Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Video Games & Violence

The following is an essay I had typed up for my Seminar in American Politics course which I had completed on April 11, 2013. It was a paper in regards to video games and politics.

Violent Video Games and Public Policy: A Diffusion of Innovation


Many Americans families today own home entertainment systems. Most of which include a video game console, Smartphone device, or Personal Computer (PC). It is a common occurrence to see youth and adults playing video games throughout the week and they have become a staple part of our Western culture. However, with advances in gaming technology, the depictions of violence, blood, and gore are becoming increasingly more realistic. As such, an ever growing concern among parents, educators, and legislators is that children and young adults will begin to act upon these stimuli, especially considering the large magnitude of school shootings that have occurred since their origin beginning in the mid-60’s to the early 80’s. A majority of these games started off modestly as text-based adventures, such as Zork while others were simpler concepts such as moving a small white ball back and forth using paddles, namely Pong (Anders, 1999, 270).

Interestingly enough, many children and minors are playing games that are simply not suitable for their age. Whether or not this is a fault of the ranking system created by the voluntary and self-regulating organization, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (referred commonly to as the ESRB), a problem involving individual retailers themselves (such as GameStop), or if this is a problem concerning misinformed or uninformed parents on this particular system is up to critical debate. Another possible explanation is perhaps the tact of the industry giants to manipulate advertising to appeal to youths (despite claims that their target audience is that of a much older generation) through the usage of excessively violent imagery that still manages to appeal to them. There are two questions one must ask however, particularly when dealing with this topic of discussion. First, is there significant evidence that determines that violent video games increase aggressive behaviors (which could result in more mass shootings)? Secondly, is there a causal linkage between violent video games and violence? Finally, if there is sufficient evidence, does our Federal Government have the authority to regulate such violent media despite being a potentially protected freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution? If so, what has been done to curb the violence?

There are three different types of studies used in determining whether or not media violence has a significant impact on aggressive behavior: experimental research, cross-sectional co-relational analysis, and longitudinal studies. Ideally, a longitudinal study would be the most conclusive type of research, able to accurately determine the long-term effect of exposure to violent video games by requesting participants to play a randomly designated violent or non-violent game for weeks, months, or years at a time. However, there are practical and ethical ramifications with regards to conducting such extensive research (Bushman et al., 2013, 227). It may be due to the more prominent interactive nature of video games compared to television and movie viewing, and the fact that this is a relatively new form of media, that research is still remarkably limited. However, continuous efforts have been made to shed some light upon this issue and raise awareness.


Psychological research and meta-analytical reviews into the effects of violence on youth are vital to determining the policy implications that one must consider. Meta-analysis focuses on combining and contrasting results from multiple studies, with the expectation of identifying patterns among the results, the bases of disagreements among those results, or other significant correlations that may be exposed in the context of several studies. Meta-analysis uses a common measure of effect size, where a weighted average might be used related to sample sizes within each of the individual studies.

The most referenced and leading meta-analytical review, conducted by Craig A. Anderson and Brad J. Bushman, used research studies available in the PsychINFO database (that were listed up through 2000) based upon their search of specific keywords (video*, computer, arcade, game, attack*, fight*, aggress*, violen*, hostil*, ang*, arous*, pro-social, or help*). Their initial search revealed 35 reports that included 54 independent participant samples. A total of 4,262 participants were included within these studies with roughly 46% (approximately 1,960.52) of those being under 18 years of age. Anderson and Bushman contacted the authors of the reports in order to request missing information so that they would be able to provide and calculate a proper effect-size estimate (Bushman and Anderson, 2001, 356). To account for relevance, they considered a study pertinent only if “they examined the effects of playing violent video games on the aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, aggressive behavior, physiological arousal, or pro-social behavior.” Those studies that were excluded were those that had participants that only watched others play a game. For those that had half of the participants play and half watch, the results were collapsed across a play/watch variable. The sample size was divided in half using the collapsed results when Anderson and Bushman could not estimate the effect for “play” participants (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 356).


Condensed into perhaps a bi-variate model, the independent variable would be the studies listed in the PsychINFO database matching the aforementioned terms and the dependant variable would be participant behavior with the individuals themselves being the unit of analysis. Anderson and Bushman describe their own five dependent variables as: aggression, pro-social (or “helping”) behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, and arousal.

