Twenty years after the Columbine school shooting turned the detrimental effects of video games into a cause célèbre among certain politicians, there’s still no conclusive evidence of a connection between violent games and violent behavior, the American Psychological Association announced yesterday—but it’s hardly game over for the enduring controversy.
In 2018, President Trump took aim at violent games—suggesting a connection between their popularity and real-life tragedies like the Parkland High School shooting. In response, and after a fresh look at the evidence, the APA has nevertheless reaffirmed a 2015 resolution that found violent games were not a likely trigger for violent acts.
Does that mean you’re free to let your moody teenager indulge in an all-night Fortnite binge? Not exactly.
The report, which is drawn from “a review of the current literature,” concludes that while there is nothing to suggest that shooting games are a cause of mass shootings, there is “a small, reliable association” between the use of violent games and “short and long-term observed aggression,” characterized in a press release as “yelling or pushing.” (They don’t specifically mention flinging a controller at your brother in a rage.)
Rather than indulge in fiery rhetoric against the gaming industry, then, the APA calls for increased awareness of video games as one potential factor among many that “confer risk of aggression,” with more emphasis given to major indicators—say, a history of real-life violence over a propensity for head-shots in Call of Duty.
More beneficial than political grandstanding, the report concludes, would be the development of research-supported intervention programs to educate children and parents about the effects of violent video game use.
Decades of research. Still no easy answers.