Ohio State University Publishes Yet Another Sloppy Video Game Violence Study

Here’s how to know that a video game violence study is written by somebody with an agenda: Whenever comparisons to “unhealthful” things like cheeseburgers or cigarettes shows up.

We’ve gone into why studies like this are questionable at best before, but surely somebody like Brad Bushman, a man who has spent his professional life studying what makes people angry and a man with four degrees in psychology, this man would have a reasonable grasp of how ridiculous it is to assume human beings are driven towards violence by entertainment, right? Surely he’d get his ducks in a row before making some sort of ridiculous statement.


“Playing videogames could be compared to smoking cigarettes. A single cigarette won’t cause lung cancer, but smoking over weeks or months or years greatly increases the risk. In the same way, repeated exposure to violent videogames may have a cumulative effect on aggression.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

To be fair, Bushman is not a Bible banger: In fact he actually published research showing the Bible can make people more aggressive. But he obviously has an agenda, as this Wired article can tell you.

Bushman’s study took two forms: First, 70 students played either a violent game (which was actually violent, to the study’s credit) or a racing game, and then read the beginning of a story and offered their predictions of what happened next. Those who played violent games had increasingly violent predictions over the three days of the study.

Secondly, test subjects played a multiplayer shooter and were told that each time they won, their (non-existent) opponent would be subjected to a noise that got progressively longer and louder for each kill they racked up. Shocking nobody, those playing violent multiplayer acted like dicks.

It is worth noting that there’s no evidence they were more aggressive outside of a lab setting, but let’s give the good professor the benefit of the doubt.

Seems conclusive? Well, there are two problems with this study, one of which Professor Bushman just straight up admits:

“We would know more if we could test players for longer periods of time, but that isn’t practical or ethical.”

The second problem? Following up with your study subjects after a few weeks to see whether the more hostile behavior had actually held is neither impractical nor unethical. And yet, Professor Bushman seemingly did not do so, or if he did, he didn’t bother to mention the results in his press release.

The basic argument here is that if you play something showing the world as dark and violent, you may incorporate that into your worldview. That’s sensible: If something like music can affect your mood and worldview, if only temporarily, then why shouldn’t video games?

What’s not sensible is assuming that twenty minutes of gaming a day for three days permanently affects a subject’s worldview. Any freshman psychology student can tell you that to affect a permanent change in an individual’s personality usually takes something extremely drastic: A majorly stressful life event or a brain injury are the two biggies, and it’s debatable whether those affect a change or simply magnify aspects of a person’s psychology or personality or bring to the fore what they’d normally kept to themselves previously.

As we’ve said before, the actual study that will put this argument to rest will never actually be done, because it would cost too much and be contrary to too many agendas. But if you’re going to promote an agenda, at least don’t be so blatant about it.