Do Violent Video Games Cause Violent Behavior?

by Jeremy David Johnson

Ph.D. Candidate
Dept. of Communication Arts & Sciences

After the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, news spread that the perpetrators, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were avid video gamers. Their game of choice, Doom, was exceedingly violent, and was played by millions of other gamers. This discovery led to claims that video game violence spurred Harris and Klebold to act out their aggression with real weapons at their high school.

Since Columbine, possible connections between video games and violence have received perennial scrutiny. People question whether video games cause violence, whether they catalyze violent tendencies, or whether there is any link at all. Meanwhile, today’s games have become more realistic. With the growth of virtual reality, concerns that video games cultivate violent behavior will continue to be relevant.

Makers of video games tend to claim that their creations are artistic. They typically resist any notion that their games contribute to physical violence, including mass shootings. Still, they occasionally change their tone, such as when publishers offered “sensitivity” tweaks to their messaging at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, set just days after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.