Study: Violent video games could be linked to aggressive behavior

New study finds that children who play video games often end up showing more aggressive behavior later in life; media researcher Chris Ferguson challenges the results.

No Caption Provided

According to the findings of a new study, children who play violent video games regularly might end up having increased levels of violent thoughts and behavior. The report is based on data from Singapore and found that children who often play violent games even believe that hitting is acceptable and can have more aggressive tendencies than children who do not play violent games.

"Just like children's bodies can be affected by what they eat, their brains can be affected by what they repeatedly do," Iowa State University researcher Douglas A. Gentile, who worked on the study, told Reuters.

Whether or not there is a link between violent games and violent behavior has been a point of debate in gaming circles and even Washington for years now. This new study doesn't conclude anything definitively and its findings aren't without controversy and debate.

The study, conducted over the course of three years, included around 3,000 children ages 8 to 17. Every year, the researchers asked the kids how often they play video games, which games were their favorites, and how much violent content was featured in the games.

The researchers also asked the children how likely they would be to physically strike someone if provoked. Other questions put to the children included asking for their thoughts about violence in general, whether or not they thought hitting was acceptable in some situations, or if they ever had dreams about hurting others. Children in the study also reported how involved their parents were in limiting how much time they spent playing games.

The study, Mediators and Moderators of Long-Term Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, found that children who played more violent video games often had more fantasies about violent and reported that real-world violent was sometimes acceptable.

The correlation was about the same for boys and girls, even for children with and without a history of aggression and parents who were involved or detached from their gaming habits.

Stetson University media research professor Christopher Ferguson challenged the study.

"This is not a very good study," Ferguson told Reuters. "This data set has been criticized before." Ferguson said the design of this study is similar to a report that the United States Supreme Court struck down in 2011 in its landmark decision about violent video games.

Ferguson said one problem with the study is that children might be unlikely to self-report their feelings. This could skew the data, he argued.

"The research we have now has been very inconsistent," Ferguson said. "There may be a connection to relatively minor acts of aggression, the equivalent of kids sticking their tongues out at each other," but there is no evidence of a link to bullying, fighting, or school shootings, he said.

You can read the full study here.

Please use a html5 video capable browser to watch videos.
This video has an invalid file format.
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email

Join the conversation
There are 559 comments about this story
559 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
GameSpot has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to toxic conduct in comments. Any abusive, racist, sexist, threatening, bullying, vulgar, and otherwise objectionable behavior will result in moderation and/or account termination. Please keep your discussion civil.

Avatar image for larssonk22

Parents not doing their f'ing job

Avatar image for romanon5

Spending much time on the computer might make you aggressive from my experience, annoyin games, don't know about the vilolence, the regular I am not sure, extreme and uniqe intriguing kind of violence games might. Didn't do a study,

Avatar image for Algearond

This study is a load of crap. What a waste of money.

Avatar image for devilzzz1983

We can do all the studies we want for all sorts of things but the bottom line is man needs to learn to care more about their fellow man, laws need to be abided by people more, crime needs to be punished harsher and commerce needs to die. In regards to games if parents are caught letting their kids play violent games then there should be real world consequences. NWO

.... and FFS the world is not a better place than it has ever been. The guy was an idiot for saying that in the video.

Avatar image for marcusfeelius1

I've heard that stupid studies lead to an increase in violent behavior.

Avatar image for donmurray29

Crap games are the problem, just like crap food, crap housing, crap environment .

Avatar image for OzoneOfDarkness

did it ever occur to these guys and the parents of these kids that these violent games are NOT for little kids? There are rated M for a freaking reason

Avatar image for 5SI-GonePostal

*cough* bull $ hit *cough* unless this study has data going back over 20 years it is only heresay and guessing. As per normal there is no actual evidence. However, not playing video does make you corrupt and a gun smuggler!

Lmao he even says 'This new study doesn't conclude anything definitively and its findings aren't without controversy and debate.'

Wish these people would just feck off

Avatar image for gamesareneato

Let's stop trying to make companies make "better" less violent games and try encouraging people to be better parents. Oh, too busy working or too selfish to devote the time it requires to teach your child right from wrong? Don't have kids then. If you don't have kids they won't be violent. The world is messed up, violence is everywhere. Censorship is not the answer, understanding is. Keep pointing fingers though, that always makes the world a better place.

Avatar image for Cruisemissile

Wrong! I have been playing violent games all my life and im a passive duck...

Avatar image for juniperlll

<< LINK REMOVED >> That's why they call you cruisemissile?

