58% of parents see a tie between games, violence

Harris Poll finds majority of US parents believe games contribute to teen violence, 38% entirely unaware of ESRB

Most American parents believe the violence in games is tied to violence in the real world. As reported by VentureBeat, a Harris Poll survey set for release later this week found that 58 percent of 2,278 US adults surveyed think that video games contribute to violent behavior in teenagers.

The poll also found that 38 percent of parents were completely unaware of the Entertainment Software Rating Board system. That contradicts the ESRB's own surveys, which have found only 15 percent of parents are unaware of the industry's rating system. Speaking with GamesIndustry International earlier this month, ESRB president Patricia Vance said awareness of the system may have peaked, although she added educational efforts would continue.

Violence in games became a point of cultural debate once again last year after the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting. The National Rifle Association responded to calls for stricter gun control by casting the blame on violent media, with executive vice president Wayne LaPierre calling gaming "a callous, corrupt, and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against own people." Last month, President Barack Obama called for research into possible ties between gaming and real-world violence in a package of proposals to address the problem of mass shootings. Stricter gun control measures were also part of his plan.

Related stories

Valve quietly cracks down on Steam hate groups

Several Nazi and school shooter-themed groups deleted, but other toxic communities still remain

By James Batchelor

Female Overwatch League host receives death threats over Women's Day tweet

Soe 'Soembie' Gschwind-Penski besieged on social media for thanking supportive men

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (22)

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus5 years ago
So basically, parents are absolutely clueless. What a shock.
11Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Marc Schroth5 years ago
It really is interesting how violent video games are getting so much negative attention, while the large number of gung-ho shoot-em-up movies that have released lately seem to be getting by with little to no criticism at all. I play violent video games, and so do many people I know. But when it comes to the real world I am a law-abiding citizen who would be extremely hesitant to ever pick up a gun and take someone's life, even if they were a threat to me.

When GTA3 first came out, I thought it was awesome that you could shoot someone in the head with a sniper rifle and watch their head explode. It was hilarious that you could pick up a hooker, refill your health, then run her over to get your money back. I went on rampages through the city streets, lobbing molotovs everywhere and watching people run around in a panic. I purposely drove down sidewalks to mow down pedestrians with a stupid grin on my face. Would I ever do any of these things in real life? NO! I can't describe the guilt I would feel from taking a single life, or even just hurting someone else. But in video games, you're not actually hurting anyone. The people that I have sometimes terrorized are not real. They do not have memories, people they love, or people who love them. They are simply there for my amusement, allowing me to do things that I would never normally do.

Violent video games do not create violent people. However, violent and disturbed people may find a sick pleasure in virtual violence whereas the everyday person finds it fun to just escape into a world where their actions don't have any real-world consequences and they can do things that they would never do otherwise. In the absence of violent video games, those violent and disturbed people will focus their attention on something else. Nothing is solved by trying to have violent games be banned. Violent video games are not weapons, they do not place the power to kill into a person's hands.
4Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Caleb Hale Journalist 5 years ago
I'm hoping this 58 percent of people wouldn't call for the government to intervene in protecting children from video games, while at the same time declaring they'll fight to the death their right to bear arms. It's especially annoying to learn 38 of the 58 percent don't know about the ESRB ratings games are given. Sometimes, a little knowledge can be as effective a defense as a shotgun.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (22)
Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
@Caleb--It's almost a given that the 58% that think games are related to real world violence would try to hit you with their bed pans if you threatened to take their guns away from them. I always find it ridiculous when someone can look at the exact cause of death(in this case bullets fired by guns) and then blame it on something completely different. In all of the mass school shootings the victims were all shot to death. They were not blugeoned to death by game cases, disc and manuals. But hey, why let facts and common sense get in the way of good parenting.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Cameron Lourenco Studying Business Managemant, Conestoga College5 years ago
This is of course more ignorant, uneducated people who don't know anything making their worthless opinions known via survey. Who cares what the average person thinks. The average person is uneducated with a 100 IQ. No intelligent one cares what the average person thinks.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Josh Meier5 years ago
@Cameron Unfortunately, we are forced to care because those "ignorant, uneducated people who don't know anything" make up a large enough force to matter in a vote. Going by that survey, they are the majority. You can't just not pay attention to the majority because you think they're stupid.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Josh Meier on 27th February 2013 1:32am

3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
I suppose a good deal of those 58% watch real-life sporting events where more actual people are hurt (or sometimes, killed) than ANY that have been killed DIRECTLY due to a video game.

