A new study with more than 15,000 participants led by a University of Texas at Arlington economist found no link between violent video games and acts of violence.
Michael Ward, UTA economics professor in the College of Business, published “Adolescent Video Game Playing and Fighting Over the Long-Term” in the peer-reviewed journal Contemporary Economic Policy.
“This is my fourth analysis using a fourth methodology and a fourth dataset on actual outcomes that finds no violent effects from video games,” Ward said.
The study examined data from a nationally representative sample of adolescents in grades 7-12 in the United States between April 1995 and December 1995. More than 15,000 participants were followed into young adulthood with four waves of in-home interviews, the last conducted when participants were between ages 24 and 32.
Although the raw data showed that fighting later in life is related to playing video games as an adolescent, Ward said most of this is because, relative to females, males both play video games more often and fight more often.
With so many participants, it was possible to control for other factors that also contribute to fighting. Across all phases of the study, playing video games as an adolescent did not increase, and may have decreased, fighting later in life.
Some policymakers have proposed limits on violent video games to reduce societal violence and mass shooting incidents. But Ward said there is mounting evidence that there is no causal effect between playing violent video games and incidents of violence.
“Video game development is among the fastest-evolving forms of human expression ever devised,” Ward said. “It is hard for us to imagine the experiences that games developed over just the next few decades will provide. It would be a shame to unintentionally and needlessly stifle this explosion of creativity with content-based policy interventions.
“We should continue studying emerging digital technologies to determine their impacts on users and society. But it is important that they be studied carefully before unnecessary or even harmful policies are adopted.”
Roger Meiners, chair and professor of the Department of Economics, said Ward’s research can help form a better understanding of video game technology.
“Dr. Ward has hit on questions we need to ask ourselves as a society,” Meiners said. “We should consider what’s at stake, if anything, before ‘fixing’ something that isn’t broken. Dr. Ward is asking not only how we should respond, but what the problem might really be.”