The common idea that ‘games make you violent’ may take a violent turn when Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, reveals that there is no relationship between aggressive behaviour in teenagers and the amount of time spent playing violent video games.

Lead researcher Professor Andrew Przybylski said “the idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time”. He added that “Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”

The study is touted to be one of the most definitive video game studies to date, using a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games. Unlike previous research on the topic, which relied heavily on self-reported data from teenagers, the study used information from parents and carers to judge the level of aggressive behaviour in their children.

The content of the games was classified using the official Pan European Game Information (EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (US) rating system, rather than only player’s perceptions of the amount of violence in the game.

Przybylski highlighted that ‘the issue in technology research is that there are many ways to analyse the same data, which nets different results’. A cherry-picked result can add undue weight to the moral panic in regards to video games. Registered research such as this can safeguard against cherry-picking.

On The Flip Side…

While there is no correlation between video games and aggressive behaviour in teens, the researcher reminds that this does not mean that some mechanics and situations in gaming do not provoke angry feelings or reactions in players. “Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness, and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behaviour,” says Przybylski.

The data was drawn from a nationally representative sample of British 14- and 15-year olds, and the same number of their carers (totalling 2,008 subjects). The teenagers completed questionnaires on their personality and gaming behaviour over the past month, while their Carers completed sets of questions in regards to their child’s recent aggressive behaviours using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire.

The violent content in the games played was coded based on their rating in the official Pan European Game Information (PEGI; EU) and Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB; US) rating system, as well as player’s subjective rating. The researcher then tested whether the relations between regular violent video game play (coded by the researcher) and adolescents’ aggressive and helping behaviours (judged by parents) were positive, negative, linear, or parabolic.

The full paper on the study can be found here.

 

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