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The scientific study of media effects has led researchers down the road of video game effects. From both a social and psychological standpoint, video games have the ability to influence their players both on implicit and explicit levels.

The popularity of video and computer games has grown exponentially in recent years, yet empirical research is still relatively limited when compared to the study of other media.[1] In 1982, the U.S. Surgeon General lamented the lack of such evidence (Selnow, 1984). But the progress that has been made has been very beneficial to the field thus far and is only the seed of what has already become one of the most controversial media effects topics to date.

Current research

Lee and Peng (2006)[2] state that research on both the psychological and social effects of video games currently focuses on three aspects:

  1. The testing of negative consequences of violent games
  2. The utility of educational and training games
  3. The general effects of entertainment games

Another study entitled "The Joystick Generation" links the use of video games to the General Affective Aggression Model (GAAM) further explained below.

Koojimans (Rochester Institute of Technology, 2004) looks at video game usage and the development of the children who use them.

A study from Iowa State University titled "The Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behaviors: International Evidence From Correlational, Longitudinal, and Experimental Studies" interestingly looks at the effects of and on their effects on children, rather than more frequently researched antisocial gaming behavioral effects.

Negative effects of video games

Research on aggressive behavior as an effect of playing violent video games began in the 1980s and 1990s and still continues today. Although under current debate, some researchers claim that these violent games may cause more intense feelings of aggression than nonviolent games, and may trigger feelings of anger and hostility. Several studies have supported such findings.[3] The theoretical explanations for these types of effects can be explained by several different theories; social cognitive theory, excitation transfer theory, priming effect and the General Aggression Model.

A 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied a 2006 online survey of 552 people from Washington state. It found the average gamer from this sample was 35, male, overweight, aggressive, introverted and often depressed. Of online gamers aged 8 to 34, nearly 12 percent showed multiple signs of addiction.[4]

Violent video games have been tentatively found to decrease prosocial behaviors. Prosocial behaviors include activities such as giving to charity, volunteering and overall "helping" behaviors.[5] However this has not been supported by research in large populations, as a majority of people who play violent games do not lack prosocial behaviors. It is likely that those who lack prosocial behaviors tend to play violent video games. Other researchers have claimed that exposure to violent video games has predicted alcohol consumption, destruction of school property, and other delinquent behaviors.[6]) Not only have video games have been shown to influence self perception,[7] but they may have a link with body image assessment of the opposite gender. Female video game characters are often hypersexualized and unrealistic,[8][9] and have been shown to play a factor in hard-core gamers’ perceptions of ideal beauty.[10]

Similar to the decrease in prosocial behaviors, studies and articles have also found that frequent use of video games leads to an increase in antisocial behavior. Characteristics of those who exhibit antisocial behaviors include being considerably introverted, aggressive, depression or anxiety (said to appear later in life). Antisocial behavior begins to appear in younger ages, typically these children display acts of violence with no consideration for consequences.

Many psychiatrists believe that playing computer games can be addictive. This addiction could lead to physical health problems, spending problems, and time displacement leading to missed work or school days. In one example, a 28 year old South Korean gamer died after 50 hours of StarCraft online gameplay.[11] However, no solid evidence has supported the "game-addiction" hypothesis.

In addition, there are many other suggested negative aspects and effects of video games, the most popular and controversial technology. Rowell Huesmann suggests that video games can be very dangerous, because it may encourage people to commit violence, violence in video games is shown without punishment, it is rather encouraged and rewarded and it rarely shows the pain of the victim.[12]. Moreover, the identification with the killer through video games has been suggested to be one of the negative effects on children.[13]

Reinforcement of racist or sexist stereotypes has also been associated with video games.[14]

Fears towards what players are exposed to through violent video games. For example, politicians and other people and organizations consider video games effects on society, "there has been some fears specially from UK news service that hijackers may have used flight simulator software to practice flying jet planes, also, Beam Breakers removed all references to the World Trade Center already used in the game 1".[15]

General Aggression Model

The General Aggression Model is a term that assists in determining the influence and susceptibility that video games and its violence have on people. The GAM explains how situational and personological variables interact to affect a person's internal state. The internal state includes thoughts, feelings and physical arousals. All of these three things influence each other and each will have an effect on an individual’s interpretation of an aggressive or violent act.[16]

The GAM states how video games have both short and long-term effects. In the short term the aggressive cognitions, affects and arousal increase while long term effects are yet to be accurately determined. Anderson and Bushman explain how violent video games promote violent behavior, attitudes and beliefs. This then helps to desensitize an individual to aggression.