@Josh: yes, we can and should ignore a majority that's misguided and misdirected because they seek the convenient scapegoat for some of society's ills. Just do a quick search through a well-written history book to find PLENTY of examples of what happens when that ignorant majority get too much control over things or worse, finds itself led by people who demonize the wrong things.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
That's nice to hear, given how many of them think their lives are controlled by an bearded old man sitting in a cloud.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University5 years ago
How many American parents grew up playing videogames? It's the reaction to any new media from generations that aren't familiar with it. The ratio of parents that grew up as gamers should be increasing all the time, which should hopefully mean more and more parents are more informed about gaming. You have to question the rather alarming fact that 38% of those surveyed aren't aware of the games rating systems--are they as unaware of the fact that films have a series of age ratings, or do they view games as something of a Wild West free-for-all, where it is somehow acceptable to sell violent games to children? If that's the case, how many parents continue to buy videogames (or allow their children to buy videogames) that don't have a suitable age rating for them, and are then disturbed when the game contains inappropriate content and levels of violence?

There's still plenty of room for debate on the need for the industry to move beyond violence, but obviously the gaming industry needs to work harder to communicate games ratings to people. How many parents are aware of parental controls in game systems, I wonder? Both sides need to work harder. Parents with teens and children playing videogames need to work harder to understand and have an interest in the media their children consume (the same way I would expect parents to take an interest in what sport their children played, what tv they watched, what books they read), and the industry needs to continue to work hard to communicate the fact that software comes with an age rating and that hardware comes with parental controls.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up5 years ago
My advice is don't stop making and selling guns or games, stop selling bullets. Job done. Everyone wins!
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios5 years ago
So... Basically, it sounds like
58 percent of 2,278 US adults
are essentially clueless.


This is just another example of parents not taking credit for their crappy job of raising their kids, and letting mass media do it instead. Of course... When they let mass media babysit their kids, I guess that's the only scapegoat they have.

Parents say "It's not our fault... it's violent games fault!"
Video game makers say "It's not our fault... It's because people have access to guns"
NRA reps say "It's not guns fault... it's violent games and movies"
So video games and NRA are pointing fingers at each other... and NRA is pointing to movies too.

Sooooo... the only one not pointing their finger at something else is Hollywood. (Unless I'm mistaken)

What... A.... Shocker....
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Georges Paz Programmer, technical director and CEO, Psychoz Interactive5 years ago
Us gouv, is trying desperatelly to ban US weapons but they will never be able to do that. Now regarding games violence, what about hollywood violence? Or even better! News channels! That's real violence!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
President Obama's survey is redundant I'm afraid. Recent research has uncovered the true cause of violence (both involving firearms and without). If you look at the numbers closely, you will see that every single person to take part in violent activities was a habitual Oxygen inhaler. In this study there was not one single exception. You may be thinking that many people partake of oxygen without showing violent tendencies, and whilst on the surface that may be true, deep down all such people have moments where they express anger. This may be through typical violent outbursts, or a more internal form that we like to call 'passive-aggressive'. During the study we understood that this correlation does not indicate that oxygen is the cause of the problem, so we sought further evidence. We discovered that if you put an end to this substance abuse, by removing the subjects access to oxygen, their violent tendencies cease within a matter of minutes. A paper is in the process of being written pleading with the government to outlaw this dangerous practice in order to make our streets safer.

Now that this problem has been solved, lets get back to making games...
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
robert spink Creative Director, Behaviour Interactive5 years ago
Lets not forget 37% of Americans can't find America on a world map :)
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Verity5 years ago
most parents are really dumb when it comes to video games... especially those that turn around and say all their friends at school play it... come on the game has a friggin 18 cert (or 16 cert) on it for a reason... there should be no friggin way you should be letting anyone under that age play it...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Joshua Rose Executive Producer / Lead Designer, Storm Eagle Studios5 years ago
@Georges: They're doing anything and everything they can to get things banned. It's a reinstatement and even more strict version of the AWB (assault weapons ban) passed back in 1994 (I think it was 1994). High cap mags, assault rifle style weapons. reducing the number of 'cosmetic' features that make up the catch all for banning from two to one (i.e. pistol grip, collapsible stock, removable magazine, etc). Whether or not it happens is a different story.

