‘The idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time.”
That’s straight from the mouth of science – specifically, the lead researcher of a new study that found no link between video games rated for violence and aggressive behaviour in teenagers playing them.
The study, led by Professor Andrew Przybylski at the University of Oxford, is one of the most definitive ever done on the subject.
Instead of just getting teenagers to self-report their feelings and behaviour and their sense of how violent a game was, they also actually asked parents and carers to share their observations, and used official game ratings to gauge the level of violence.
They also registered their hypotheses and proposed methods before the study began to increase transparency and avoid accusations of cherry-picking data once the results emerged.
What’s more, one of the co-authors says that previous research might have been tainted by the very misconception this study ended up debunking.
‘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,’ said another co-author, Cardiff Uni’s Dr Netta Weinstein.
Of course, that’s not to say that gaming doesn’t create toxic vibes or piss people off – as anyone who’s played online for five minutes will tell you.
‘Anecdotally, you do see things such as trash-talking, competitiveness and trolling in gaming communities that could qualify as antisocial behaviour,’ Przybylski said.
But when it comes to debunking the old myths about how murking armies of digital goons will make kids more likely to punch on at recess, this study suggests that the worst you can expect in terms of violence is probably a thrown controller or two.