Regarding aggressive behavior, it was determined that “across the 33 independent tests of the relation between video-game violence and aggression, involving 3,033 participants, the average effect size was positive and significant, Pearson’s r value of 0.19”. When considering Pearson’s r, one must recall that it is a measure of the strength of linear dependency between two variables. Thus, for a “rejection of the null hypothesis” to occur, (the relationship between the independent and dependent variables being significant) the Pearson’s r value must be less than 0.05. Also, one must recall that the R-squared value is the percentage of variation in the dependent variable, accounted for by the independent variable.

A moderator analysis of factors such as age, type of study, and publication status revealed that there were no significant effects on the dependent measures of aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357). Anderson and Bushman determined that short-term exposure to violent video games causes a temporary increase in aggression through the use of separately calculated effect-sizes for each of the 21 experimental studies and the average effect was an r = 0.18, with a 95% confidence interval (0.13, 0.24). Regarding the 13 non-experimental tests, the average effect was r = 0.19 with confidence intervals of .15, and .23. As such, Anderson and Bushman claim that “exposure to violent video games is correlated with aggression in the real world” (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357).

Non-experimental tests were divided by Anderson and Bushman into three categories: time spent playing video games, preference for violent games, or time spent playing video games in general (regardless of game content) in order to measure exposure (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357). According to them, in all three cases, the average correlations with aggression were statistically significant and positive (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357).

Experimental tests were also divided into two categories based upon whether or not the target of aggression was another individual. Thus, the magnitude of the effect was dependent upon the aggression target (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 357-358). When it came to the dependent variable of pro-social behavior, “The eight independent tests of the relation between violent video games and pro-social behavior, involving 676 participants, yielded an average effect that was both negative and significant, there was a negative r = 0.16” (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358). Unfortunately, a moderator analysis was not possible due to a lack of a sufficient number of studies involved with this aspect. Physiological arousal was determined by measuring systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate. It was ascertained that the type of measure did not significantly influence the results (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358).

They concluded that exposure to violent video games has a positive association with increased levels of aggression in both young adults and children, including tests of experimental and non-experimental design (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 358). Appropriately noted however, was that longitudinal research was desperately needed and despite the slim possibility that repeat exposure to violent video games would not increase aggression in the long-term, sound evidence to support such a claim would be most desirable (Anderson and Bushman, 2001, 359).

New attempts have been made to further research into the effects of video game violence on society, by Brad J. Bushman, Laurent Bègue, Youssef Hasan, and Michael Scharkow with their longitudinal study of the effect of violent video games on the cumulative effects of violent video games on hostile expectations of violence, they did find evidence to suggest that hostile expectation of violence did increase over time with violent video game exposure (20 min per session), but that study itself only covered a span of three days. Bushman et al. claim that although they recognize that their study was limited in scope, they noted that it is difficult to do longitudinal studies because of practical and ethical reasons (One cannot force participants to play the same game for weeks months, or years on end without a multitude of repercussions) (Bushman et al., 2013).

In another study, by Nicholas L. Carnagey, Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman, they discovered through participants’ heart rates and galvanized skin responses, that players became desensitized to real-world depictions of violence (Carnagey, Anderson, and Bushman, 2007). Despite the assertions that Anderson and Bushman (2001) claim with their meta-analytical review of existing research, there are still no definitive studies available that adequately determines a causal relationship between violent video games and violent acts or crime. Yet, media journalists and parents continue use violent video games as a political scapegoat for our violent culture despite a lack of etiological evidence.

Following the Colombine Shootings, President Clinton (on June 1, 1999) requested that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice conduct studies of the marketing of violent entertainment media to youths and apportioned $1 million dollars of federal funding towards such research (Grier 2001, 123). The Federal Trade Commission’s initial report seems to concur with such findings of increased aggressive behaviors & expectations. Their study was not merely limited solely to violent video games as it included other similar forms of violent media such as movies and television. In the FTC’s review of the Effects of Media Violence on Youth, (issued by President Clinton at the time) found that “there was a high correlation between exposure to media violence and aggressive and/or violent behavior” (Grier, 2001, 124). Yet, regarding causation, the evidence from the studies reviewed was deemed less than conclusive (Grier, 2001, 125).