@Robert: What does that have to do with the current discussion?

Most gun violence (not just mass shootings, which make up a small percentage of gun violence as a whole) is perpetuated by criminals and gangs who have no regard for the law of any kind and probably don't get their firearms legally in the first place. So eliminating a legitimate and responsible citizen's ability to purchase and/or own a firearm does absolutely nothing to keep illegal black market firearms out of the hands of those who ignore the laws and regulations in the first place, let alone any legislation that will further restrict the availability of legal firearms.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Phil Wright Tools & Middleware Account Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe5 years ago
So much misinformation in this article. If anyone had a care to study the poll results, they would see that 38% of Adults (not Parents) do not understand the ratings. From a pool of 2000 or so respondents that opt in to do Harris polls online. A subset of those respondents identify themselves as parents with kids that play games, so an even smaller sample (number unknown!) to base figures on. Hardly a thorough survey. But hey, why spend time checking the details when you can get a nice headline?

For those are interested in checking details to base a comment on -

Interesting to me would be the results of a survey like this conducted before the current focus on violence in light of recent events.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Gareth Eckley Commercial Analyst 5 years ago
Just as a thought, we could also take some of the responsibility. But we won't, because we are a business, not an art.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Gallagher Marketing Manager, Futuremark Corporation5 years ago
@Phil Wright - thank you for posting the link to the survey. You are right, people should look at the data and the wording of the questions before commenting. The sad truth is that when it comes to press coverage of surveys journalists can cherry-pick the statistics to fit the angle of their story, for example:

Negative story:
58% of US adults (not parents as incorrectly reported in the headline), think there is a link between playing violent video games and teenagers showing violent behavior.

Positive story:
69% of US adults think playing video games is a good thing for children as it can help with hand/eye coordination and provide other skills.

And for those saying this survey is based on the views of clueless individuals, how about this:
90% of US adults think parents should be the chief regulators when it comes to what video games children are allowed to play.

We complain about the wider press casting a negative light on our industry, but even in our own media it goes unreported that this survey shows that more US adults believe games are good for children than bad.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Gallagher on 28th February 2013 7:53am

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 5 years ago
@James: it is more than a little clueless to be an adult who (no matter how small a minority you are in a survey group), somehow thinks a video game, book, movie or whatever is a DIRECT link to violent behavior. Sure, media consumption can influence people in may ways (Madison Avenue made its bones on people falling for countless advertisements for decades), but there's a gap these people are using the wrong bridge to connect and worse, they don't even want their minds changed with anything resembling actual facts.

I still recall this old case where heavy metal was demonized and yes, blamed for a rather unfortunate incident:

Common sense won out that time and it became clear that the two kids were troubled (and most likely before they even heard a note of metal).

Gun violence (hell, violence in general) was around long before video games and banning, taxing or regulating them out of existence (as I overheard some ladies in the supermarket babbling about a few days ago) won't do damn thing to stop it.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
James Gallagher Marketing Manager, Futuremark Corporation5 years ago
@greg I wouldn't point the finger at the respondents. The question asked was,

"How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement? - There is a link between playing violent video games and teenagers showing violent behaviour."

Violent video games, like violent movies, are rated 18. Do I think that it is a good idea for teenagers, aged 13, to play these games? No, of course not, but I cannot express this belief to answer the question that was asked. I can only say either, "I don't think 13 year olds should play violent games rated 18, therefore I agree that there must be a link with violent behaviour" or "I don't think that there is a link, therefore it must be OK for 13 year olds to play 18 rated games."

It is a not a well worded question. I think the company went about this survey knowing exactly the results they wanted to see: those that would get the most headlines . The press coverage shows that it worked, sadly, even though there plenty of positive angles to be had in the data if you care to look for them.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andreia Quinta Photographer, Studio52 London5 years ago
So 58% of parents in that sample have no idea how to actually parent someone, that's what I read anyway.
@ Andreas: What matters is that they have that perception and it is on us to change that perception
- The facts of Evolution couldn't change the people's perception on Christianity, let alone developers and publishers change a similar perception on games.

Two or three extra human generations are needed to erradicate the 'violent-game' perception permanently, humanity needs to evolve out of that perception, not be lectured about it, it doesn't work.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Andreia Quinta on 1st March 2013 9:49pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.