But experts say there is little evidence to link violent games to real-world violence.
“Games have only become more realistic. The players of games and violent games have only become more diverse. And they’re played all around the world now,” said Andrew Przybylski, an associate professor at the University of Oxford who studies digital media.
“But the only place where you see this kind of narrative still hold any water, that games and violence are related to each other, is in the United States.”
Though the report said there was insufficient evidence to link that aggression to criminal violence or delinquency, its findings seemed to support a longstanding sense — and fear — that new technologies and on-screen gore could translate into violence on the streets. But that conclusion, experts argue, isn’t backed by modern research.
New studies upend link to aggression
“The general trend here is that society has a concern about new technology, parents or policymakers get involved, and maybe the researchers don’t have much experience with the technology themselves, and so the first few attempts to study the thing are pretty poorly done,” Przybylski said.
As time has gone on, he said, “the evidence has become pretty clear that, where there are correlations, it’s probably because of a third factor.” For example, boys have historically been more likely to play video games, and they also happen to be more aggressive than girls on average, Przybylski said.
“The question that you have to ask yourself is, do people go out and do mass shootings after they rage-quit ‘Call of Duty’?” He doesn’t think so — and points out that most people don’t usually commit violent acts after losing a game of golf.
Medical groups, and even the Supreme Court, weigh in
The American Psychological Association has yet to update its policy statement on video games and aggression, and other groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, also warn against violent media.
But some research suggests that, instead of predisposing young people toward violence, video games may in fact reduce real-world aggression, allowing people to channel their feelings into gaming consoles instead of other people.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the court, said that “psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
He added that “any demonstrated effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.”
‘What a shame’ to blame video games, expert says
A positive family environment, however, was a “protective factor” that reduced aggression and antisocial behaviors. “Thus, public policies that aim toward strengthening families as well as increase youth impulse control are likely to be more productive than those that target video games,” the study said.
But above all, by blaming video games instead of digging deeper into the root causes of violence, “we reduce the value of the political discourse on the topic, because we’re looking for easy answers instead of facing hard truths.”
CNN’s Susan Scutti contributed to this report.