Avatar image for joey1027

The problem isn't the games at all the problem is the fact that the past few generation are always making excuses for anything bad that happens if people would just start take responsibility for their action and stop blaming it on games and tv and ect... People would be more responsible for what they do.

Avatar image for kryotech

So don't give GTA to 7 year olds. Does this surprise anyone? If you are stupid enough to let a 7 year old kid play GTA (or something similar), then you are an idiot anyways. It's like letting a kid watch some really violent movie, or read a really violent book, or watch violent TV shows. We've seen these so called 'studies' before, and they do nothing but prove the obvious. Should we start censoring games? The way we started censoring comics? Like that'll achieve a lot, other than establishing a precedence for censorship, which will only lead to more of it.

Avatar image for juniperlll

@kryotech I agree with you. However, they are trying to point out the obvious for their own justification. More censorship = more jobs for them and government regulation, etc. Which means they can bottleneck production on these products and cash in as a result. They don't care about the actual content or how it will effect the audience. They are just trying to make some middle-man money.

Avatar image for deactivated-5ae060efb3bf6

Violent video games could be linked to aggressive behavior. - So could Slow old drivers in their 70-80s, Fast food drive through when they screw up your order and you don't find out until you get home and cable TV when it goes out.

Avatar image for DWalker131

<< LINK REMOVED >> being put on hold, waiting in line, finding egg shells in my muffins lol

Avatar image for joey2010

LOL I LOVE how they keep using Mortal Kombat 9 as a feature on the violence-related articles LMAO.

Avatar image for lilflipp

What... did you say? You bad mouthing video games? I've been playing since I was a child. I WILL NOT %^$KING TOLERATE YOU TALK BAD ABOUT IT. THIS IS STUPID! THIS WHOLE RESEARCH IS MAKING ME SO ANGRY! GOD %#@&! DANM IT!

Avatar image for Zloth2

<< LINK REMOVED >> Science rage! It's Doctor Banner all over again! Run for your lives, everyone!

Avatar image for roman4545

<< LINK REMOVED >> haha aggressive behavior mode activated !

Avatar image for tightwad34

Exposure to violence can lead to violence. No shit. Tell us something we don't already know.

Avatar image for Gelugon_baat


Dude, you really are a die-hard ultranationalist, aren't you?

Avatar image for gannon27

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> I have no idea what you mean by calling me an ultranationalist from reading my post.. Can you explain please? I live in Australia and do not believe in anything being banned, even though our country has a reputation for banning games. We live in a democracy and should be able to buy and play whatever games we like. However I don't think young kids should be exposed to excessive violence too early.

Avatar image for gannon27

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Well?? Still waiting for you to explain your ridiculous and non-sensical post. I come from Australia which is one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world. Do you even no what Ultranationlism is? Still waiting, can't wait for your reply.

Avatar image for gannon27

Imho, the reality is that violence permeates all formats of media in our world today. Movies, TV, books, news etc, etc, Games are no different from any other medium. That is why there is a rating system in our country. If you let your 8 year old play GTA5 then of course there will be problems with your kid not understanding the implications that "real" violence can cause in the "real" world. This argument seems to go on forever, the games are not the problem, access to games that are not appropriate for certain ages is the real problem.

Avatar image for snake8304

i live in a country with a high rate of violence that manifest in many ways , gansg, robberies, extortions, terrorism and the list go on, and i must say that the common thieves here in colombia knows as Bacrim (Bandas criminales or criminal bands) are full of people that came from poor neighborhoods, where they can't possibly have the money to buy videogames (videogames are quite expensive here in Colombia) i mean they come from families that just have enough to eat and that's it,so i really think that the videogames have nothing to do with agressive behavior (religions in the other hand have a lot to do with agressive behavior) i have been playing videogames for 23 years (i'm 30) and i'm not a criminal i am just a normal person who has a wife, a house and a job, so i think that this perpetual attack to videogames is simply a witchhunt that comes from christian groups who felt the need to satanize all that doesn't come from their fake god and senators that just want to be re-elected, i live in a troubled country and i can say that nothing breeds more agressive behavior than misery and the lack of oportunities

Avatar image for guardianofhonor


I think the cocaine might be the problem.

