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February 20, 2013

Can Violent Video Games Cause Violent Behavior?

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After the shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and seven adults, the nation sought answers to how to solve the problem of mass shootings and gun violence in America. While gun control laws have been at the forefront of this national conversation, the media and violent video games have been accused of creating a culture of violence that encourages people to commit violent acts.

At Ohio State University, researchers are studying the effects of violent video games on a person’s behavior in order to see how true these allegations are. So far, he says, “the results clearly showed that playing a violent video game increases aggressive behavior, and also makes people numb to the pain and suffering of others.”

“There is a link between exposure to violent media and violent criminal behavior. We can’t do experimental studies. It’s just a correlation. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but they’re related.”

However, not everyone agrees with this assessment. Playing these games, says Stephen Totilo of the gaming web site Kotaku, is a social activity played with friends, and is more about challenge and competition than violence.

Cheryl Olson of Harvard Medical School agrees, saying “One of the problems in this field is that people confuse aggression and violence. Some research will call sort of a competitiveness-type aggression as equivalent to violence in the real world. There is absolutely no evidence that any video game or violent movie for that matter has ever caused a real-world violent act.”


“No one is suggesting that [violent video games are] the only reason they went out and committed those horrific acts, but was it a tipping point? Was it something that pushed them over the edge? Was it a factor in that? Perhaps. That’s a really big deal,” – Jim Steyer, Common Sense Media.

Warm Up Questions

1. What happened in Newtown, Conn.?

2. Do you play video games? What kind of games do you play?

3. What are some solutions to gun violence that have been proposed since Newtown?

Discussion Questions

1. Do you think violent video games make people more violent? Why or why not?

2. Do you think violent video games should be censored? Why or why not?

3. What solutions do you think would help prevent the next Newtown?

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