Do violent video games make people more violent in real life?
Plenty of people think so; it’s a refrain that’s often heard when violent crimes make the news.
If it were true, it would raise serious question marks around the morality of the videogames industry.
However, a recent study by an American researcher has found no such link. Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University carried out two studies into whether media portrayal of violence correlates with actual violence rates in society.
His first study looked at whether films had an impact on murder rates, while the second examined the relationship between videogame violence and real-world youth violence rates.
In both studies, which were published in the Journal of Communication, he found that increased levels of violence in the media does not translate into increased violence rates in society.
In the first study, Ferguson found that, since 1990, movie violence correlated with a reduced murder rate. In the second, he found that in years when a lot of violent videogames were released, youth violence rates actually dropped.
“Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime. There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health,” Ferguson said.
“This research may help society focus on issues that really matter and avoid devoting unnecessary resources to the pursuit of moral agendas with little practical value.”