Do Video Games Cause Behavior Problems and Violence

With the recent mass shootings happening comes the largely discussed topic of video games, which are becoming more and more popular among young people. Do video games cause behavior problems and violence? Is the connection between these two things justified or is this just a search for something to blame for these atrocities occurring because there is no better explanation? Media and public who do not believe in science still think that someone buying a gun and killing people with it is because he played video games that made him do it.

This on its own sounds ridiculous and some still believe it to be true. They are not willing to look further for the real causation (gun control, in this case) of a recurring problem and these false accusations have quite a history, to begin with.

It all started with the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 where two students murdered 13 people and committed suicide. The public wanted answers and they got them.

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“Prominent anti-game activist and social psychologist Craig Anderson testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee shortly after the Columbine massacre, saying “Even though one cannot reasonably claim that a particular act of violence or that a lifetime of violence was caused exclusively by the perpetrator’s exposure to violent entertainment media, one can reasonably claim that such exposure was a contributing causal factor. More importantly for this hearing, my research colleagues are correct in claiming that high exposure to media violence is a major contributing cause of the high rate of violence in modern U.

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S. society.” 12 How much research was there to support such a sweeping claim? Well, effectively none.”

A scholar confirmed that mainly violent media consumption, in this case, a video game called DOOM, caused this shooting. He lied to the politicians and the news without any research in hand claiming that his “research colleagues” agree with him and everyone believed him while completely overlooking that both of the murderers had depression and problems with anger management. They all wanted to rationalize what happened and selected only the evidence they wanted to get an easy explanation to the public.

The second example is the Sandy Hook shooting which happened in 2012 where the news tried to blame video games. “On Monday, CBS News raised eyebrows with a report citing unnamed law enforcement sources conjecturing that Lanza was motivated in part by violent video games as well as Norway shooter Anders Breivik.” This was only a quickly made up theory to explain that the cause was violent media once again, but the investigators found out later that the murderer’s favorite video game was not violent at all. It was a dancing game based on rhythm called Dance Dance Revolution and he put quite a large number of hours into it compared to other games. You cannot just base such a conclusion on finding a violent video game in a young boy’s room when a large percentage close to one hundred of young boys play these games. This is just a biased opinion of someone who is ignoring facts and research presenting it to the public who can be misinformed because of it.

The third example is the El Paso shooting which happened in 2019. “The El Paso shooter briefly referenced Call of Duty, a wildly popular game in which players assume the roles of soldiers during historical and fictional wartime, in his “manifesto.” And just this small mention of the video game seemed to have prompted President Donald Trump to return to a theme he’s emphasized before when looking to assign greater blame for violent incidents.” (Romano). This reference to a violent video game sparked the conversation again. It led to blaming video games for the whole incident by the news and president himself. In Trump’s speech, while addressing this issue, he used the term “gruesome and grisly video games” (Romano) which suggests that not only the violent games are guilty. People could translate this in many different ways. In fear of their innocent children becoming a murderous criminal, they forbid them from playing any games to prevent this.

All these irrational claims can be identified as a ‘moral panic’ which is defined by Markey and Ferguson as “a tendency for societies to develop overblown fears of an innocuous scapegoat or “folk devil,” which is then blamed for a real (or often imagined) social problem” . This is connected to the rapid development of video games and the fear of the unknown. The average age of a person who plays video games is around 30 now and it will increase over time. Most older adults do not play video games and they have no idea what is the difference between them or what they are about. Knowing this, it is no surprise that when you show them that the new technology they know nothing about is making their children or grandchildren kill others, they will accept this interpretation without questioning it.

Multiple studies tried to prove there exists a connection but they all failed; and even when they did prove a connection to some small real-life misbehavior, they were not taken into account. As Markey and Ferguson says according to the Sandy Hook shooting: “The result was a huge pool of junk science that repeated the same basic research mistakes (poor measures of aggression, lack of standardization, lack of careful matching of games to ensure they varied only in violent content, and a failure to control for other variables in correlational studies), even after these errors in research had been pointed out again and again.” Despite all the facts, the popular belief that video games are responsible for murders is still there. I think that people still believe that because games are a highly convenient target for the situation that both news and politicians can use it as a scapegoat.

But why is not violent news, movies or literature the target for all the hate? I believe that this has a lot to do with the type of involvement in these kinds of entertainment. When you are watching something violent on TV or reading a violent book you are just an observer; you are completely disconnected from the violence happening before your eyes. This is different when it comes to a video game; depending on the game, you are often directly involved in the violence and you are the main participant. You are the one who tears demons to shreds, the one who shoots enemies in their heads and the one who skins animals with a rusty knife. But does that make you a cold-blooded killer in real life? And what about all the other games which revolve around you taking care of animals, planting crops and collecting them or constructing buildings according to your vision? Surely these games do not contribute to any form of violence and we cannot just put them in a bag with the violent ones.

Video games can be beneficial. Not all of them of course, when you are watching videos and playing some lazy clicker game you will not get anything out of that. “Contrary to conventional beliefs that playing video games is intellectually lazy and sedating, it turns out that playing these games promotes a wide range of cognitive skills.” These skills include improved reaction time, improved mental flexibility, improved spatial memory and improved attention capacity which are all applicable in the real world.

“Game designers are wizards of engagement. They have mastered the art of pulling people of all ages into virtual environments, having them work toward meaningful goals, persevere in the face of multiple failures, and celebrate the rare moments of triumph after successfully completing challenging tasks.” Motivation is a big aspect of specific games that are, by some, called unfair or impossible to complete. One particular developer studio is focused on making extremely hard games and every time they publish one, there is a magnitude of people complaining about its difficulty but the purpose of it is the sense of achievement when you finally get through some hard section. You try and try again, you fail multiple times but in the end, you get over the obstacle, victorious. Sounds familiar? Countless real-life situations can be compared to this pattern but some will give up and some will carry on. This can help people to get through their darkest times and in the end, see it as a personal triumph.

Previously, developers tended more to single-player games and most gamers were these lonely guys sitting in the back but that changed. For some time now, developers started to focus all their money on big multi-player games where you can speak or text with other players. “Players seem to acquire important prosocial skills when they play games that are specifically designed to reward effective cooperation, support, and helping behaviors.” . A lot of games revolve around teamwork which naturally requires communication. This can not only encourage gamers to learn more languages but also to meet new friends from other places around the world making themselves familiar with different cultures.

Video games do not create mass murderers, they help people in many ways which the public does not see. The society always needs an explanation for their problems and they will always look for the most convenient causation in sight, blindly overlooking the facts and real research. People fear what they do not know, what is a danger to their innocent children and the fact that politicians and scholars are presenting false facts to them is not helping at all. They need to think rationally, to look further into the problem instead of picking the easy way out and make a conclusion based on concrete evidence.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Do Video Games Cause Behavior Problems and Violence. (2024, Feb 06). Retrieved from

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