It’s a persistent idea, considered by many to be essentially a truism: playing violent video games makes children more predisposed to violence in real life. Why not? After all, if you spend every spare hour feeling the visceral thrill of blowing away cops and gangland rivals in the GTA universe, why wouldn’t you seek the even greater thrill of blowing away cops and gangland rivals in what some of us term “the real world”? Kids who learn to enjoy performing violent acts in games will obviously end up enjoying violent acts in reality.
The only problem with this theory is that it’s not true: at least so far as anyone has ever been able to determine using old-fashioned stuff like evidence and facts. Recently researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute found no link between aggressive behaviour and amount of time spent playing violent video games.
The Oxford study was a real heavy-duty one too: unlike past research which mainly relied on self-reported data from teenage gamers, this one incorporated information from parents and carers, and used official game ratings rather than players’ subjective opinions of a game’s violence level. And the results came back indisputably: though video games can surely piss you off and fire up your competitive streak, no correlation between aggression and video games was found at all.
So fear not for your youngster, glued to Call of Duty. This old misconception can go into the same myth bin as “heavy metal causes suicide”.