1 The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior and the Relationship to School Shootings David Bond University of South Florida Thesis Director: Donna Cohen, Ph.D. Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute Department of Aging and Mental Health Disparities Committee Members: Randy Borum, Psy.D, Eva Kimonis, Ph.D. Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute Department of Mental Health Law and Policy Spring 2011
2 I. Objectives The impact of playing violent video games on the manifestation of aggressive behaviors in young people is controversial. The objectives of this research project were as follows: (1) to review scientific studies of the effects of violent video games on aggressiveness; and (2) to examine the evidence that playing violent video games plays a role in the behaviors of school shooters. Video games occupied a large amount of my time as a child, and I found that the experience of playing largely nonviolent games was a cognitively stimulating exercise that increased my perceptual-motor, learning, memory, problem-solving, and executive functioning abilities and skills. As an adult, I have been fascinated by public beliefs that violent video games are related to assaultive and sometimes lethal behaviors (1), and I wanted to examine the evidence touted in the media that playing violent video games may contribute to aggressive behavior. II. Background and Significance A.Growth of Video Game Industry The video game industry has evolved into a dominant player in the entertainment industry, and video games of all genres have quickly become one of the most popular forms of media (2). Employment in the industry has been increasing since 2005, consistently experiencing annual growth rates of 9%, and most positions are engineering jobs with annual salaries of $80,000 - $90,000. Video game revenues surpassed movie industry sales in this country in 2005 and worldwide in 2008. In 2005, sales surpassed those in the music industry sales in the United
3 States. The gaming industry is still growing rapidly in contrast to slow growth for movies and negative growth for music, since piracy has hurt both industries. However, the growth of video game products and sales has been characterized by an increased number of violent video games, a trend that has made these games a target of government and the media once focused on violent television shows and certain music genres. B.Growth of Video Games with Mature and/or Violent Content Contrary to public perceptions, video games play a role in the lives of adults as well as children and adolescents. According to Nielson Media Research, at least 45 million households in the United States have at least one video game console (3). The average age of video game players has increased to age 34 (4), and about 60% of Americans play interactive games on a regular basis (2). However, researchers suspect that younger children are more susceptible to the negative effects of playing violent video games compared to older teenagers and adults (5).