top of page

Do Video Games make Children Violent?

Violence in video games has long concerned parents, caregivers, and scientists on whether there is any effect on a child’s development or behaviour. Many scientists can’t agree whether there is a link or not. Let’s delve into the theories and the research around video game violence effects (if any) on children.

This is probably one of the most controversial topics in gaming today. There are many theories, good and bad, about how violence in video games affects children, but there is no clear view that everyone can agree on.


Personally, throughout my own experience, I think there is little effect of violence in video games on children. I remember being a young girl (around 4 years old) watching my 9 year old brother and his friends playing a game called Mortal Kombat which was an R16 game. For those of you who don’t know what this game is… google Mortal Kombat finishers and that will tell you all you need to know… Basically, this was a player verse player fighting arena where you fight to knock out the other opponent. That’s not the bad bit... the bad bit, and what Mortal Kombat is infamous for, is the finishing moves. These were crazy! You could have people splitting someone in half, melting someone with acid leaving a skeleton behind, kicking someone into pieces, and ripping the enemy’s heart out all accompanied by A LOT of blood flying everywhere. Now that you have that lovely visual, imagine a little girl growing up watching and playing this game. How do you think this would affect her? To be honest, it didn’t affect her at all… She is not aggressive, she is calm and analytical. She loves her friends and family and would never choose violence unless it was a last resort. She achieved great grades in school and top placings in multiple sports categories. And why did she turn out this way? Well, I always knew it was fantasy. It was just a game. No one was being hurt in real life, it was all fake. I had no connection to the game and the real world, I just remember having fun with my brother and friends playing this game. That’s my experience at least. Everyone is different of course, and that’s why I don’t think you can ever have a clear answer to whether video games make a violent child. It depends on so many other factors surrounding a child such as their environment, parenting influence, exposure to traumatic events, medical background, and other factors.


Now I am certainly no scientist, but I was a lawyer! When I was researching this topic, I came across one of the most interesting cases I think I have ever read. In 2011, the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association Case in America was a real turning point in challenging myths about violent video games influencing children. This case came about because of a California law being introduced that tried to stop violent video games from being sold to kids, but the Entertainment Merchants Association fought against the law, saying that it went against the rights of people who make and play video games. The Court agreed and threw out the law.


The Judges compared video games to that of other art styles and literature such as movies, tv shows and books. They commented that “Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas-- and even social messages--through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player's interaction with the virtual world)… Even if we can see in them nothing of any possible value to society, they are as much entitled to the protection of free speech as the best of literature.” What do they mean by this? Essentially, they are saying regardless of a games content it should be allowed even if it contains graphic content.


The Judges also linked graphic games to graphic books which children still read today. The Brother’s Grimm for example where in Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers till she falls dead. Or in Cinderella where her evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves or Hansel and Gretel where the children kill their captor by baking her in an oven. These novels are available to children today and have no known or confirmed links to children being violent because of these stories. If these graphic books are okay for our children to ready today, then shouldn't violence in games be the same?


Questions during the case were raised around the idea that video games enable participation in the violent action. However, this was quickly thrown out by the Court they said that all literature is interactive saying “the better it is, the more interactive. Literature when it is successful draws the reader into the story, makes him identify with the characters, invites him to judge them and quarrel with them, to experience their joys and sufferings as the reader's own.” Again, there is graphic children's novels that draws the reader into a fantasy world and there are no issues of this when looking at violence in children so why should gaming violence be considered differently?


The Judges said that even if violent video games have an effect on children, those effects are both small and unclear. The Judges relied on research from Doctor Craig Anderson, a child psychologist who is an American professor and director at the Department of Psychology, Iowa State University in Ames. He has researched and written a book recording his research regarding the effects of violent video games on children. During the Court case the Docter admitted that the effect sizes of children's exposure to violent video games are about the same as that produced by their exposure to violence on television watching cartoons or playing games that are rated appropriate for every age. So overall, his research concluded that wherther it be graphic violenc eor simple cartoon violence, there was little effect on a child.


Despite this view, it is crucial for parents, caregivers, educators, and society as a whole to encourage responsible gaming habits. While it is essential to stay cautious about the content children are exposed to, understanding that video games alone do not make children violent is important. By fostering responsible gaming habits and keeping open communication with your child, this can create an environment where video games can be enjoyed as a form of entertainment while promoting healthy development in children.


By Gee Gee                 

bottom of page