The rating system established by the ESRB is designed to inform and educate both players and parents alike as to the content of the game in generally applicable terms that can be applied universally to all video games. Essentially, it provides parents with the power to dictate which games are appropriate for their children or other family members through easily identifiable icons and content descriptions. The most current ratings provided by the ESRB are as follows:

Early Childhood (EC): Games with this rating are intended for children ages 3 and above. These games often contain highly educational material.

Everyone (E): This content is generally suitable for all ages. It may however, contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.

Everyone 10+ (E 10+): The content found in video games with this rating are considered to be generally suitable for children age 10 and up. These games may contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes than the previous tier however.

Teen (T): The content found in these titles is generally suitable for youth ages 13 and up. These games may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal amounts of blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.

Mature (M): The content found in these games is generally suitable for those 17 years old and up. These games often contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Adults Only (AO): This content is suitable only for adults ages 18 and up. It may include but is not limited to, prolonged scenes of intense violence, graphic sexual content and/or gambling with real currency.

Rating Pending (RP): These are video games that have not yet been assigned an official final ESRB rating. This rating appears only in advertising, marketing and promotional materials related to a game that is expected to carry an ESRB rating, and is often replaced by a game's official rating once it has been assigned. (ESRB website)

The criteria and ratings have been modified over time. In 1999, according to Kelly Anders article, more than 5,000 titles had been rated by the ESRB and of those, 3% had an EC (Early Childhood) rating, 71% had a K-A (Kids-Adults) or E (Everyone) rating, 19% had a rating of T for teen, 7% of which had a rating of M or Mature, and with less than 1% of the total number of games rated in the AO or Adults Only category.

A large majority of what is considered mild is up to the discretion of the members of the ESRB however, and parents may not necessarily agree with their criteria. Additional problems abound especially when considering that ratings are printed so small on the packaging that they are easily ignored by children and overlooked by adults who purchase the games (Anders 1999, 272). Nonetheless, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s 2007 Report to Congress, “the ESRB continues to lead all three electronic entertainment media industries [music, movies, and games] in providing clear and prominent disclosures of rating information in television, print, and online advertising.” (Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress, 2007)

Anders acknowledged that seven states had taken it upon themselves to regulate violent video games through their proposed regulatory policies (Anders 1999, 271). These seven states were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Many legislative attempts have been made since, from other states such as California (which will be discussed momentarily), but to date, none have succeeded. These numerous failures are perhaps reflective of a perception of Spitzer’s book, as he recognizes that “repetitive political scenarios play themselves out with great fury, but astonishingly little effect”, a trait that is predominant in his outrage-action-reaction model (Spitzer, 2008, 13).

According to Jack L. Walker’s The Diffusion of Innovations among the American States the definition of innovation is any “program or policy which is new to the states adopting it, no matter how old the program may be or how many other states have adopted it” (Walker, 881). This diffusion or transmission of ideas is keenly applicable to regulatory policy on the economic marketing and distribution of these violent video games towards youth.

This is especially true when applying this concept to those aforementioned states and the ten regulatory proposals introduced in 1999 to the House of Representatives and the Senate, all of which failed spectacularly across the board (Anders, 1999, 272). Each policy is regulatory in nature and it’s rather peculiar that none of the state legislature conceived a notion of perhaps a distributive policy in increasing public knowledge or awareness of the already implemented ESRB system (through the distribution of more educational materials). The ten proposals are listed as follows:

Alabama (House Bill 726) had introduced a policy to prohibit the sale, lease, and/or renting of video games to those under the age of 18 and would have appointed the attorney general to establish all ratings of video games.

Arkansas (Senate Bill 925) would have prohibited the public display of violent video games. After the Jonesboro incident, a governor’s group formed which advocated that that the state target violent media and send medical personnel into the homes of teenage mothers to deter their children of crime. In addition, this group proposed to conduct public service announcements, fundraisers, statewide conferences, and local seminars aimed at teaching parents and children of the harmful effects of violent media.

Florida (House Bill 225, Senate Bill 820) intended to create the Children’s Protection from Violence Act, restricting the public display or exhibition of graphically violent video games in certain specified places. The bill proposed would also forbid those who consciously operate a business (with displays of graphically violent video games) from allowing anyone under 18 years of age to visit, patronize, or loiter in the vicinity.

