Violent game effects?

This is not anything like systematic review, but more notes for myself.

The long debate of how violent games effect on behavior. Anderson, et al. (2010) argue that there are violent games increase aggression and lower empathy:

The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. Moderator analyses revealed significant research design effects, weak evidence of cultural differences in susceptibility and type of measurement effects, and no evidence of sex differences in susceptibility. Results of various sensitivity analyses revealed these effects to be robust, with little evidence of selection (publication) bias.

Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder (2017) provide a reanalysis of Anderson, el al. (2010) meta analysis and reach different conclusion:

First, we detect substantial publication bias in experimental research on the effects of violent games on aggressive affect and aggressive behavior. Second, after adjustment for bias, the effects of violent games on aggressive behavior in experimental research are estimated as being very small, and estimates of effects on aggressive affect are much reduced. In contrast, the cross-sectional literature finds correlations that appear largely unbiased. Third, experiments meeting the original authors’ criteria for methodological quality do not yield larger adjusted effects than other experiments, but instead yield larger indications of bias, indicating that perhaps they were selected for significance.

Ferguson and Kilburn (2010) also criticize Anderson et al. (2010) meta analysis, because  studies included does not study violent aggression. Fergunson (2007) elsewhere states that evidence to publication bias in videogame violence effects publications.

On the other hand, Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis (2008) states that there are evidence that violent imaginary in games has a short term effect to children (increasing aggressive or fearful behaviour), but inconsistent evident of any long term effect or any kind of effect to teens and adults.

Notably, studies looking at the link between violent videogames and violent real world behaviour has not found an evidence that those two are linked. Markey, et al. (2014) did not find evidence that playing violent games and aggressive assaults and homicides are positively linked. However, Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis (2008) claim that there is “weak evidence from correlation studies links media violence directly to crime.”

A new intervention study comparing effects of playing violent videogame and non-violent videogames to aggression, by Kühn, et al. (2018a) allows draw causal conclusions. Based on their study where participants played Sims 3 (n=24) or Grand Theft Auto V (n=25) daily for two months (and have third passive control group who did not play any game, n=28), they conclude

The present results thus provide strong evidence against the frequently debated negative effects of playing violent video games in adults and will therefore help to communicate a more realistic scientific perspective on the effects of violent video gaming.

Kühn et al. (2018a) states that the sample size in the study is enough to detect the average effect sizes, r=.18 reported Anderson, et al. (2010).

In fMRI study, Kuhn et al. (2018b) where people were randomly assigned to play Grand Theft Auto V (n=26), Sims 3 (n=24) or non play group (n=30). They did not find “any evidence for desensitization in the empathy network for pain in the violent video game group at any time point”.

EDIT 2018/03/20. There is a reply to Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder (2017) by Kepes, Bushman and Anderson (2017) and provide another set of meta analyses and claim “As stated in our title, although the magnitude of the mean effects were reduced by publication bias and outliers, ‘violent video game effects remain a societal concern.'” However, real life impact of the violent games is another question (cf. Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2008; Markey, et al., 2014).


  • Andreson, et al. 2010. Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 136(2). DOI=0.1037/a0018251.
  • Browne and Hamilton-Giachritsis, 2008. The influence of violent media on children and adolescents: a public-health approach. Lancet, 365(9460). DOI=10.1016/S0140-6736(05)17952-5.
  • Ferguson and Kilburn, 2010. Much ado about nothing: The misestimation and overinterpretation of violent video game effects in Eastern and Western nations: Comment on Anderson et al. (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 136(2). DOI=10.1037/a0018566.
  • Ferguson, 2007. Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review,Aggression and Violent Behavior,  12(4). DOI=10.1016/j.avb.2007.01.001.
  • Hilgard, Engelhardt and Rouder, 2017. Overstated evidence for short-term effects of violent games on affect and behavior: A reanalysis of Anderson et al. (2010). Psychological Bulletin, 143(7). DOI=10.1037/bul0000074.
  • Kepes, S., Bushman, B.J. and Anderson, C.A., 2017. Violent video game effects remain a societal concern: Reply to Hilgard, Engelhardt, and Rouder (2017). Psychological Bulletin,
  • Kühn, Kugler, Schmalen, Weichenberger, Witt, and Gallinat, 2018a. Does playing violent video games cause aggression? A longitudinal intervention study. Molecular Psychiatry. DOI=10.1038/s41380-018-0031-7.
  • Kühn, Kugler, Schmalen, Weichenberger, Witt, Gallinat, 2018b. The Myth of Blunted Gamers: No Evidence for Desensitization in Empathy for Pain after a Violent Video Game Intervention in a Longitudinal fMRI Study on Non-Gamers. Neurosignals, 26. DOI=10.1159/000487217.
  • Markey,, Markey, French, 2014. Violent Video Games and Real-World Violence:  Rhetoric Versus Data. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(4) DOI=10.1037/ppm0000030.






