Judge The Latest Violent Video Game Study For Yourself

Reports about studies linking violent video games to aggressive behavior have a tendency to spread like a brush fire.

From CNN.com to the Washington Post to GamePolitics.com, you can read reports about a new study that appears in the journal Pediatrics that has studied "longitudinal" (translation: more than short-term) effects of violent video games on children in the U.S. and Japan.

The report determines that there is a link, as measured by following up with both American children and Japanese teenagers, collectively age 9-18, who do and don't play violent video games up to six months after they were first studied.

The study reports that similar increase in aggression was spotted among gamers in Japan and America, when compared to their peers who don't play violent games.

What befuddles me, though, is that reports about studies like these seldom link to the study itself. Why not? It's easy to do.

Here... read the study yourself (it's a PDF) and see what you make of its conclusions about the links between young people playing games and increased levels of aggression.

After the jump, check out some items of interest that I've pulled from the study:

1) It's good to know how researchers define violent video games, since that phrase gets bandied around a bit. According to the Pediatrics study, the researchers were working off the assumption that more than 90 percent of games rated E10+ contain violence. So their definition of what constituted a violent video game -- and can trigger increase in aggression -- may be broader than many gamers'. The study stated: "... even children's video games that lack depictions of blood and gore can, and frequently do, include violence."

2) It's also good to know how a term like aggression is defined. What would they mean when they say games can cause more "aggression"? From the study: "aggression is an act conducted by 1 person with the intent of hurting another person; it is not an emotion, thought or intention.

3) The researchers are aware of counter-arguments that gamers may have prepped for them: "The main alternative explanation of previous cross-sectional correlation studies, that the association between amount of violent video game play and physical aggressiveness is merely an artifact of 'naturally' aggressive children preferring violent video games, is ruled out by the longitudinal design and analysis. By controlling for participants' aggressiveness at time 1, these longitudinal results also control for the innate aggressiveness of the participants as well as other factors that influence trait aggressiveness."

4) The researchers recognize that they have not studied whether there is a distinction between violent games that glamorize violence and those that don't, with the cited theory being that media that doesn't glamorize violence may have a less harmful impact on children.

5) This study "was supported by the National Institute on the Media and the Family," an advocacy group that has been at odds with the video game ratings group, the ESRB, for years.