Minnesota (House Bills 2394 and 2395, Senate Bills 2171 and 2172) attempted to ban the sale of violent video games to children and restrict the public display of these games in specified areas as well. A second bill would require the Department of Children, Families and Learning to report on methods of juvenile access to violent video games and require scientific studies on how these games increase aggressive behaviors in juveniles.

New York (Assembly Bill 8420, Senate Bill 5625) had a proposal to restrict minor’s access to certain video games. The state wanted to establish its own rating labeling system for video games (including those found in arcades), with a second bill forming the Advisory Council on Interactive Media and Youth Violence, the Parent/Teacher Anti-Violence Co-Operative Program, and the Parent/Teacher Anti-Violence Awareness Fund.

Pennsylvania (House Bills 1509 and 1672, Senate Bill 960) would have established its own Video Game Rating Panel and the School Violence Fund. In addition, it would make it an offense to sell or provide a minor with a violent video game.

Washington (House Bill 1315) would have mandated that the Department of Health arrange a report on the most effective method for parents to control juvenile access to violent video games and would have forced the Department of Revenue to conduct research on how to generate appropriate user fees on the rental and sale of unrated video games, those rated Adult or Mature, and those that are already restricted. (Anders, 1999, 272)

All of these proposals were, in essence, attempting to remove power from the Interactive Digital Software Association (ISDA) and the self-regulated Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) and grant that power to the individual state legislatures (or perhaps the Federal Government itself) because it was felt as though the organization was inept at fulfilling its responsibilities. (The Interactive Digital Software Association, a trade association, was founded in 1994 and had undergone a name change in 2003. It is now commonly referred to as the Entertainment Software Association and established the ESRB also in 1994.) (Anders, 1999).

This sentiment is exacerbated when considering the aftermath of the Columbine School Shootings in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999 which was committed by two gunmen Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. They murdered 13 people (twelve classmates and one teacher) and wounded 23 others before turning their guns upon themselves. The major relation between this violent act and video games was that Harris and Klebold both played the widely popular game Doom. In fact, Harris created a modified version of the game himself and added elements such as unlimited ammunition and enemies that could not retaliate even when fired upon, thus effectively creating his own victims (Anderson and Bushman 2001, 353) (Anders, 270). The similarities between the nature of the game and the school shooting were eerily similar and raised etiological questions of whether or not the game itself caused such an aggressive outburst. More recently, on December 14, 2012 the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut had rekindled public interest on restricting access of violent games.

As such, these tragic and unfortunate episodes can quite possibly be referred to as “focusing events”, a term coined by Thomas A. Birkland to explain phenomena (examples include, but are not limited to, industrial accidents or natural disasters) that “change the dominant issues on the agenda in a policy domain” and “can lead to interest group mobilization” (Birkland, 1998, 53). Focusing events are sudden and relatively uncommon, are defined as harmful, reveal the possibility of future harms to the public, and are “concentrated in a particular geographical area or community of interest” (Birkland, 1998, 54). He continues to state that these focusing events are exposed to both the public and law makers simultaneously (Birkland, 1998, 54). In fact, the manner in which these numerously erratic shootings arise is reflective of Robert J. Spitzer’s “Outrage-Action-Reaction” model (Spitzer, 2008, 13-15). The Outrage-Action-Reaction model essentially describes how the policy agenda becomes focused on issues after some sort of public outcry (from focusing events like school shootings), the action that takes place is the formation of a new policy, often regulatory in stature, with a reaction from anti-regulatory organizations (Spitzer uses the National Rifle Association in his example, whereas I would argue that the Entertainment Software Association would take on that role). As such, questions are raised as to whether this cycle can produce rational policies, and whether these focusing events are just isolated incidences, or if they are truly indicative of a larger issue. (Spitzer, 2008, 13-15)

Additionally, “groups actively seek to expand or contain issues after a focusing event” as these events are often sporadic and are unique in that they act as “potential triggers” for policy change (Birkland, 1998, 53). Birkland also states that these local events have the capacity to gain national and world attention. As such, outside communities often help to form new coalitions under the premise of preventing future incidents from affecting themselves, as well as others (Birkland, 1998, 55). Thus, concerned educators, parents, consumers, and state legislators, operate as organized interest groups in an attempt to confront the ESRB and ESA and they seek to inform legislators of their concerns.

