People who spend time playing video games that are violent in nature and their loved ones may be curious or even concerned about the relationship between the popular pastime and aggression. They may also have concerns about whether violent games are associated with mental health issues, such as low self-esteem. Please note that if you are experiencing a mental health concern, help is available. BetterHelp is a resource for advice and connecting with licensed mental health professionals.
Research has explored whether there is a link between violent video games and aggression and has also explored the effects of gaming on mental health. While results of studies conflict and may be inconclusive, the following information offers a glimpse into the topic.
What Research and Experts Say About Violent Video Games and Aggression
- An analysis of twenty-four studies on aggression and violent video games showed conflicting evidence. Some studies found that violent games were associated with aggressive behavior, but other studies showed no link.
- Many studies measured the frequency of aggressive thoughts or language after playing violent video games but did not measure physically aggressive behavior.
- The meta-analysis of two dozen studies focused on research that measured the link between physical aggression and violent video games. The analysis showed that young people who played games that were violent in nature showed a small increase in aggression over time.
- It is important to know that some studies show a link between aggression and violent video games, while others do not. What many experts agree upon is that more research would be helpful to understand if there is a link and how strong it is.
- A study of college students showed that young men who played more violent video games during middle school and high school engaged in more aggressive behaviors.
- A study of college students compared players of violent video games and those of non-violent video games. Results showed that those who played more violent games punished opponents for longer periods of time.
- Some experts say that violent video games can be a forum for learning and practicing conflict resolution skills and solutions.
- Research shows that violent video games are not the root cause of school shootings.
Potential Mental Health Benefits of Video Games
While there are concerns and misconceptions about the health and well-being of gamers, gaming also offers mental health benefits that can boost self-esteem, including:
- A sense of accomplishment. Working towards and reaching goals while gaming can boost positive feelings of satisfaction and achievement and strengthen self-esteem.
- Mental stimulation. Video games can be complex and engage in the brain in high-level, critical thinking.
- Social interaction. Playing games online with others and connecting with others about a shared interest in video games can encourage social interactions and relieve feelings of isolation.
- Building resilience. Resilience is a great life skill and is a protective factor for mental wellness. Video games are a safe way to learn to bounce back in the face of adversity, handle losses, and persevere.
- Distraction. Video games can offer a distraction from negative feelings and thoughts.
- Fun, enjoyment, and an escape. Doing an activity you like can be mood-boosting.
Warning Signs of Harmful or Addictive Gaming
To stay healthy while gaming, it can be helpful to be aware of warning signs that gaming may be interfering with your wellness, including:
- Lying to others about how much time you spend gaming.
- Feeling the need to game more and more in order to feel good.
- Thinking about gaming all or most of the time.
- Not wanting to do other things that used to interest you.
- Having problems at work or school because of gaming.
- Regularly feeling bad or upset when you can’t game.
- Physical pain or injury related to gaming, such as back, hand, or wrist pain.
- Disruption of healthy sleep habits due to too screen time.
Healthy Gaming Habits
No matter what type of video games you play, gaming in moderation can be smart. Tips for smart, healthy gaming include:
- Limiting the amount of time spent in front of screens.
- Making time for healthy activities like exercising and eating nutritious meals.
- Maintaining positive relationships and regular social interactions.
- Getting regular and enough sleep.
- Getting fresh air and exposure to sunlight. Being outside can be a mood booster. Sunlight is important for healthy sleep and wake patterns.
- Preventing eye strain by taking breaks and giving yourself time limits.
Both violent and non-violent video games are popular pastimes. With smart use of video games and smart habits, you can take steps to enjoy gaming, minimize the possibility of their negative effects, and live a positive, productive life.