As long as there have been video games to play, people have been wondering whether there is a direct link between playing content with violence in it and becoming more violent. Parents, in particular, are keen to know how this sort of interaction will affect their child, if at all.
While myths about this abound, let us take a look at the most interesting statistics about video game violence.
Video Game Violence Stats Highlights
Multiple studies have been conducted that attempted to better understand the relationship between violence in video games and violence in real life. There has so far been no conclusive evidence to establish that violence in video games can make people turn aggressively violent. Let’s take a look at some of this data:
- The average age of gamers is between 18 and 34. 20% of under 18s are gamers, but it is not an activity reserved for the very young.
- 55% of parents continue to believe video games will change the behavior of their child, but this is decreasing.
- Those aged 8 to 18 seem to be the most likely to play games that are too violent.
Video Games Ratings and Violence Stats
In the US, all video games are rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to make sure they are age-appropriate. The ratings are E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10+), T (Teen 13+), M (Mature 17+), A (Adults Only 18+).
Almost Half of Video Game Releases Are Rated E
In 2020, 49% of video game releases were rated E and deemed suitable for everyone. 21% were rated T to indicate they were suitable for those 13 and over, while 16% were rated E10+. The lowest percentage, 14%, was reserved for M and those aged over 17.
Most Video Games Have Violent Themes
Video games tend to include violence in some way. 49% of available titles have at least some moments of violence in the material. Of this percentage, 47.9% refers to animated violence, and 26.6% refers to general violence. 10% is for mild animated or mild non-animated violence, while realistic violence is 3%.
The ESRB Uses Content Descriptors
To add to the overall sense of security, the ESRB judges the rating based on content descriptors sent to them by the publishers. Three people then get to review the material and decide on a rating.
There are around 30 descriptors that can be sent with the material. There are 8 main categories that ESRB uses to place these descriptors. They include content warnings like nudity, gambling, sexuality, substances, blood/gore, and, of course, violence.
Do Ratings Affect Anything?
Most gamers in the US are over 18. Of the 214 million gamers in the country, over 163 million are legally adults. They may frequently choose to ignore the ratings. However, these are done for kids and parents or guardians who need guidance on this topic.
With over 51 million gamers under the age of 18, caution is warranted.
If Blood Appears, Violence Is Likely
Blood is frequently depicted in all media. When it appears in a video game, even if only casually, there is a 91% chance that violence will occur in the game. The person playing the game should always be as aware as possible of this possibility.
Computer Games Are the Most Rated
49% of computers get to be rated during the ESRB process, especially if they have a WIndows operating system. Only 38% of consoles are rated, and 18.5% of those are Playstations.
Video Games Demographics
Demographics have a huge influence when it comes to video game use. Let’s take a look at these stats to see if they can shed more light.
Teens Play Video Games
(Source: Statista, PEW)
The age group most exposed to video games is 13-18. The majority of teenagers play at least some video or mobile games at one point during these years. Studies have shown that 75% of American teenagers play inoffensive puzzle or racing games that contain little to no violence.
66% of American teenagers play action games that may contain some violence.
Younger Children Have Preferred Gaming Devices
Children under 13 have an entirely different way of interacting with video games. They very rarely play on PC. The preferred device of 7-9-year-olds is the tablet (55%), while 10-12-year-olds prefer a console (76%), usually a smaller one. Both age groups enjoy playing games on their phones.
Younger children are, of course, subject to far more constant parental supervision than teenagers. While there is always a risk that they may see something they shouldn’t or play something that is not age-appropriate, it is unlikely that they will be exposed to a significant level of violence in the video games they play.
Parents Are Placing Limits on Media Consumption
Parents’ worry over what their children are exposed to is apparent. In the US, over 49% of parents have placed limits on computer and video games. 45% also limit access to mobile phones, while browsing the internet can also involve many rules.
Parents are also more likely to place gaming devices in common areas of the household. This way, they can see exactly what their child is exposed to while gaming.
Most Gamers Play Games That Include Violence
When asked about the types of games they play, 75% of gamers have responded that they most often play titles that do have violence in them. The remaining 25% stated that they play non-violent games on a regular basis.
Most Older Teens and Adults Have Played Games with Brutal Content
55% of 18 to 19-year-olds have said that they’ve played a brutal game before. So have 47% of 16 to 17-year-olds and 46% of 14-15-year-olds. The percentage increases across the board when asked if they’ve watched a friend play a game with brutal content instead of playing it themselves.
Opinions on Video Games and Violence
While further research will have to be done on the relationship between games and violence, there are many opinions from all sides of the argument. Here are some of them.
The Older Generations Are Convinced Video Games Can Cause Harm
In Britain, over 79% of people aged 60+ have stated that violence in video or computer games can cause real-life aggression and violent interactions. 61% of 40-59-year-olds believe the same.
In contrast, 73% of 18-24-year-olds believe that video games are a positive outlet that serves to eliminate stress and frustration.
Many Believe That Violence References in Media Can Inspire Violent Behavior
In the US in 2013, 32% of people participating in this study stated that violence in media (from games to music lyrics) can be blamed a great deal for the increased occurrence of gun violence and mass shootings.
24% thought violence in media could be blamed a fair amount, while 20% believed the two could not be correlated. While the percentages between both camps are fairly close, it shows that there is a conflict here that cannot easily be resolved without concrete evidence either way.
Parents Have Started Believing More in the Educational Power of Video Games
In 2019, parents were asked their opinions on video games. In a move away from the previous decade and from more senior generations, 87% thought that games could be educational. 82% thought that it could inspire children to be more creative.
In terms of supervision and parental control, 81% believed it was easy to keep an eye on what children are playing, while 79% thought it was easy to tell the age-appropriate games from those that were not.
Is There a Concrete Answer to the Effect of Violence in Video Games?
Not as of yet. Much more research is required to establish whether experiencing violence in video games can make us more violent. There are most likely too many external and internal variables to take into account to be able to provide more evidence.
Many myths have been created around this topic that have frequently been passed as truth. It seems very unlikely that violence in video games can cause behavioral issues in children or adults where there are none.
What Can Parents of Young Children Do to Prevent Exposure to Video Game Violence?
Make sure that they have access only to age-appropriate games. Keeping an eye on what they are playing to make sure there are no potential distressing situations. There is much more scientific evidence to prove that short gaming sessions with age-appropriate games are beneficial for a child’s development.
There are few proven statistics that establish how violence in video games can affect players. Many of the myths associated with this topic have been sensationalized and based on fear-mongering.
There is much more in-depth research to be done on the subject, and it is debatable whether we will ever have concrete proof to back concrete answers.