When it comes to video games, one fact is indisputable: They are more popular than ever. About 43% of U.S. adults often or sometimes play video games, according to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, with 72% of men and 49% of women reporting that they play them on a game console, computer, TV or portable device, including cellphones.

What is less agreed upon is whether video games are an overall benefit or hindrance to players and society. While games have been praised for their ability to boost learning, social interaction and physical health, they have also been questioned as possible causes for aggression or violence. 

The debate over the pros and cons of video games has been going on for almost as long as the games have existed. But since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, in which one of the killers had a history of playing a shooting video game, discussions on the connection between video games and violence have become more frequent.

“Columbine solidified in the minds of many that there was a definitive link between violence and video games,” Chris Ferguson, PhD, a media researcher at Stetson University who studies video games, told The Nation’s Health.

Many Americans continue to believe that video games cause gun violence, with the issue raised again after recent U.S. mass shootings. The 2017 Pew study found that 65% of adults believed video games contribute a great deal or a fair amount to gun violence. The belief was even higher among people 65 and older, with 82% of seniors making the connection.

Continue reading this story from the October 2019 issue of The Nation's Health.