Death Race - Exidy
Credit: The International Arcade Museum/The Killer List of Video Games

Does Violence in Video Games Cause Aggression in Players?

        In 1976, a video game company named Exidy took a huge step when it released the game Death Race. This game, based on the 1975 film Death Race 2000, allowed the player to control a small blockish car in order to run over stick figures and thereby gather points. Not only did this game incite parental protestation, it also became the reason for a 60 minutes investigation into the psychological impact of video games. From that pixellated screen on into the life-like graphics offered by today’s video game consoles and PCs, there has been much controversy over the question of whether or not video game violence causes aggression in the players, and numerous studies and investigations (and a lot of money!) has gone into to trying to answer this question.

        People have blamed violence in video games as the reason behind the actions of many people such as the so-called “crazed” Aaron Alexis and even Evan Ramsey, yet significant proof that the violence in the games was the cause of their actions has yet to be brought forth. It is apparent, however, that murderers such as these do tend to share one thing in common: their love of the game. Aaron Alexis’s favorites included Call Of Duty and World Of Warcraft, while Evan Ramsey’s game was Doom. It does remain to be seen whether or not these games cause people to become aggressive and violent, but regardless of that heretofore unanswered question, violent video games continue to be among the most popular and high selling that are offered.

        Some of the top selling games of the past month are rated M, for Mature. According to the ESRB, video games that are rated M contain content that is generally suitable for ages 17 and up and may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. At the top of the list, and likely the most controversial game in regards to violence and crime, sits Grand Theft Auto V. This game, the newest installment of the series created by Rockstar Games, made its first billion dollars in just the first three days after it went on sale. One countdown of the top 10 video games of 2013 (so far) is as follows:

10) Crysis 3 – rated M for blood, strong language and violence.
9) Metal Gear Solid: Revengeance – rated M for blood and gore, sexual themes, and violence.
8) Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon – rated M for violence, blood, sexual content, nudity and strong language.
7) Devil May Cry – rated M for blood and violence.
6) Metro: Last Light – rated M for blood, intense violence, nudity, sexual content, strong language, and use of drugs and alcohol.
5) Thomas Was Alone – rated E 10+ for mild fantasy violence and mild language.
4) Bioshock: Infinite – rated M for blood and gore, intense violence, language, mild sexual themes, use of alcohol and tobacco.
3) Tomb Raider – rated M for blood and gore, intense violence and strong language.
2) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch – rated E 10+ for alcohol and tobacco reference, comic mischief, violence, mild language, and simulated gambling.
1) The Last of Us – rated M for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes and strong language.

        So as we can see here, the overwhelming majority of favored games today are rated M. This fact points to the negative in regards to violent video games causing aggression and violence in the players, simply because one would think that there would be many more cases such as the ones talked of in this article if the violence in the games were the cause. But, with untold millions of violent video games that have been sold in the past few decades, it would be inconceivable to try to make an assumption with so little recorded data regarding this matter. While it is easy to look at a bad situation such as the Washington Navy Yard shooting and say that Aaron Alexis’s actions were caused by his spending up to 18 hours a day playing violent video games, it is not so easy to prove it.

        Regardless, this conclusion stands: there is a lot of money to be made from games with violent and mature themes. And while certain entities and individuals seek to put a stop to the selling of these types of things, it doesn’t look very likely, especially with so many pockets being lined, and so many smiling faces on the other side of the screen.