Video games are too graphic and violent

Do games make youth aggressive?

The guest article "Do shooting games make our youth aggressive? That's the wrong question!" by Dirk Walbrühl appeared on the website and was kindly made available to us.

by Dirk Walbrühler on Perspective Daily

This is what parents and gamers need to know about screen violence - and so do you.
The blood splatters as the bullet hits the enemy soldier's head. Now the ammunition is empty, but there are still enough enemies. A girl sits in front of the game console on the sofa and skillfully switches from the pistol to the combat knife - her favorite weapon. A grenade strikes next to her digital self on the screen. The scenery looks very realistic. Then the father enters the living room.

This argument is old. When digital games are discussed, it is mostly in the context of violence. "Shooting games" and "killer games" are popular catchphrases among politicians, journalists and in the public debate in general. When a guilty party is searched for after the rampage in Munich in 2016 or the beginning of 2018 in Florida, computers are also searched for violent games. Of course, this scares the guardians, while players just roll their eyes in annoyance.
The fronts are hardened: Can games really make someone aggressive or even a perpetrator? The latest research results give the all-clear. But actually we are asking the wrong question.

In games like Wolfenstein 3D from 1992, players killed from the first-person perspective. - Source: Stefani Brivio

That's why the best players don't care about blood or violence
In the discussion about "shooting games", those who are actually at stake are usually left out - the gamers themselves. Digital games as a form of entertainment have long since arrived in the middle of society and are developing further: some "shooting games" have become an international one Whole sports scene developed - with teams, sponsorships and our own professionals. Your stars train how to use virtual pistols and grenades - and still think little of the blood on the screen.

Christopher Flato is himself a gamer, press officer and youth protection officer at ESL - Source: ESL | Helena Kristiansson copyright

Someone who works with them on a daily basis is Christopher Flato, youth protection officer of the German Electronic Sports League (ESL). The Cologne-based company organizes tournaments all over the world and broadcasts its games to millions of fans on the Internet. Flato has already had experience with prejudices from politicians and journalists beyond the age threshold of 45 plus:

Games with violent content, pistols and grenades only cover part of the game landscape from the first-person perspective. Sports games, for example, are very popular at the ESL and also according to the sales figures in this country. That is only logical, after all, many gamers are primarily interested in a framework for fair competitions in which they can show their skills.

Get out of the living room: there are real prizes and strong emotions at e-sports events. 


When worried parents turn to Christopher Flato, he tries to take away the first fears and prejudices and to educate them about the topic of gaming. The most important thing is to deal with the topic at all together with the youngsters. But Christopher Flato also knows that there are individual cases in which players take refuge in their own virtual world and isolate themselves there.

But what happens when this digital world of all things is realistic and bloody and consists mainly of violence?

Research says: violent games don't make you aggressive, but ...
Our gamer with a combat knife also plays primarily for the challenge. When asked whether she can continue playing, that doesn't help at first. Because her father heard of research that suggests a connection between violence and games. These have long since reached the public eye.

Do digital games make you aggressive?
120 passers-by in Münster answered this question as follows:

Green: I think so | Blue: Possible, but definitely not for everyone | Red: No, I don't think so

Source: Perspective Daily

In fact, new scientific studies on digital games that investigate what is happening in countless German living rooms appear regularly. The latest studies should surprise the father - here are the answers to some of the most common questions that not only parents ask:

  • Does realistic representation of violence in games lead to violent thoughts? Scientists from the University of York tested over 2,700 gamers in a 2017 study. For the study, one group played a game in which characters died on the screen in a particularly realistic manner, while the control group played another game. The researchers then used a word association test to determine whether players were using more violent words. The result: the players in the violent game and the test group showed no difference.
  • Does frequent violent games reduce empathy? In 2017, German researchers examined a group of 15 gamers who played violent games very often. In the study, they had to look at drawings of normal and violent acts, with their brain activity visualized in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner. The result: The gamers showed the same empathy patterns and brain activities as a control group of non-gamers.
  • Do violent games make them more aggressive in the long term? Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the University Clinic Hamburg-Eppendorf tested 77 adult non-gamers. They had to play either the violent action game Grand Theft Auto V, the peaceful building game The Sims 3 or no game at all for at least half an hour every day for 2 months. During the course and 2 months afterwards, the subjects were tested for their potential for aggression using a wide variety of methods. The result: Only 3 players had a slightly increased level of aggression, none of the others had any effects.
Tobias Rothmund is researching the connection between violence and the media at the University of Koblenz-Landau. - Source: Rothmund copyright

But the revealing results are not a license for our gamer with a combat knife, warns Tobias Rothmund. The psychologist has been working on the subject of violence and games for years and sifts through the latest research.

The problem lies in the design of the studies themselves. As in many other research areas, the challenge is to create a research environment that translates into "real life" behavior. But because some doubt that this is even possible, there are currently two camps of scientists - both with strong convictions, "which are almost reminiscent of ideological strife" and ignore other results.

The dispute over digital games in German living rooms cannot be resolved by constantly new studies. Because Rothmund thinks that the "killer game" debate follows a fundamentally wrong approach:

There is an institution in Germany that has to deal with this question on a daily basis in order to protect young people. She would have a lot to say about our gamer with a combat knife ...

These gamers help decide who is allowed to play what in Germany
The girl with a combat knife is 15, the game she is playing is 18 and over, so it could affect her. At least that's what the USK, the entertainment software self-control, says. Your doorbell is on a 4-lane main street in the middle of Berlin. In the inconspicuous office building, games are played every day until you drop - full-time. The 13-person team has the task of sifting through everything that comes onto the market in Germany for PCs and consoles. Your assessment helps state auditors to assign the 5 age ratings:

The USK is internationally unique because its age ratings are binding for all retailers in this country. Above all, this is intended to protect the groups that are particularly "prone to endangerment". Marek Brunner, the head of USK test operations and father of four, explains who is particularly susceptible to digital games:

What can be dangerous there, however, is not "brief excitement" on the screen or a few digital weapons that are fired at the push of a button. The youth protectionists have long known that in many games only the representation reminds of real war, but not the underlying game mechanics. After all, games should above all be fun. While real soldiers on the screen - such as drone pilots in combat - even experience trauma, everything remains a game for gamers. They know very well that there are no real consequences when aiming in the crosshairs.

The real danger is different: trivialization. For example, when some game manufacturers torpedo youth work through coquetry with real violence and dangerous ideologies.

Highly controversial: the representation of Nazi symbols in games. In 1946, for example, the player fights in an alternative historical scenario as a resistance fighter on the side of the Allies against an overpowering Nazi regime. In the German version, the game has been adapted and there is only talk of a "regime". - Source: BagoGames
"Of course it is fun to shoot in games. We enjoy media precisely because they have an effect on us! But the USK pays very close attention to when the game ends and seriousness or even glorification of violence could begin."

Decisive for the evaluation of the USK are the consequences that a player experiences for his actions in the game and whether life is devalued. The USK tries to teach these nuances in events to school classes and parents who regularly visit the facility in Berlin.

Dear parents, it's your turn!
Despite different perspectives, gamers, research and youth protection agree on 3 points:

  1. Digital games won't go away, even violent ones.
  2. Young people are different in their level of development; Age ratings don't suit everyone.
  3. Even Germany's tough protection of minors cannot replace the role of parents.

What parents can do for themselves: don't look the other way and lump everything together as "senseless blasts", but deal with the games and their nuances yourself and understand how they work. A better answer from our gamer with a combat knife would have been:


Discover, experience, let off steam, immerse yourself - successful games like "The Legend of Zelda" show what gamers want and what other games can do besides shooting. - Source: Nintendo CC0