As mentioned previously in this article, the short term affects are along the lines of aggressive behavior, disregard for others, and a flagrant disregard for consequences of violent actions. Typical studies on the General Aggression Model (commonly referred to as the General Affective Aggression Model, GAAM, as well) look at and focus on the violent outcomes of gamers prone to using antisocial games.

Positive effects of video games

Entertainment video games are usually analyzed for their possible negative effects, and educational games are touted as the provider of more positive effects. Research suggests [17] that both types of games can provide a wide array of positive effects to players. Many companies and organizations are turning to video games as easy and interactive ways to train individuals. The U.S. Army even utilizes the game, America’s Army, as a recruitment tool. They also help improve spatial skill development,cognitive ability development and academic performance & learning. Although studies on violent video games have found negative correlations with academic performance, a positive association with other types of games has also been found (Schie & Wiegman, 1997). Educational computer games are becoming more prevalent in primary and secondary schools as teaching tools for youths. The interactive nature allows for high levels of entertainment, but has not yet been shown to subtract from the educational lessons being taught. Additionally, developers are beginning to change the view of traditional video games by creating popular games that require the player to be active -Wii Fit, Dance Dance Revolution- or focus on using brain power -Brain Age 2.

Many authors disagree with the notion that suggests that the media can cause violence, they think that media cannot cause violence because human can recognize what is wrong and what is right and people are not copycats. Thinkers who criticize effects based research such as Terry Flew and Sal Humphreys, Martin Barker and Jonathan Freedman and many other thinkers. [18][19][20]

Some thinkers suggest that video games have many positive aspects and good effects; for example, it can be a safe outlet for aggression and frustration.[21]

It can develop many skills, for example, positive effects on divided attention performance, developmental issues and spatial and coordination skills”.[14]

In research undertaken by a Act Psychologica, in a number of tasks, video game experts outperformed non-gamers. Experts were able to track objects moving at greater speeds, perform more accurately in a visual short-term memory test, switch between tasks more quickly, and make decisions about rotated objects more quickly and accurately.

To date, video game training appears to be one of the more interesting and promising means to improve perceptual, attentional, and cognitive abilities. One of its promises is that, compared to traditional training, it can be engaging and entertaining. This has led some companies to begin to market video games for the specific purpose of improving cognition. For example, Nintendo advertises “Big Brain Academy” as a game that ‘‘trains your brain with a course load of mind-bending activities across five categories: think, memorize, analyze, compute, and identify” [22]

There are many positive effects of video games on some people as suggested by some researches; people play because they want to get away from their everyday life, break routine, to relieve stress, allow them to cool off when they are stressful, could help people take out their anger through the game rather in real life because they are fun and interesting way to spend time.[23]

It enables players to explore with various aspects of their identity in virtual world.[18]

Journalist and author, David Sheff, believes that many skills can be learned from the gaming experience, it builds practical and intellectual skills,” by playing video games children gain problem solving abilities, perseverance, pattern recognition, hypothesis testing, estimating skills, inductive skills, resources management, logistics mapping, memory, quick thinking and reasonal judgements”.[24]

Research at University of Rochester suggest that playing video games that contain high levels of action can improve eyesight.[25]