Avatar image for snake8304

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Cause if you think that cocaine is the problem of colombia, believe me dude you got it all wrong, cocaine is a problem in your country, where most of the cocaine produced in colombia ends (yes that's right colombian druglords are just workers for the amerinans druglords and junkies) , in colombia there are a lot of problems that goes from political corruption to terrorism, cocaine production is just a symptom of what really happen in here and you know i can go for hours writing you what is the cause of all of this problems but i have not time for this, so i suggest you to read the real recent history of my country (not what you see in your news channel they just twist everything that's why you americans know nothing about other countries wich is clearly showed in your movies and tv shows) to have a little idea of what really is going on here, and hey now that i might just open your eyes read about venezuela and how a comunist imperium is just in there in front of the eyes of USA and your country doesn't nothing just because venezuela sells the oil cheap. Read dude, read don't give simplistic reasons for things that you don't really know just because you hear it somewhere, and before you even think to reply remember this i live here YOU DON'T.

Avatar image for DWalker131

<< LINK REMOVED >> come on thats soooo uncalled for lol, criminals exist in ALL countries, can't point the finger at who has more criminals and who did what crime, you bag his government for being crummy with the drugs, i bag my government for banning/censoring games plus screwing over the working class etc, people around the world don't look at obama very favorable...(and i apologise in advance if that is where your from, i'm only using as an example not to cause a war), but we can't condem the entire country and everyone in it, and its the bad apples that ruin the image, minorities pretty much have no say and the minorities are the ones copping it... now i hope snake himself isn't the one supplying drugs to your country, he might be a good minority ?

you might not realise it but the majority (which ironically is the minority) of people don't agree 110% with their government and all their decisions, judging from snake's tone, i don't think he's very fond of his government either, i'm pretty sure you don't agree with your government/leaders and every single policy 110% but i could be wrong

and the drug problem... i don't know i don't have all the answers either but its not gonna stop, we all know that, its supply and demand, you can't tell a junkie to quit drugs, even if you don't sell it to him/her, they will just get it elsewhere, and the more obscure it is, the higher the price and i think and hope snake himself here isn't the one importing it to your country

but come on, be nice, innocent untill proven guilty ay lol

Avatar image for tightwad34

<< LINK REMOVED >> Wow, just wow. I can't say anything else.

Avatar image for snake8304

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> waht do you mean by cocaine is the problem? the problem of what? agresive behavior or the violence in colombia?

Avatar image for guardianofhonor


Probably both

Avatar image for guardianofhonor

There are "studies" that say they do and "studies" that say they dont, maybe people should just think for themselves you dont need a scientist to tell you GTA is not for little kids. They are just trying to get some government money for their bogus research anyway.

Avatar image for ptown58

I heard that playing real sports leads to aggressive behavior like running as fast as one can, smashing into another human and the list goes on .... Bravo to whomever is getting paid to make up more bs $$

Not one person ever got aggressive playing Chess or Dominoes or ..etc

Avatar image for roman4545

<< LINK REMOVED >> actually if that chess player lost too many times or around. That person could trigger loser symptoms behavior which can cause violent outburst like cursing and perhaps physical violence to someone haha

Avatar image for Ted_Zanarukando

I do not support the belief that media violence instigates real world aggression. The Time Magazine's "100 New Health Discoveries" states that this belief is not true. If it were true, there would be a much sharpter rise in acts of violence, consistent with the rise in popularity of violent video games.

Avatar image for Ted_Zanarukando

This is a bad and biased study, just like domestic violence statistics we see in the media. I do not support the belief that media violence instigates real world violence, because it is based on flawed and biased research. It has already been debunked by Time Magazine's "100 New Health Discoveries." Just because you have violent thoughts does not mean that you will commit acts of violence. Only a mentally ill person would become violent off of video games. Most of those serving prison time for murder have a specific reason to commit murder, and it is not because of video games. Most inmates are serving time for non-violent crimes. I grew up in the 1980s (and have been playing video games since 1984) and attended high school in the 1990s, and I never had a criminal record.

Avatar image for CrouchingWeasel

Pigshit. That's all I have to say. Goddamn fucking pigshit.

Avatar image for tightwad34

<< LINK REMOVED >> LOL. I am actually watching the Game of Thrones episode right now where Tyrion mentions pigshit as their main defense of King's Landing. I believe its Episode 8, Season 2. Of course he's talking about Wildfire. Sorry, I just love the show.

Avatar image for AnimeFreaks

how about the police provide data on every arrest or incident they respond to and see if everyone were infact game addicts since childhood rofl...

survey the parents, teachers and group of kids about the childrens' behaviour...

extremely difficult huh? seriously...dont understand what the study...

sounds more like people that dont know what they are doing hanging on to putting out crappy research as their way of making a living....