The Infamous Relationship Between Violent Video Game Use and Aggression: Uncharted Moderators and Small Effects Make It a Far Cry from Certain

  • Aaron DrummondEmail author
  • James D. Sauer
  • Shaun S. Garea


There is ongoing scientific and public interest in whether playing violent video games (VVGs) increases aggression. Here, we review the extant evidence for the effects of VVGs on aggression across three different types of research – (1) experimental, lab-based studies, (2) cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, and (3) epidemiological studies of societal violence (e.g. violent crime rates). Although the idea that playing VVGs causes aggression is intuitively appealing, empirical evidence suggests that strong claims about a positive relationship are unjustified. In the laboratory, playing VVGs leads to only small increases in aggression, and, when issues such as publication bias are accounted for, these estimates decline further in size (Hilgard et al. Psychological Bulletin 143:757, 2017). In terms of societal violence, the evidence consistently shows no relationship between VVG use and violence, sometimes even showing decreases in violence associated with increased VVG use (e.g. Markey, Markey & French, 2015). Evidence further suggests that the relationship between VVGs and aggression is not well understood, with factors such as narrative context, game difficulty, and competitiveness potentially influencing or accounting for any relationship between gameplay and aggression. Some studies suggest that, under some circumstances, VVGs may even reduce hostility (e.g. when used for mood management; Ferguson & Rueda (European Psychologist 15:99, 2010). At present, we feel the evidence weighs against the notion that VVGs cause aggression, though more sophisticated theoretical and methodological approaches are necessary to more fully understand the boundary conditions of the relationship.


Violent Video Games Aggression General Aggression Model Societal Violence Media Violence Media Psychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron Drummond
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • James D. Sauer
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shaun S. Garea
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of PsychologyMassey UniversityManawatuNew Zealand
  2. 2.The International Media Laboratory, Massey UniversityManawatuAustralia
  3. 3.Psychology, School of MedicineUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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