A brief history on how a new thing are bad for you

In 1795, author J. G. Heinzmann insisted that such devotion [to novels] caused “weakening of the eyes, heat rashes, gout, arthritis, hemorrhoids, asthma, apoplexy, pulmonary disease, indigestion, blocking of the bowels, nervous disorder, migraines, epilepsy, hypochondria and melancholy.”Anslow (2016)

Anslow covers stuff that what is claimed to be bad for you from novels to comics and from telephone to VR.

Anslow, L., 2016. What technology are we addicted to this time? Available at:

Embodiment in character-based video games

Petri Lankoski

This is author’s version of the paper. The authoritative version is available via ACM.DOI:

The paper is presented at AcademicMindtrek’16, October 17-18, 2016, Tampere, Finland (c) 2016 ACM. ISBN978-1-4503-4367-1/16/10… and published in the conference proceedings.


Embodiment is used to denote the sense that something is a part of one’s body. The sense of own body is argued to relate to the sense of agency of one’s own actions and of the ownership of the body. In this sense of own body can incorporate something external to the body, such as simple tools or virtual hands. The premise of the study is that the player-characters and game controllers get embodied in a similar to a tool or a virtual hand. In order to study embodiment, a psychometric scale is developed using explorative factor analysis (n=104). The scale is evaluated with two sets of data (n=103 and n=89) using confirmatory factor analysis. The embodiment scale ended to having two dimensions: controller ownership and player-character embodiment. Finally, the embodiment scale is tested and put into action in two studies with hypotheses 1) embodiment and players’ skills correlate and 2) the sense of presence and embodiment correlate. The data (n=37 and n=31) analysed using mixed effects models support both hypotheses.

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Confidence intervals & credible intervals

This is a note for me.

Confidence intervals: “Are the observed data x reasonable given the hypothesised values of θ?” == P(θ| x)


Credible intervals: “What values of θ are reasonable given the observed data x?” == P(x| θ)

Those are related as “P(θ| x) = P(θ)P(x| θ)”

Credible intervals are part of Bayesian approach.

About my formal education & stuff

As there seems to be some interest of my eduction, I thought to add a short note about that so that this is out here.

I have Masters degree in New Media (art & design). That degree includes 60-70% computer science, mathematics, and multimedia (that was at that time formal languages, signal processing, virtual reality, etc.). The rest of my Masters are interactive storytelling, management and game design.

My doctorate is in Art and Design in department focusing on new media which means obligatory studies in the philosophy of art and aesthetics, and some HCI. Of course, research literature & methods part of studies were about games.

Beside my Master studies I worked as software designer for almost five years developing network management systems (e.g. data visualisation and management tools) with C++, X/Motif, SQL, and Perl.

Part of my work in academia, I have been developing games for teaching and research (location-aware mobile games, games/interactive narrative for interactive television, …).

Some notes about the freedom of expression, games & critique

(I was first thinking to write a short essay with this title, but this turned to be loosely related thoughts about the topic.)

