The good, the bad and the ugly: a meta-analytic review of positive and negative effects of violent video games

Psychiatr Q. 2007 Dec;78(4):309-16. doi: 10.1007/s11126-007-9056-9.


Objective: Video game violence has become a highly politicized issue for scientists and the general public. There is continuing concern that playing violent video games may increase the risk of aggression in players. Less often discussed is the possibility that playing violent video games may promote certain positive developments, particularly related to visuospatial cognition. The objective of the current article was to conduct a meta-analytic review of studies that examine the impact of violent video games on both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition in order to understand the full impact of such games.

Methods: A detailed literature search was used to identify peer-reviewed articles addressing violent video game effects. Effect sizes r (a common measure of effect size based on the correlational coefficient) were calculated for all included studies. Effect sizes were adjusted for observed publication bias.

Results: Results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition. Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression. However playing violent video games remained related to higher visuospatial cognition (r (x) = 0.36).

Conclusions: Results from the current analysis did not support the conclusion that violent video game playing leads to aggressive behavior. However, violent video game playing was associated with higher visuospatial cognition. It may be advisable to reframe the violent video game debate in reference to potential costs and benefits of this medium.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Aptitude / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Publication Bias
  • Research Design / standards
  • Risk Factors
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Video Games / adverse effects*
  • Video Games / psychology*
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Visual Perception / physiology