Violence Through the Screen: Violence in Video Games

In the history of man, there is always one prevalent topic. A topic that is heavily romanticized, written songs of, even venerated. From the first murder in the religious texts of various beliefs, to scientific evidence of tools used for anything other than gathering and harvesting. 


A common theme in history and in literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, this concept is almost a part of humanity. Tales of yore speak of knights fighting dragons to rescue fair maidens, and history books list down the number of dead whenever two opposing factions meet on the battlefields. The medium of how they recorded said violence has changed throughout the eras.

From paintings on the walls, to carvings and statues, and then to stone reliefs and texts. Statues of famous figures are erected to commemorate a historic victory against their enemies, and paintings are commissioned to immortalize their triumphs. War Journalism then emerged and only furthered upon the onset of the camera.

Movies were made about war, from the Great War to the Vietnam War, depicting the horror, brutality, maybe even beauty, and all other potential perspectives one may have about war and violence. The medium only spread upon even more come the introduction of video games.

Wolfenstein 3D 1992

In particular, the game that pioneered the most popular gaming genre to this day, the First Person Shooter. Such a game was Wolfenstein 3D, commonly accepted as the “Grandfather of FPS”, in which the protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz shoots his way out of Castle Wolfenstein, dropping villainous soldiers left, right, and center. Ultimately dealing with the Fuhrer who wields two miniguns, collapsing into a pile of flesh once he is defeated.

Fast forward to the modern versions of such games, we have examples such as Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal which showcase the Doom Slayer slaughtering his way through scores of demons with gratuitous violence. 

Doom Eternal 2020 glory kill gif

Games such as the Left 4 Dead series, made by Valve, put you and three others into a situation where you need to make your way to a rescue vehicle while being assaulted by waves and waves of zombies. A cornucopia of methods are available as to how to dispatch these zombies, from frying pans to machetes. Once these melee weapons contact these enemies, more often than not, they are torn apart by either brute force or clean cuts.

Left 4 Dead 2 intro cinematic screenshot

Blood and gore are plentiful between the two games, and it is you who control just how much you want to spill.

But does that need to shed blood spill over to real life? 

A study done in 2014 by the American Psychology Association shows that video games, in tandem to their sales, do not have a positive relationship with aggravated assaults and homicide cases. In fact, it is an opposite effect, wherein there is a decrease in assaults and homicides when concerning video games (Markey, Markey, & French, 2014). Catharsis, which is the process of relieving stress and pent-up emotions, is one of the key factors as to why there is this negative correlation between video games and real societal violence. 

Simply put, one does not become a violent individual in the real world just because he/she slaughtered scores of undead or mindless minions. 

My own experience of using video games as a catharsis also speaks as to not having any murderous urges outside of the game. Once I get my fill, so to speak, I have a sense of wholeness now that I expunged my raw emotions into wanton digital destruction. 

Can’t really hurt people in real life when you’re hurting 0’s and 1’s, eh?


Markey, P. M., Markey, C. N., & French, J. E. (2015). Violent video games and real-world violence: Rhetoric versus data. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(4), 277–295.

Published by Efren Shawn Claude R. Gonzales

AB - Psychology student in his last year of college.

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