Rated M for Mature…No, Really! Violence in Video Games

My thanks to Jonathan Heier for giving me the idea that inspired this post. Now go follow him, OR ELSE!

In this statistics-filled article from Ars Technica’s Opposable Thumbs blog, Beth Winegarner discusses the history of the legislature banning the sales of M-rated games to minors. She also cites numerous studies and their findings on the ever-touted link between violence and video games.

Seriously. I think this is what parents see, lol.

Although her article has a slant towards the positive (she mentions none of the studies that did find a correlation between violence and video games and provides no links to the studies), it contains a lot of good information that is not normally mentioned in the news about violence and games.

Statistics and studies

Perhaps most surprising to me was the fact that the FTC’s secret-shopper surveys found that the video game industry has a high enforcement rate (much higher than the movie and music industries in the same study) of their voluntary ratings.

Least surprising were the results of the study showing neutral correlation between violence and video games. All of us that play violent video games know that it did not turn us into violent killers. I know many people who just liked to play for fun, and I know a few people who, like me, played to escape stress for a while.

I would even go so far as to say that any studies showing that violent video games DO have a correlation to aggression (contrary to what news reports would have you believe, these studies tested for aggression, not violence, which could be as bad as yelling at someone or snatching a Pop-Tart out of your cousin’s hand) may not take into consideration the fact that aggressive people are more likely to play violent video games versus non-violent video games, which would skew the results of many surveys.


I have always played violent games. My mother kept good track of what TV shows and music I listened to (we were banned from having rap in the house, and she covered my eyes during the male flashing scene in Braveheart) but video games were unknown territory to her. I got away with playing games as violent as I wanted. Just as the youngsters in Beth’s argument mentioned: I knew my limits. I didn’t play scary games, because they were scary. I didn’t play (and still don’t play) realistic shooting games, because I don’t like guns.

I do, however, love fighting games. I played Bushido Blade, Mortal Kombat, War Gods, Tekken, etc. During that same time period, I read books about people fighting (usually orcs or elves or something like that), played dress-up as a super strong swordswoman running around the land killing people (I was a bad guy a little more often than I was a good guy) and fawned over shows like Xena and movies like The Red Sonja. I also got into numerous fights, begged to be allowed to box and, eventually, when I grew up, I began to do Muay Thai.

So which came first, the chicken or the egg? Did my aggression make me like violent video games? Did violent video games make me aggressive? Or was it simply stress relief? Was it my mother’s fault for not understanding what was going on when she looked at video games? Would it have mattered if she stopped me?

What about you?

What do you think? Should M-ratings be legally controlled instead of voluntarily monitored? Should parents not let children play M games? Does it matter? Is the answer 42?

Sound off!

8 thoughts on “Rated M for Mature…No, Really! Violence in Video Games

  1. Pingback: Rated M for Mature… No Really! Violence in Video Games « SarahTheRebel | industry, blog, iphone, app, creative, games, programming, project, various, criminalminds

  2. I personally play games like Call of Duty or Resident Evil as a stress reliever after a bad day at work. It makes me feel better to kill hundreds of zombies and then I feel less like I was walked all over and unappreciated all day. Also, I feel that parents should be 100% responsible for what their children play. They should realize that an M rating means Mature and their small child should probably not be playing that. I like that stores can’t sell them to kids but it can really only go so far if some mother wants to shut her whining child up so she buys him the latest GTA game without even stopping to wonder what he’ll be doing in that game.

    • The fact that children who whine are given rewards still bothers me. You know what happened to me when I whined? I got the look. And the look meant “do you want me to take you to the bathroom and give you a spanking?” and then I shut up.

      But yes I agree that parents should be responsible, but I worry about parents, like my mom, who didn’t understand enough about modern video games to see that they could be violent. She was an atari kind of lady.

  3. I had to laugh at the guy, but I got carded when I bought ‘Borderlands’ last year. I was 28 at the time.

    There was a recent study published that links violent games to aggression. Because these articles always put me in a bad mood, I quickly fired off an e-mail to the man behind the study.

    He was actually quite helpful, and his study was a lot more solid than the worthless “SEE! GAMES CAUSE VIOLENCE!” articles that it spawned in the media would have you believe.

    It did, specifically, address the question of whether games cause the aggression, or whether aggressive people are drawn towards violent games.

    Through the few e-mail exchanges, I could see that it was actually a very interesting study with very interesting results. Not “games will turn us into killers!” But enough evidence to make me have to reconsider my “you’re all idiots, violent games are fine” mentality.

    I should really post an article on it. But exclusive, original content isn’t what people want from a website. Is it?

      • It didn’t so much “change my mind”, but at least convinced me that some competent research was going on. The test was for varying aggressiveness when delivering painful noise levels to “live” opponents after playing various violent games.

        They seem to have accounted for both people that already played violent games and people who don’t, and compared violent games to affects of other highly competitive but non-violent alternatives (which was one of my concerns — isolating “violence” from “action packed”)

        The title of the study is “This is your brain on violent games” and is credited to Englehardt. Should be able to google it, but all the good information I obtained was directly from Dr Bruce Bartholow, who was involved in the study.

  4. Personally, I think voluntary monitoring works, and I’ve always been an advocate of PARENTS controlling what their kids view, not the government. Voluntary monitoring ensures that the kids cannot buy the games on their own, and in my experience, when a parent has a young one in tow, the tellers always explain what the M means.
    As far as studies go, all those studies can only claim correlation, not causation; mainstream media is TERRIBLE at explaining the difference, and that’s why you get ideas like “violent video games make people violent”. Thanks for putting that correlation note in the article

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