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A study conducted over the course of ten years has concluded that there is no correlation between playing violent or graphic video games as a child and increased levels of aggression as an adult.
The moral quandary surrounding the possible connection between video games and violent acts in later life was publicised with the tragic Columbine school shooting in 1999. The motive for the attack has never been truly understood, with explanations ranging from bullying, terrorism, explicit movies and music, and Doom and Duke Nukem 3D. The two students were big fans of these games, and described how they were inspired by Doom's monsters and Duke Nukem 3D's explosives. Nearly twenty years after the tragedy, the connection between violent video games and school shootings was in the spotlight again, with President Donald Trump condemning the "glorification of violence in our society," of which "gruesome and grisly video games ... are ... commonplace."
Now, it likely goes without saying that violent video games are not the core motivator for these terrible tragedies, though they might have been present in the attacker's life. Other factors like undiagnosed or untreated mental disorders, radicalisation, influences from popular books, bullying, an unstable home life, cognitive and emotional immaturity, and seeking notoriety are also known to be contributors to committing these crimes. Last month, a study was published following a group of gamers across ten years of their lives, focusing on individual variability over time, and it determined that there is no correlation between playing graphic video games and aggression in later life.
Titled "Growing Up with Grand Theft Auto: A 10-Year Study of Longitudinal Growth of Violent Video Game Play in Adolescents," the study is rather rare, as it is a longitudinal investigation and adopted a person-centred approach to research. This means that it relies on a number of algorithms across variables like gender, socioeconomic status, location, and so on to compare individuals against their group. Ergo, the variables respond to the individual, and not the other way round, thereby "accounting for heterogeneity, grouping individuals who are similar and who share a set of characteristics that vary similarly over time."
Within the group, which was composed of 65% Caucasian, 12% Black, 19% multi-ethnic, and 4% other ethnic identity individuals in a "large north-western city," the results showed that boys played more violent video games than girls, and that three subsets were discovered. The first is "high-initial violence" (4%) which categorised those that played a lot of violent video games at an early age; the second is "moderate initial violence" (23%), and the third is "low initial violence" (73%), and you could guess what those classes are based on the first one.
High and moderate initial violence groups showed a decrease in violent video game play over the ten years, whereas the low group increased in violent video game play over time. The researchers also found that those in the high initial violence group were more likely to be depressed at the beginning of the study. Ultimately, however, there was "no difference in prosocial behavior at the final time point across all the three groups," evidencing the disconnect between violent video games and violent acts as an adult.