First Amendment Protection

If there have been numerous attempts to regulate this form of media, why is it that they have all failed? For one possible answer to this question, we must turn to the more recent and monumental court ruling, Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association (formerly known as Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011) which struck down a 2005 California law which not only banned the sale of violent video games to anyone under age 18, but required clear labeling beyond the existing ESRB rating system. The law would have created a maximum fine of $1,000 per violation. In addition, it attempted to use a variation of the Miller Test (used in Miller v. California, 1973) to define when certain forms of speech are not protected under the First Amendment. The Miller Test essentially set up a new standard, establishing three major criteria which must be met on all levels, in order for a medium of speech to be subject to legitimate government regulation:

1. “Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards (not national standards, as some prior tests required), would have to find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

2. whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law; and

3. whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” - (Miller v. California 1973)

The prurient interest being arousing sentiments of sexuality, obscenity, or other forms of unwholesome desire.

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the court and using precedent from a previous case, United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., argued that:

“Like the protected books, plays, and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages—through many familiar literary devices (such as characters, dialogue, plot, and music) and through features distinctive to the medium (such as the player’s interaction with the virtual world). That suffices to confer First Amendment protection. Under our Constitution, “esthetic and moral judgments about art and literature . . . are for the individual to make, not for the Government to decree, even with the mandate or approval of a majority.” United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group, Inc., 529 U. S. 803, 818 (2000).” (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011).

In addition, the Justice Scalia (rather comically) determined that violence is not obscene and that California’s law could open gateways for further regulation on depictions of violence that could be potentially render publishers (of both video games and other forms of media) into a near catatonic state if left unaltered and he uses the example of iconic fairy tales such as Hansel and Gretel to illustrate the point that although the main characters in that story, children no less, kill their captor by pushing her into an oven meant for them, a moral of not wandering into stranger’s homes is established (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011). Thus, these violent games are not without some merit of value through careful consideration.

Ultimately, the Court acknowledged that “The Video Software Dealers Association encourages retailers to prominently display information about the ESRB system in their stores; to refrain from renting or selling adults only games to minors; and to rent or sell “M” rated games to minors only with parental consent.” and determined that:

“This system does much to ensure that minors cannot purchase seriously violent games on their own, and that parents who care about the matter can readily evaluate the games their children bring home. Filling the remaining modest gap in concerned-parents’ control can hardly be a compelling state interest.” (Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, 2011).

The compelling state interest being referred to is most likely the notion of “parens patriae”, a term that literally translates to “parent of the country”; wherefore a state may assume the legal responsibility, care, protection and custody of a child within its jurisdiction. It is essentially the right of the government to take care of minors and youths that cannot take care of themselves, in order to prevent them from future and further harms (Hess, Orthman, and Wright, 6th edition, 2013, 418).

Overall, the issues regarding violent video games (and other violent media for that matter) and the regulation of such, is a hot button issue. Such debate has elements of maintaining equal protections on freedoms of speech, while also protecting citizens and youth from potential stimuli of violence. While significant strides have been made to prevent the sale of inappropriate media to minors through the usage of the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s criteria, it may be the parents that are ultimately responsible for monitoring their child’s access to violent content.

Annotated Bibliography

1. Anders, Kelly. 1999. "Marketing and Policy Considerations for Violent Video Games." Journal of Public Policy & Marketing Fall. 270-73.

This article is significant in that it provides information regarding policies that were under consideration during the Clinton Administration that are related to violent video games and their distribution to minors. It also provides for a few statistics that demonstrate the past recommended ratings by the ESRB as well as what those recommended ratings represent. Market practices, the Columbine High School shootings, and Federal Trade Commission are mentioned as focal points for consideration. Anders essentially sets up the argument of “parens patriae” as a precedent for policy regarding marketing of violent video games. Essentially, it is the responsibility of the state to protect adolescents from harm.

2. Anderson, Craig A., and Brad J. Bushman. 2001. "Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggressive Behavior, Aggressive Cognition, Aggressive Affect, Physiological Arousal, and Prosocial Behavior: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature." Psychological Science. September. 353-59.

