An University of Oxford study has revealed something gamers have long known, that there is an absence of evidence to connect use of violent games and violent behaviour in real life. The witchhunt that has long existed against gaming in an attempt to demonise the makers and user of video games has never been supported by empirical evidence, and now the opposite has been proven by one of the world’s oldest and most respected educational institutions.
Rather than the self-reporting so many of these experiments have relied upon, this study used nationally representative data from British teens and their parents alongside official EU and US ratings of game violence. The findings were published in Royal Society Open Science, and pretty definitive in their conclusions. Professor Andrew Przybylski, Director of Research at the Oxford Internet Institute, commented on the findings, and the possible reasons this dead horse has been flogged for so very long.
“The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern,” Przybylski was quoted as saying on the research. “Part of the problem in technology research is that there are many ways to analyse the same data, which will produce different results. A cherry-picked result can add undue weight to the moral panic surrounding video games. The registered study approach is a safe-guard against this.”
Bias in previous studies
His co-author, Dr Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University, echoes the sentiment that gamers have long held, confirming that bias and prejudice is the main, if not only way you could hold the view games and real world violence were connected. “Our findings suggest that researcher biases might have influenced previous studies on this topic, and have distorted our understanding of the effects of video games,” she said on the study.
The study used a combination of subjective and objective data to measure teen aggression and violence in games, putting it way ahead of other such ‘scientific’ studies on the topic. Unlike previous research on the topic, which relied heavily on self-reported data from teenagers, the study used information from parents and carers to judge the level of aggressive behaviour in their children, rather than simply asking teenage boys and girls how angry they were.
Whether this has a real effect remains to be seen, but one thing we can be sure of is the fact that there is no scientific link between the two phenomena, and anyone suggesting such is guilty of prejudice. What drives that hatred of gamers is another topic entirely, and maybe a good subject for Oxford’s next work, but for now we’ll have to make do with empirical proof that games are not making kids angry, causing violent crime, and so on, which we all already knew, but it’s nice to be able to prove.