Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 127–141 | Cite as

Violent Video Games as Exemplary Teachers: A Conceptual Analysis

  • Douglas A. GentileEmail author
  • J. Ronald Gentile
Original Paper


This article presents conceptual and empirical analyses of several of the “best practices” of learning and instruction, and demonstrates how violent video games use them effectively to motivate learners to persevere in acquiring and mastering a number of skills, to navigate through complex problems and changing environments, and to experiment with different identities until success is achieved. These educational principles allow for the generation of several testable hypotheses, two of which are tested with samples of 430 elementary school children (mean age 10 years), 607 young adolescents (mean age 14 years), and 1,441 older adolescents (mean age 19 years). Participants were surveyed about their video game habits and their aggressive cognitions and behaviors. The first hypothesis is based on the principle that curricula that teach the same underlying concepts across contexts should have the highest transfer. Therefore, students who play multiple violent video games should be more likely to learn aggressive cognitions and behaviors than those who play fewer. The second hypothesis is based on the principle that long-term learning is improved the more practice is distributed across time. Therefore, students who play violent video games more frequently across time should be more likely to learn aggressive cognitions and behaviors than those who play the same types of games for equivalent amounts of time but less frequently. Both hypotheses were supported. We conclude by describing what educators can learn from the successful instructional and curriculum design features of video games.


Video games Educational psychology Violent video games Instruction Media effects 



The authors wish to thank Julia Maier and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  2. 2.National Institute on Media and the FamilyMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Counseling, School, and Educational PsychologyUniversity at Buffalo, State University of New YorkBuffaloUSA

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