This article also mentions the Columbine High School shooting in addition to a few others that were under investigation as it seemed that an underlying cause of these heinous mass murder events. Then it attempts to relate aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and physiological arousal to exposure to violent video games. It also is useful in that it provides a single-episode and multiple-episode version of the General Aggression Model which is significant to my research. I intend to specifically target the state policies mentioned in future research gathering and determine which were passed and those that were not.

3. Bushman, B. J., and C. A. Anderson. 2002. "Violent Video Games and Hostile Expectations: A Test of the General Aggression Model." Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. December. 1679-1686.

This article from the Iowa State University puts the General Aggression Model through further tests in order to test the expectation of violence in potential conflict situations. Students were essentially asked to play a game for 20 minutes and then were asked what they believed would occur in three story stems and what they believed the main character in each scenario would think, do, or say. They use four different games of each type (non-violent and violent) in order to maintain a control group. What they found essentially was that those that played the violent video games prior to answering these questions would expect a more violent approach than those that did not.

4. Carnagey, Nicholas L., Craig A. Anderson, and Brad J. Bushman. 2007. "The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-life Violence." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 43.3. 489-96.

This academic journal article suggests that video game violence desensitizes people to real-world violence. Researchers conducted experiments and monitored participants’ heart rates and galvanized skin responses. A few of the games used were Mortal Kombat, Glider Pro, Carmaggedon, and Duke Nukem, which were featured in other experiments in the aforementioned articles. Thus, it relevant to the studies correlating violent media (in this regard video games) with aggressive behaviors which, in turn, may lead to violent crime.

5. Desai, Rani A., Suchitra Krisnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo, and Marc N. Potenza. 2010. "Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming." American Academy of Pediatrics. e1414-e1424.

This particular article focuses on high school students (which are part of the target age demographic for my argument that violent media should not be advertised to such youths). It differentiates between normal video gaming and problematic gaming. The research was done with gender as a potentially significant variable and with risk behaviors as a potential indicator of poor gaming habits. In addition, the research reflected the market for video games as the data indicated that more males that females play regularly and this may be those females that are attracted to gaming are more aggressive and find it as a recreational activity that allows the alleviation of those tendencies. It shows that females have increa

6. Engelhardt, Christopher R., Bruce D. Bartholow, Geoffrey T. Kerr, and Brad J. Bushman. 2011. "This Is Your Brain on Violent Video Games: Neural Desensitization to Violence Predicts Increased Aggression following Violent Video Game Exposure." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 47.5. 1033-036.

This research is similar to that of Anderson et al. work in relating violent video games and desensitization but this research takes on a different approach. They research how willing an individual is to inflict pain upon another during a “competitive reaction time task” through sound blasts. They determined that those that had played a violent video game were more likely to inflict longer and more intense sound blasts to their “opponent” (in reality, there was no opponent, just a computer randomly generating sound blasts at different intensities). The data from this adds to the initial findings of the Anderson et al. trial.

7. Federal Trade Commission. 2007. Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children: A Fifth Follow-Up Review of Industry Practices in the Motion Picture, Music Recording & Electronic Game Industries: A Federal Trade Commission Report to Congress. April.

This report essentially provides detailed analysis of the marketing practices and effectiveness of the Entertainment Software Rating Board’s (ESRB) (a self-regulatory organization) rating system. In addition it provides more current information regarding the distribution of those ratings. This information is absolutely crucial to establishing violent media (i.e. violent video games) as a serious domestic policy issue. It rates the overall satisfaction of parents with the ratings system as well as the familiarity of the parents to it and the awareness of the content descriptors.

8. Cunningham, A. Scott & Engelstätter, Benjamin and; Ward, Michael R. 2011.
"Understanding the effects of violent video games on violent crime,"
ZEW Discussion Papers 11-042, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

In this research investigate the relationship between the prevalence of violent video games and violent crimes. The data seems to indicate that violent video games may actually lead to decreases in violent crime. It also utilizes the GAM (General Aggression Model) as a guideline. This article also makes references to the Federal Trade Commission reports for 2009. Granted, the one I’ve listed above is for 2007, it is still fairly recent and pertinent. In particular, this study dealt with the effects of video game sales on violent crimes using time variation in sales data of the top selling games in relation to the violent criminal offenses listed in the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week starting from 2005-2008.