FAQs on Violent Video Games and Other Media Violence (page 4)

By — Video Game Special Edition Contributor
Updated on May 17, 2010

14. Does violence sell?

Clearly, violence does sell, at least in the video game market. But it is not clear whether the dominance of violent video games is due to an inherent desire for such games, or whether this is merely the result of the fact that most marketing dollars are spent on promoting violent games instead of nonviolent ones. One great irony in all of this is the industry belief that violence is necessary in their product in order to make a profit. One result of that belief is that most of marketing efforts go into marketing violence. In fact, the media has seemingly convinced many people in the U.S. that they like only violent media products. But nonviolent and low violent products can be exciting, fun, and sell well. Myst is a good example of an early nonviolent video game that sold extremely well for quite some time. More recent examples include The Sims, many sports and racing games, and many simulation games. Interestingly, in some of our studies college students have to play nonviolent video games. Some of the these students report that they have never played nonviolent games, and are surprised to learn that they like some of the nonviolent ones as much as their violent games.

Even more intriguing is recent research on the psychological motivations that underlie judgments about which games are the most fun and worthy of repeat business. Scholars at the University of Rochester conducted six studies on game players’ ratings of game enjoyment, value, and desire for future play. They found that games that give the player a lot of autonomy (lots of choices within the game) and feelings of competence (for example, success in overcoming difficulties with practice) were rated much more positively than games without these characteristics, regardless of whether or not the games included violence. In other words, violent games are so popular mainly because such games tend to satisfy both autonomy needs and competence needs, not because they contain violence.

15. So are video games basically bad for youth?

No, a better summary statement is that a well-designed video game is an excellent teaching tool. But what it teaches depends upon its content. Some games teach thinking skills. Some teach math. Some teach reading, or puzzle solving, or history. Some have been designed to teach kids how to manage specific illnesses, such as diabetes, asthma, and cancer. But all games teach something, and that “something” depends on what they require the player to practice. In short, there are many nonviolent games that are fun, exciting, and challenging. Children and adolescents (and adults) like them and can learn positive things from them. Some even get you to exercise muscles other than those in your hands. In moderation, such games are good for youth. But parents and educators need to check the content of the games they are considering for the youth in their care. You can’t simply use the game ratings, because many games rated by the industry as appropriate for children and for teens contain lots of violence. But with a bit of parental effort, and some household rules about game-playing, the youth’s gaming experience can be fun and positive.


Anderson, C.A., Berkowitz, L., Donnerstein, E., Huesmann, L.R., Johnson, J., Linz, D., Malamuth, N., & Wartella, E. (2003). The influence of media violence on youth. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 4, 81-110.

Anderson, C.A., Gentile, D.A., & Buckley, K.E. (2007). Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy. New York: Oxford University Press.

Steyer, J. P. (2002). The Other Parent:The Inside Story of the Media’s Effect on Our Children. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Huesmann, L.R., & Taylor, L.D. (2003). The case against the case against media violence. In D.A. Gentile (Ed.), Media violence and children (pp.107–130). Westport, CT: Praeger.

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Gentile, D.A., Saleem, M., & Anderson, C.A. (2007). Public policy and the effects of media violence on children. Social Issues and Policy Review, 1, 15-61.

Przybylski, A. K., Ryan, R. M., & Rigby, C. Scott. (2009). The motivating role of violence in video games. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 243-259.

Gentile, D. A., & Gentile, J. R. (2008). Violent video games as exemplary teachers: A conceptual analysis. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 37, 127-141.

Anderson, C.A., & Gentile, D.A. (2008). Media violence, aggression, and public policy. In E. Borgida & S. Fiske (Eds.), Beyond Common Sense: Psychological Science in the Courtroom (pp. 281-300). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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