Concerns that video games promote violent behaviour in players began shortly after they became available in the 1970s. The first major controversy was over the game Death Race in which the player was a car driver running over pedestrians and more recently games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter have provoked concern. Some researchers have suggested that because of their participatory nature violent video games have a greater effect than violent TV while others have blamed different factors such as children's innate aggression and family environment. A study of 101 undergraduates in Texas and Wisconsin randomly allocated some of them to play either a violent or non-violent video game with the remainder of the participants being allowed to choose. After playing the game the participants were tested for their levels of aggression using the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Test in which participants believe that they are punishing an opponent for losing in a reaction time test by subjecting them to noise blasts or electric shocks. The level of punishment meted out by the participants are used as a proxy (substitute) measure for aggression. The researchers found that although males were more aggressive than females neither exposure to the violent video games or previous experience of playing them led to any differences in aggression. A second study of 428 undergraduates by the same researchers looked into the links between innate aggression, violent criminal acts, exposure to violent video games and family violence. The results indicated that innate aggression, family violence and being male were predictors of violent crime but exposure to violent video games was not.
Ferguson, Christopher J. ... [et al] - Violent video games and aggression: causal relationship or byproduct of family violence and intrinsic violence motivation? Criminal Justice and Behavior March 2008, 35(3), 311-332