Research Shows No Link Between Video Game Violence And Real-World Violence

New study from Stetson University researcher suggests violent video games do no lead to increases in violent crimes.


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In September, researchers at Villanova University and Rutgers University published the results of an in-depth study that suggested violent video games do not lead to increases in real-world violent behavior. Now, a pair of follow-up studies from Stetson University researcher Christopher Ferguson have reached the same general conclusion, finding that there is no evidence for a link between video game or movie violence and real-world violent behavior.

In fact, as reported by Medical Daily, Ferguson's studies found that the rise in popularity of violent video games was actually related to a decrease in youth violence.

Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse: Son of Rome

For his first study, Ferguson measured homicide rates from 1920 to 2005 against the frequency and graphic nature of violence in popular movies. A "slight" link between violent movies and murder rates was found during the mid-20th century, but the connection lessened in the 1990s, a period when movie violence was linked with fewer homicides overall.

The second study focused on video game violence. Ferguson looked at Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) data for games released between 1996 and 2011 as well as federal youth crime data for the same period. What he found was that violent video game consumption was "strongly" correlated with declines in the instances of youth violence.

This downward correlation is likely related to "chance," and should not be taken as an indication that playing violent video games can lead to a safer world, Ferguson said.

"Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime," Ferguson said in a statement. "There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education, and vocational disparities and mental health. This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value."

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Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Ferguson's study was published in the Journal of Communication.

Violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto (pictured throughout this post) are often brought up by researchers in their studies about the topic of violence in video games. For instance, earlier this year, Ohio St. professor Brad Bushman made the point that there is definitely a link between playing violent games and increases in aggressive behavior. At the time, he also cited a study in which researchers found games like Grand Theft Auto actually encourage players to give no thought to self-control.

For further reading on the subject of violence in games and its effect on society, you can read GameSpot's interview with Villanova professor Patrick Markey.

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