From time to time, video games have been criticized by parents’ groups, psychologists, politicians, and some religious organizations for allegedly glorifying violence, cruelty and crime, and exposing children to these elements. It is particularly disturbing to some that some video games allow children to act out crimes (for example, the Grand Theft Auto series), and reward them for doing so. Concerns that children who play violent video games may have a tendency to act more aggressively on the playground have led to voluntary rating systems adopted by the industry, such as the ESRB rating system in the United States and the PEGI rating system in Europe, that are aimed at educating parents about the types of games their children should or should not be playing. Although, studies have shown that most parents who complain about their young children acting increasingly aggressive and violent on the school playground due to video games do not follow the ESRB and PEGI rating systems. Many parents complain about their children, as young as 8, acting out violence depicted in Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, even though their ratings clearly state that the recommended age is 18 and above.
Most studies, however, reached the conclusion that violence in video games is not causally linked with aggressive tendencies. This was the conclusion of a 1999 study by the United States government, prompting Surgeon General David Satcher to say, “we clearly associate media violence to aggressive behavior, but the impact was very small compared to other things. Some may not be happy with that, but that’s where the magic is”. This was also the conclusion of a meta-analysis by psychologist Jonathan Freedman, who reviewed over 200 published studies and found that the majority did not find a causal link.
Video game consoles were banned in China between June 2000 and July 2015.