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Do video games make players more
aggressive?

here have been many

studies into the hypothesis of
violent video games causing
players to re-enact violence in
real life. Although there is no
factual evidence to support
this correlation, countless
studies have given some
feedback to support part of
this link. Dr Craig Anderson
has conducted studies to see
if this link is true. Along with
Brad Bushman, a colleague of
Anderson have carried out the
experiment. It was shown from
measuring the aggression
levels of 30 college students
with half of them playing a
violent game and the other

Players somewhat smarter. Dr
Yuka Sasaki from Brown
University conducted a study
between gamers and nongamers. The participants were
asked to complete two tasks
involving the observing of
horizontal lines and vertical lines.
The results showed that the
gamers managed to improve
their speed and accuracy by 15%
compared to the non-gamers
who only improved by 5%.

Screenshot of COD: Black Ops gameplay 2010

Promotional image: Call of Duty Black Ops logo - 2010

The tasks the participants had to

There are many games that
have been depicted in the
media to have a negative
effect on players including
the Call of Duty and Grand
Theft Auto series.

Revolving around players being soldiers
and using warfare weapons such as
grenades, firearms and knives to kill
enemies. With the game using modern
animation and technology to give the
graphics the most realistic visuals as
possible, the violent content is often
thought to have been gory and disturbing
for players which is why the game is at an

Grand Theft Auto Five promotional poster image

Screenshot of gameplay – Grand Theft Auto
5 - 2013

Call of Duty is one of the most popular
franchises of the first person shooter video
game genre. Established in 2003, this game
has received much controversy from the
media due to its explicit and violent
content. This is due to the main basis of the

Call of Duty: Black Ops is one of the games
in the franchise that has been most
commonly associated with players acting
violent in real life leading to the correlation
that video games cause violence which still
hasn’t concluded to an answer. This game
has often been in scandals involving the
link to violence with cases including the
notorious Columbine murders in 1999 as
well as Norwegian mass murderer, Hizia
Miriam after the perpetrators were known

of Duty: Black Ops being linked to the
causes of a mass shooting.
The Washington Yard Navy shooting
committed by long gunman: Aaron Alexis,
34 was the uproar of the video game being
linked to the causes of the mass shooting.
Aaron Alexis alone managed to fatally
shoot 12 civilians and injure 3 at the main
headquarters of NAVSEA at the Washington
Navy Yard in Southeast Washington, D.C on
16th September 2013.

Aaron Alexis, the perpetrator was
reported to have been addicted and
obsessed with Call of Duty: Black
Ops and was thought to have played
this game for up to 16 hours a day.
Prior to the shooting, Alexis was
often said to confide to his
roommate that he felt he was
racially discriminated at work.
Through the uses and gratifications
theory, it may be said that Alexis
just played these games as a form of
entertainment and as a route of
escapism to get away from the
prejudice he received in everyday
life. This is the case for majority of
video game players who use games
to escape reality but don’t go on
rampages and homicides.

Due to this game being so popular, players
often bought the game so they could spark
up conversations with a similar interest
with their peers in order to be part of the
conversation. Also, players play video
games in order to gain knowledge and
information. But with The Washington Yard
Navy mass shooting, this is not the case as
Alexis clearly was addicted to the game.

However, the theory of the
hypodermic needle could show that
Alexis was in fact a passive audience
when playing Black Ops as he was in
fact addicted to the game. This
could mean that the violent images
of enemies being killed in a horrific
way was seen as normal due to
Alexis being desensitized with the
explicit images as he played this
game for a long period of time a day.
Alexis may have seen this activity as
normal and carried it out in his
shootings.

Also, prior to the shootings, Alexis was
diagnosed with mental illness (paranoia,
insomnia and schizophrenia). On the other
hand, it has been reported by The Mirror
that Alexis had begun to hear voices after
becoming addicted to Black Ops and often
carried round a gun due to his paranoia.
The shootings were not committed until a
much longer period of time after his
diagnosis. Alexis was also known to have
been suffering from post-traumatic stress
disorder after being involved with the 9/11
attacks. The routine activities theory
created by Marcus Felson and Lawrence
Cohen have proven that those who are
prone to aggression (particularly men)
have theorized that the more time they
occupy including playing video games, the
less time they have to be aggressive in
real life. This could be based on their
family, background and financial position
could be causing the aggression and not
the video game which could be held true
for Alexis’ situation.

Furthermore, Alexis may have felt
like he could relate to certain

Grand Theft Auto, another controversial
video game franchise has also been the

This highly established open
world video game franchise
established in the late 1990’s
is often depicted negatively in
the media as being a bad
influence on those who play it.
The Grand Theft Auto games
are known for depicting
violent and sexual content.
These graphic images include:
drug dealing, full frontal
nudity, sex, ethnic
discrimination, drunk dealing,
sexism and witness torture.
This content is mainly seen as
to why the game is rated for
ages 18 and over in the
majority of the countries it is
released in.
The gaming franchise has
been in numerous media
scandals over the years
including a Thai teenager
robbing and murdering a taxi
driver with one extreme case
involving an eight year old boy
being driven by the game to
murder his grandmother. It
has been reported that the
boy was playing Grand Theft

However, there have been
many arguments as to how
Grand Theft Auto is not the
cause of the homicide.
Christopher Ferguson has
been known to carry out
numerous studies of this
hypothesis and has concluded
with evidence that there has
been no correlation to video
games with violent content
causing and increasing
behaviour that is perceived as
aggressive. Additionally,
statistics have been shown
that those who have
committed homicide who are
also video game players have
been proven to have forms of
mental illnesses.
Additionally, Dr Andrew
Przybylski conducted a study
to show that violent video
games don’t influence
children’s behaviour. In an
experiment, Przybylski
examined the behaviours,
personalities and video game
playing habits of 217
teenagers, 110 being males
and the other 107 being
females. Although the 22 of

Although these both the Call of Duty and
Grand Theft Auto franchises both depict
violent graphic content and images there is
no denying that the age ratings for the
games released are at least appropriate. The
majority of game releases for both
franchises are rated for those that are 18
and over, however some censorship issues
have breached for the game series,
particularly for GTA. In most countries, the
game is left unedited and features the
graphic content for players to view but in
some countries such as Australia and New
Zealand, the games have been edited for
players who found the content to be too
disturbing for them despite still being rated
at 18+. Due to some incidents involving
GTA, particularly the scandal with the 8 year
old murdering his grandmother it is
questioned as to whether or not gaming
should be monitored. If the game was
already rated for 18+, how are young
children able to access and play the game?
Should the companies of video games be
stricter as to how these games are
purchased or is it not their responsibility as
to who is able to access the game?