: Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking