Causal Claim – Oatmealvibes

Violent Video Games Do Not Equal Aggression and Violence

It’s a common misconception that violent video games such as Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto cause aggressive, sociopathic, or violent kids based on misleading and poorly done studies. There are many reasons why a child may be aggressive or become violent that do not link violent video games as the main perpetrator or have any causation at all. Mental health and social factors are key aspects when it comes to violence that would help explain why children who have aggression problems may be more attracted to games that contain violence.

To elaborate, aggression is a subset state of being of a more prominent emotion such as depression that is usually caused by an event the child considers negatively significant. Social factors such as poverty, family instability, and deficient education are some of the factors that can cause depressive, anxiety-inducing states within a child that can be communicated through aggressive and violent tendencies if not addressed. In the article Mental Disorder and Violence: Personality Dimensions and Clinical Features, Paul G. Nestor states, “The risk for violence may therefore be dynamic, varying as a function of the extent to which certain personality dimensions are present and the degree to which environmental events moderate or exacerbate their expression.” As while there is not simply one cause for mental illness or aggression, social/environmental events can either help improve or unfortunately decrease a child’s well-being, therefore, increasing the risks of aggression and violence from a child.

To piggy-back off of my last point, In the article by Sarah M. Coyne and Laura Stockdale called Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents, they share that their high initial violence group who consumed the most violent video games during adolescence had a dramatic decrease during mid-adolescence before a very slight increase around adulthood. However, the initial level of high violent video gameplay never went back to its peak. Coyne and Stockdale play with the idea that perhaps the parents did an intervention for the high violence group, therefore causing a drop in violent video game play but with no clear evidence of a control group and this being an observational study, it’s all just speculation on their end. Although, they did measure the children’s depressive and anxiety levels, stating that “this group displayed higher depressive symptoms during early adolescence but decreased anxiety.” This puts into consideration that the high-violence group was using the violent video games as a coping mechanism for their daily life with Coyne and Stockdale mentioning, “This group also displayed lower levels of anxiety than the other two groups, suggesting perhaps a desensitization or numbing effect.” Consuming so much virtual violence such as stabbing an NPC or blowing up a characters in-game car would cause anybody, let alone a child to become used to seeing violence of all sorts but that doesn’t prove a link to violence or aggression of any kind.

Moving forward, there’s evidence of children playing violent video games where their empathy levels did not change after playing those games. In Long Term Exposure to Violent Video Games Does Not Show Desensitization on Empathy for Pain: An Fmri Study, authors Xuemei Gao, et al. did a study on players who were exposed to violent video games and those who were not. Players were screened before and after playing those games for differences in their brain receptors regarding empathy for the pain of others. Gao states, “The results showed that the perception of others’ pain were not significantly different in brain regions between groups, from which we could infer that the desensitization effect of VVGs was overrated.” Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings, with there being no significant evidence showing increased aggression with a decrease in other emotions that combat aggression such as empathy, there’s no clear indication of turning children violent. We often mistake a correlation between what we feel and the actions we do when it comes to violence. Most of us have gone to the movies and seen the Halloween series where Michael Myers goes on a killing spree and for fanatics who have seen those movies hundreds of times, seeing Michael kill doesn’t necessarily phase them anymore but that doesn’t mean those people are going to go on a killing spree just because they’re used to seeing Michael do it on a tv screen. It’s the same for children who play violent video games. Children understand that what they’re playing is make-believe and if they were to witness the same events in real life, they’d most likely be horrified just like you and I would.

Furthermore, there is not one single particular cause for why children become aggressive or violent. It could be because of family problems at home, maybe they’re being bullied, perhaps they are a naturally aggressive kid, or it could just be the life they grew into. Whatever the reason, there has not been a single study that accurately or appropriately concluded that violent video games will turn a child aggressive or violent. However, there are studies showing reasons why a child may become violent that do not include violent video game consumption by a child. Not once have I come across a study that wasn’t sloppily designed, littered with data that doesn’t necessarily equal aggression or violence. Once a study takes 300 plus kids and separates them into a group that plays violent video games at least 4 or more times a week, a group that plays non-violent video games 4 or more times a week, and a group that doesn’t play games at all and measures their violent tendencies such as threatening or verbally and physically assaulting others before their study starts and monitoring their aggression levels over at least a 10-year long period and it’s able to prove a significant spike in violent children, only then can we safely assume that violent video games do cause violent kids. Until then it’s just theories, speculation, and misinterpretation of the data that is put out for others’ consumption.


Gao, X., Pan, W., Li, C., Weng, L., Yao, M., & Chen, A. (2017, April 11). Long-time exposure to violent video games does not show desensitization on empathy for pain: An fmri study. Frontiers. Retrieved March 29, 2023

Nestor, P. G. (n.d.). Mental Disorder and Violence: Personality Dimensions and Clinical Features. Retrieved March 30, 2023

Sarah M. Coyne and Laura Stockdale.
Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents.
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.Jan 2021.11-16.

This entry was posted in Causal Argument, OatmealVibes. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s