  • Freedom of expression has newer covered using expression to harm someones reputation and slander a person.
  • Freedom of expression is threatened if people are afraid to express their opinions, even if they don’t need to be afraid of a government prosecution.
  • While companies should have right to choose what publish (and sell), there are cases where this is not so. Monopolies (even de facto monopolies) or utilities are different when their choices can control what others can publish. For example, Comic Book Association was a in practice working as a censor even the US government was not giving them legal power to prevent certain kinds of expressions in comic books. That said, a website does not need to publish what they don’t want. It would be stretching the concept of censorship to call all editorial decisions not to publish (or edit something out) as censorship. However, there are plenty of cases where editorial rights can be used unethically.
  • A mob going after publication or reviewer when the mob disagree with the reviewer’s opinion (especially if someone in the mob threatens the reviewer) can be part of creating an atmosphere of fear that threatens the freedom of expression.
  • It should be natural that developers can create games as they like and critics can criticize the games as they like (as long as they don’t break laws). Also it is ok to disagree with a critique. However, spamming, threats, and name-calling are not productive forms to show the disagreement. Freedom of expression does not include name-calling (in many cases) or threats.
  • A review is an opinion. A good review provides well-argued point of view to a game. The review is not meant to be a product description. This is how reviews of literature, film, music or comics are by tradition. Game criticism is a young (compared to,especially, literature criticism). The language and approaches used are still developing.

My experiences with censorship & media panics

I grew up with books and comics. Big part of comics available in Finland were translations of European comics such as Asterix, Yoko Tsuno, Spirou et fantasia, Blueberry, Tex Willer, Judge Dredd (and bit later Valerians, Canardo & Bilal, Tardi, Comes), but also US superhero comics.  At that time I was not even aware that US comics were influenced by comic code (the old EC comics pieces where published and available in Finland), but US comics got more interesting with Miller’s Daredevil and later with Vertigo’s pieces (when mainstream publishers started to abandon comic code).

I got into gaming when I got my first game console (don’t anymore remember what that was, but a friend got a Colecovision console). Later I got ZX Spectrum (and a friend had Commodore VIC-20 and bit later C-64 and Amiga). That time Nintendo’s Watch & Game was rather big. Many in my class have those and we traded machines when we got bored to that one game that was in. Authorizes or media were not interested during 80s and 90s console and computer games had rather low profile.

On the other hand, Washington Wives raised some media panic about heavy rock. Of course that was something I listened. Finnish tabloids repeated US stories, but in Finland that was rather low key. Mostly we had fun with those stories and all possible ways to connect bands such as W.A.S.P and KISS to Satanism.

I found also role-playing games via an advertisement in a sci-fi fanzine at early 80s. We played some time before Finnish tabloids started to reproduce US stories how role-playing games related to suicides, Satanism, occult etc. Role-playing games were not very big thing in Finland and those things were very annoying, but newer became something to be taken too seriously. Role-playing games were small thing. Those things were much more serous and annoying because many cases larpers needed to rent places and role-playing moral panics made that harder.

As a media nerd, I also got into horror & splatter film. Finland introduced video censorship law at 80s which meant that one cannot legally sell films on video that were R-18 (Film theatres could continue to show those). Video censorship meant that the most horror films were not available in Finland (many newer came to theatres). During that time we smuggled horror to Finland or bought them from some friend of friend. Finland was not the only country that censored film, but UK did that also. So it was somewhat hard to get uncut films (unless one owned NTSC video player and television) that had were not dubbed. Despite the law, it was not that hard to get Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, The Thing, Videodrome, Reanimator or The Day of the Dead etc. It was harder to get them in good quality.  Finland relaxed in film and video censorship laws at 2001. Lawmakers probably at that time even did not know that computer and videogames existed, sot games distribution was not controlled.

While access to horror films and comics got better, videogames got in spotlight when games where connected in school shootings and Jack Thompson started to attack on games by arguing that murder simulators are not protected speech. I would be devastating to games in US (and probably also elsewhere) if Thompson would have succeeded in selling his argument to US court.

Echoes on Thompson’s high profile litigation, moral panic on games and media effect claims have been constant companion throughout my time as a game researcher. Now moral panics are more annoying than ever: evaluators of funding applications has been rejecting application because game effects are not considered in application and so on (as this has been case all my career there we include always text pointing out the problems with media effect claims and cultural importance of games etc., but that has been too rarely enough to secure funding).

Then games got again in spotlight when some gamers were threatening game critics. And gamers got plenty of negative publicity.

Media Violence Research and Youth Violence Data: Why Do They Conflict? (by Olson)

This is note for myself.

“Risk factors for violence tend to occur in clusters. Violent game play may disproportionately affect children who lack protective factors such as a nurturing relationship with at least one adult […]”

Olson, 2004. Media Violence Research and Youth Violence Data: Why Do They Conflict? Academic Psychiatry, 28(2) , pp 144-150. DOI=10.1176/appi.ap.28.2.144