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Are video games to blame for #GamerGate? New study finds no link between media and real world violence

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Although many might have us believe that violent media, specifically violent movies and video games, affect youth and create violence in society, a new study done by Stetson University disputes that.

Researcher Christopher Ferguson recently did two studies on the subject, with the first asking the question: is violent media linked to real world violence?

In that study, Ferguson's team looked at movies from 1920 through 2005. Researchers evaluated each movie based on its frequency and graphical depiction of violence. They then compared that data to homicide rates for those years.

The results show that homicide rates and movie violence are, for the most part, not linked. However, data from around the 1950s showed a slight link, but that correlation disappeared after the 1990s. Data from the 1990s through 2005 showed that higher amounts of movie violence meant less homicides. This was also the case from the 1920s to the 1940s.

Ferguson's second study used The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ERSB) ratings for studying violent content in video games from 1996 through 2011. Again, researchers linked that data to the number of youth violence incidents in the U.S. Results linked violent video game playing to less violence in children.

However, researchers stress this doesn't mean necessarily that playing violent video games lessens violence, and that these numbers may just be incidental.

This is the first time that researchers have studied the long-term effects of movie and video game violence and their link to real world violence. It suggests that although movies and video games are growing more violent over time, there is still no proof that it's actually affecting violence in the real world.

Previous studies suggest that violent video games make those who play them more aggressive. But does that aggression lead to real world violence? According to this study, the answer is no.

"Society has a limited amount of resources and attention to devote to the problem of reducing crime," says Ferguson. "There is a risk that identifying the wrong problem, such as media violence, may distract society from more pressing concerns such as poverty, education and vocational disparities and mental health."

Of course, that doesn't mean that the video game industry isn't impacting society. The recent GamerGate controversy has resulted in many violent threats and harassment against women involved in the industry, from media critics to game developers. It's hard to pinpoint the exact root of the violence. Is it the games themselves? The anonymity of the Internet? The controversy has served as a harsh reminder that the industry itself is still suffering from serious growing pains.

More than 67 percent of U.S. households regularly play video games and the industry is now making more than $10 billion each year from game sales.

Photo Credit: Aaron Escobar/Wikimedia Commons

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