See also


  • Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytical review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353-359.
  • Anderson, C. A., & Dill, K. E. (2000). Video games and aggressive thoughts, feelings, and behavior in the laboratory and in life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78, 772-790.
  • Chambers, J. H., & Ascione, F. R. (1987). The effects of prosocial and aggressive video games on children's donating and helping. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 148, 499-505.
  • Dietz, T. L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38(5-6), 425-443.
  • Funk, J. B., Buchman, D. D., & Germann, J. (2000). Preference for violent electronic games, self-concept, and gender differences in young children. American Journal of Orhopsychiatry, 70, 233-241.
  • Jansz, J., & Martis, R. (2003). The representation of gender and ethnicity in digital interactive games. In M. Copier & J. Raessens (Eds.), Level up: Digital games research conference (pp. 260–269). Utrecht: Utrecht University.
  • Rask, A. (2007). Video game vixens: Shaping men's perceptions of beauty? Paper presented at the International Communication Association Annual Conference, San Francisco.
  • Schie, E. G. v., & Wiegman, O. (1997). Children and videogames: Leisure activities, aggression, social integration, and school performance. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27, 1175-1194.
  • Selnow, G. W. (1984). Playing videogames: The electronic friend. Journal of Communication, 34, 148-156.
  • Walter R. Boot, Arthur F. Kramer, Daniel J. Simons, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton - Acta Psychologica, 2008, Beckman Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  • Wiegman, O., & Schie, E. G. M. v. (1998). Video game playing and its relations with aggressive and prosocial behavior. British Journal of Social Psychology, 37, 367-378.


  1. Voderer, Peter (2000). [ "Interactive Entertainment and Beyond"]. In Zillmann, Dolf. Media Entertainment: The Psychology of Its Appeal. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN 978-0805833256 pages=21-36. Retrieved 2009-07-03.
  2. Lee, K. M., & Peng, W. (2006). "What do we know about social and psychological effects of computer games? A comprehensive review of the current literature'. In P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives, responses, and consequences. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. ISBN 978-0805853223
  3. Anderson & Bushman (2001)
  4. "Forget Teens: Gamers Are 35, Overweight — And Sad, CDC says". Wired News. 2009-08-24.
  5. Chambers & Ascione, 1987; Wiegman & Schie, 1998
  6. Anderson & Dill, 2000
  7. Funk, Buchman, & Germann, 2000
  8. Dietz, 1998
  9. Jansz & Martis, 2003
  10. Rask, 2007
  11. "South Korean dies after games session". BBC News. 2005-08-10.
  12. Wartella, Ellen, Oliveraz, Andrana and Jemings, "Children and Television Violence in the United States" in McQuail's Reader in Mass Communication Theory, ed. Denis MMcQuail (London: Sage, (2002) [1998]). P.398-405
  13. Barker,M. “the Newson Report: a Case Study in Common Sense’, in III Effects in the Media /Violence Debate(second edition), ed. Martin Baker and Julian Petley, (London: Routledge, 2001), pp.27-46.
  14. 14.0 14.1 ANNE D. WALLING M.D,‘Do Video Games Lead to Violent Behavior in Children’ American Family Physician, Vol.65/No. 7, 1 April 2002, p1, Available: [2007,September 7] Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ANNE D. WALLING M.D." defined multiple times with different content
  15. Kurt, Squire. ’Moral Panic Culture Blacklash and Reconstructing Video Games’ Reconstructions, (2001), online Available: [2007, september 7.], p.1.
  16. Thomas A. Kooijmans. Effects of Video Games on Aggressive Thoughts and Behaviors During Development Rochester Institute of Technology. December 2004
  17. Eck, Richard Van. Digital Game-Based Learning: It's Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless. EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 41, no. 2 (March/April 2006): 16–30. Available online:
  18. 18.0 18.1 Flew, Terry and Humphreys, Sal. ‘Games: Technology, Industry, Culture’ in New Media: an introduction (second edition), ed. Terry Flew (South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2005). P.101-114
  19. Barker2001.
  20. Freedman, Jonathan. ‘No Real Evidence for TV Violence Causing Real Violence’ First Amendment Centre. 2007, online Available: [2007, October 17.].
  21. Quirk, Jennifer."Culture, the Negative Effects of Video Games". Neovox: the Int4ernationalcollege Student Magazine", 2007, online, Available:http:// [2007,September 7.].
  22. Walter R. Boot *, Arthur F. Kramer, Daniel J. Simons, Monica Fabiani, Gabriele Gratton, Acta Psychologica; Beckman Institute, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801, USA
  23. Quirk 2007.
  24. Sheff, David. Video Games:: A Guide for Savvy Parents. Random House, New York, 1994, p.33.
  25. University of Rochester, Jonathan Sherwood."Action Video Games Improve Vision". News article at the universities main website:http://
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