Video games with a fair amount of violence in them often become the center of controversy whenever young people commit violent crimes. In Karnakata, a 21-year-old killed his father because, allegedly, his father did not let him recharge his phone to play PUBG Mobile. This among other incidents led many lawmakers to try to ban the game in India. US President Donald Trump spoke of how violent video games are responsible for the "glorification of violence in our society". This was after the horrific mass shootings in Ohio and Texas.

violence video games crime
Shooters like PUBG Mobile have been associated with even crimes like murder

These accusations towards violent video games are nothing new, and gamers often receive backing from research that says otherwise. There is little evidence that suggests a causal relationship between video games and violence. Some research found links between violent video games and aggression. But this is not the same as criminal violence.

But simply negating the link between violence in video games and violence in real life doesn't quite cover the whole story. We need to stress the point violence in video games not only isn't actively harmful, but often beneficial. Quite a few games out there are just mindless bloody affairs, which we know don't contribute to real-life violence.

pubg mobile crime
Being a criminal in video games can mean nothing more than an eSports organization

But a lot of games place the violence within conditions and context that forces players to struggle with moral quandaries and social interactions. The way violence functions in narrative-driven video games isn't really different from the way it functions in literature or cinema. It can make social commentary that parallels our real-life problems just as well as any story-telling medium.

Furthermore, with video games, interactivity and immersion give violence a much greater impact on the gaming world in which players take part. Which is unlike the more hands-off experience when reading books or watching movies.

Violence in video games makes players think more

In several video games, the ability to explore the plot, character background and gameplay progression makes violence something players have to think about often. Even in a chaotic and violence-fueled game like Grand Theft Auto IV, players have to consider how much violence weighs on the mind of the main character, Niko Bellic. He constantly gets dragged into what he thought he ran away from in Eastern Europe to even survive, let alone achieve the mythical "American Dream".

grand theft auto iv niko
In GTA IV, players understand what "live by the sword, die by the sword" means

The player is left wondering whether Niko's fate is doomed to a life of crime and violence, or whether he chooses this life because it's all he's good at. Either way, everything comes in full circle when Niko's actions eventually result in the death of one of his loved ones. Who suffers from Niko's actions is up to the player's choices as well, which gives weight to the violence that occurs in the game.

Violence in video games is often complicated, like in real life

Other games not only incorporate moral paradigms and context to their story-telling but have them as core gameplay features. Usually, the player must think about what decisions to make that may contextualize or justify their delivery of violence. Whatever choice is made could have real ramifications on the way the game progresses.

heavy rain
Heavy Rain frames the violence in the same way detective and crime novels do, but one medium gets all the attention

The game's storyline and lore may help to inform how the player makes their choice, but they can also rely on their own sense of morality. And some games don't even frame such actions in terms of "good" or "bad" but simply let choices and consequences play out in nuanced ways.

For example, in the game Heavy Rain, the player assumes a number of characters who all have their own reasons to track down a serial killer. One of the characters is the father of a boy whom the serial killer abducted. The serial killer threatens to kill his son unless he undergoes a series of "trials" that demand, among many things, the murder of an innocent man. There are about 17 endings to the game which can range from happy endings to horrible fates for all characters except one.

heavy rain characters
The game was pretty innovative when it first came out

A game like Heavy Rain presents a number of choices that players can approach in any number of ways. There is no particular moral slant that the game pushes the player towards. But other games actually encourage players to make decisions that are more ethically and morally responsible.

Games can discourage violence as a solution

In the game Undertale, the player is a child who finds themselves in the Underground. The Underground is a world full of monsters sent there from Earth after a war versus the humans. When encountering these monsters, the player chooses to fight or be merciful and diplomatic, and Undertale encourages the player to find the least antagonistic approach.

undertale characters
The "people" of Undertale

Being pacifistic isn't easy when players must deal with opponents like Undyne who provokes the player into a violent confrontation. Undertale is an example of a game that makes us think about what causes violence and confrontation, especially in regards to people who feel marginalized.

Games can portray how people justify violence as good or bad

Fallout New Vegas by Obsidian Entertainment has a fairly complex system of measuring both morality and reputation, which shows how the two can be at odds. In a world nearly destroyed by a nuclear apocalypse and where people place survival above all else, morality would often come across as an obstacle to your progression.

fallout new vegas
Fallout New Vegas does a great job of portraying what a world that places survival above all looks like

Belonging to one of many factions in the game requires you to kill members of other factions. This can increase your reputation with that faction but hurt your karma level, which measures morality. As with the real world, doing the wrong thing is often the preferred choice for any group as long as it advances their interests.

More video games = Less violence

These are just some of the examples of how video games can act as act a lens through which we understand and approach violence. The interactivity of video games lets players personally ponder on why and how we do violent things, and what causes it.

video games violence
About time we discard this notion of games and violence causing for good

Not only are video games not the cause of violence, but they help us examine the questions that help mitigate it in real life. If we want to truly address the problem of violence that happens in our society, then we should be playing more video games that look at the issue critically instead, not less.

For more gaming news, updates, and articles, check out our website at