Video games have fascinated us ever since they were invented. In an age where these games are becoming more and more sophisticated and realistic—and frequently violent—a gnawing question is resurfacing in the public debate, especially considering the spike in both domestic and mass violence in recent years. Is there a link between violent video games and an increase of real-world violence? Or, to put it closer to home, if you play violent video games, are you more likely to commit domestic battery toward your spouse or partner?
This is a question that has been debated for many years, with no clear answer. Some people believe that playing violent video games can desensitize players to the horrors of violence, making them more likely to commit acts of violence themselves, both in and out of the home. Others argue that there is no evidence to support this claim and that playing violent video games does not cause people to act violently in real life. The argument plays out everywhere, from coffee shops to Congress.
So, what do the experts say? Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus. Some studies have found a correlation between playing violent video games and increased aggression, while other studies have found no such link. It is difficult to say definitively whether or not there is a causal connection between playing violent video games and committing acts of domestic violence. Nevertheless, let’s take a closer look at this question to see what we can learn.
A Summary of the Studies
We should mention at the start that to date, no study on the effects of video games on our minds has yielded conclusive results. Even the studies that claim video games encourage violence show limited supporting evidence because there are so many other possible factors at work. In other words…to say definitively that video games do or do not cause violence is oversimplifying the issue. This is because a) the human mind is complex, and b) every human mind is unique. There are just too many variables at any one time, and that’s why the studies cannot seem to agree. (If you’re interested in looking at specific studies, here’s a synopsis of studies on both sides of the issue.)
That being said, there have been enough studies by this point that we can at least draw a few baseline conclusions. There’s a lot we still don’t know, but here are a few things we can say with reasonable confidence:
- Violent video games may trigger increased aggression, but not necessarily violence. In teenagers, especially, long exposure to violent video games has been known to lead to more aggressive behavior (e.g., louder, more demanding, etc.)–but there is no definite evidence that this leads to more real-world violence.
- There is evidence that playing violent video games for long periods can lead to desensitization to violence. In other words, the more you see violence in a game, the less shocking it becomes in real life. This doesn’t mean you’re more likely to commit violence–just that you aren’t as fazed when you observe it.
- Violent video games may enhance or aggravate other known risk factors for violence. Some studies have suggested that people who are already at risk of becoming violent due to other factors (e.g., depression, substance abuse) may have that risk increased by playing violent video games. However, those who don’t have those additional risk factors are not likely to display violence after playing violent games.
- There are other potential risks associated with playing violent video games, such as sleep deprivation and social isolation. These risks should not be ignored because they can be contributing factors to domestic violence in someone who is already prone to it.
Could Violent Video Games Reduce Actually Reduce the Risk for Domestic Violence?
Among all the conflicting results of the studies as to whether video games can encourage violence, at least one study concludes that the risk of real-world violence might actually decrease after playing violent video games. While this study isn’t enough to make a definitive statement, the fact remains that some people have suggested that for them, playing a violent game serves as a sort of cathartic release for pent-up anger and rage. It may not be true for all people, but for some, it’s plausible that expressing violence in the virtual world may deter them from acting out that violence in the real world.
What It All Means for You
So what if you’ve been arrested recently on accusations of domestic violence? If you’re a gamer, can you blame the violence on too many video games? Not likely. The studies just don’t support that claim, and it’s certainly not a defense that would hold up in court. However, it’s worth paying attention to your own inner feelings. After you play violent video games, do you feel like you are more of a threat to your spouse or partner? Do you feel more likely to lash out at them? Or does playing a video game make you feel calmer? If you do have other risk factors for domestic violence (e.g., substance abuse, anger, or mental health issues), it’s possible that the games may exacerbate those underlying problems. In that case, you might want to consider restricting your gameplay and getting help for those underlying issues.
The Bottom Line
With what little we know about the effects of violent video games (and the large part that we don’t know), we can conclude the following:
- Video games can’t be used as an excuse for domestic violence;
- Violent video games in themselves won’t make you more violent toward your partner; however, if you’re already at risk of becoming violent, they could make your existing risk factors worse; and
- For some people (not all), playing video games may provide a release that deters them from acting on their aggressions in real life.
Regardless of the triggers involved, or even whether the accusations are false, it’s important to have compassionate legal counsel on your side when navigating domestic violence charges in Los Angeles. Call our offices today for an appointment.