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Do Video Games Lead to Violence?

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Nanyang Business School



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23 FEB 2018

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One issue with addictive gaming in modern-day society is whether it is ethical to portray excessive violence in their content. This has become a more prominent issue globally due to the general rising trend of gaming, as well as addiction to gaming. International studies report that 9% of video gamers are addicts (Rubio, 2018). Due to the rise in violent crimes in the recent few years, e.g. in the U.S., violent crimes increased nationally last year by 4.1% and homicides rose by 8.6% (FBI, 2016), the crucial question remains: Is it ethical to portray excessive violence in gaming as both trends (gaming and violent crimes) show a possible correlation?


Utilitarianism judges an action based on the greatest good it can derive for the greatest number of people. Studies hint that there is a correlation between violent game use and aggressive behaviour, and this effect is especially amplified when the games are taken away from addicts (Young, 2013). However, using the statistics in the U.S. as a basis, only 9% of gamers are addicted. If violence is removed or reduced, it may reduce the pleasure or adrenaline rush that the majority of gamers derive from playing the games. By utilitarianism, violence should not be reduced in gaming as it deprives the majority 91% of gamers the pleasure of indulging in violent games, while only benefiting the minority 9%.

We also need to weigh the benefits (pleasure) that violent games bring to people, against the harm that they can potentially cause. Some argue that violence brings out aggressive behaviour in gamers, especially addicts, and this could translate to negative societal effects such as committing of violent crimes. A research demonstrates “a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression" (Radowitz, 2015). However, a common flaw in these studies is the small sample size, making it difficult to draw conclusions. Furthermore, more recent studies revealed that general societal violence decreased in the weeks after the appearance of a new game, regardless of its content (Scutti, 2016), reinforcing the weak link between violent games and aggressive behaviour.

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