Violent video games and other inappropriate content

Video games can be violent, bigoted, racist, sexist, and more. Do you know which violent video games your kids are playing? Do you know the messages they contain and how they impact your child? If you are a parent it is your decision which films your child watches, which websites they visit and which games they play.

How do you find out potential inappropriate content of the game without playing the game yourself? Well, you can’t. Would you let your child watch a film that may be inappropriate for your child? We know that some violent video games contain questionable content. Unfortunately we are not so sure of the impact this has on young people.

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More research

Fair Play? Violence, Gender and Race in Video Games, Glaubke C, Miller P, Parker McCrae A, Espejo, E, 2001

Only a Game: Why Censoring New Media Won’t Stop Gun Violence, Judith Levine, 2013

Evidence for publication bias in video game violence effects literature: A meta-analytic review. Aggression and Violent Behavior, Ferguson, C. J. (2007)

The impact of prolonged violent video-gaming on adolescent sleep: An experimental study, King, D. L., Gradisar, M., Drummond, A., Lovato, N., Wessel, J., Micic, G., Douglas, P., & Delfabbro, P. H. (2013).

Violent video games   

There is no disputing the presence of graphic violence in certain video games, however there are two schools of thought about the implications of violent video games on young people. The majority of popular video games do contain violence. Video games often portray violence as insignificant with no consequences to the victim or perpetrator, which as we know in real life is not the case. This can send players, particularly young players the message that violence is harmless, funny, or even an acceptable way to get what they want. Violence as an acceptable solution surely cannot be a positive message to be teaching our young people. However this is a hot topic for debate.

violenceThere is much research to show that playing violent video games is not proven to create violent behaviour in players. School shootings are often blamed on violent video games, however a common and popular activity such as playing video games that millions of players do, cannot predict a rare behaviour such as a shooting. If video games did cause criminal and violent behaviour in players there would be a dramatic increase in crime rates, however crime rates are actually dropping – so how is this possible if video games cause criminal activity?

violent video games can be considered as inappropriate content if these violent video games are played by young children.

Gender Stereotypes

Gender stereotypes are a common theme through many video games. For many young people still developing their perception of the adult world, the commonly used stereotypes in video games can be harmful and create a distorted representation for players of roles and abilities of the sexes. Female characters particularly are entrenched in stereotypes. Male characters appear more frequently in video games compared to females and talk significantly more; typically achieving more and demonstrating more leadership skills and opportunities compared to female characters.  Women are often represented as passive and subordinate characters that depend on men, while often sexual relationships are key to their role in the game. Female characters are often categorized into four groups of characters: sex objects or prizes, victims, feminists and heroes. In a recent study of popular video games 41% of games had no female characters at all; 21% represented women as victims; 28% showed as sex objects; and only 15% portrayed women as heroes in gameplay.

gender and video gamesFemale characters are significantly more likely to be wearing revealing clothing than males. Female characters are more likely to be pictured in a hypersexual way, such as being half nude, wearing inappropriate revealing clothing, having an unrealistic body image, including bigger breasts and smaller body sizes. This could potentially be damaging to male and female players perception of genders, and development of their own identity and attitudes towards the opposite sex. Another concern of stereotypes female characters in video games is that they can appear in video games regardless of the games rating, potentially exposing children to inappropriate content.

violent video games

Who are we?


Video games often under represent ethnic groups, Black, Asian and Hispanic characters often appear far less frequently in video games, with main characters being predominately white males. Often ethnic characters are portrayed in stereotypical way, which can be damaging to the development of young people’s perception of race and ethnicity. Those young people with ethnic backgrounds can be left feeling degraded or left out, and Caucasian youths form a distorted generalised view of an entire race or ethnicity. Video games often portray the stereotypes of black criminals, white heroes, and Asians being good at martial arts, this is evident in many popular video games.

Studies have shown that stereotypes of race in video games shape players perceptions of that race in the real world. The more players play video games depicting these stereotypes the more players believe these stereotypes, shaping incorrect beliefs of races.  Characters of difference races are very rarely heroes, rescuers or champions in games. Often these characters are stereotyped as being overly muscular, athletes with unnatural abilities or exotic fighters.  Stereotyping characters like this give an unrealistic view of difference races to young people.

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