Violent video games in forensic psychiatric hospitals

Tobias D. Wasser, Rocksheng Zhong, Jeffrey Mufson, Ayala Danzig, Livja Koka, Reena Kapoor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Popular media and the lay public have long expressed concerns about the association between violent video games and violent behavior. The current scientific literature exploring this connection focuses primarily on the relationship between violent video games and aggression in healthy populations. We are unaware of prior publications exploring the effect of such games on aggression in institutional settings or with forensic populations. Here we examine whether state psychiatric institutions, particularly forensic hospitals, have set policies to govern the use of violent video games for patients under their care. We present data from a national survey of such institutions in the United States, with some anecdotal international data included. The results dem-onstrate that hospital policies, when they exist, are inconsistent in their approaches to the use of violent video games. We argue that hospitals should devise policies that acknowledge the lim-ited evidence in this area and that optimally balance the relevant stakeholders’ interests. We propose guiding principles that balance these competing interests for institutions to consider when developing such policies. Finally, we advocate for further research regarding the safety and potential therapeutic effects of video games in forensic settings so that an evidence-based approach can be initiated future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Forensic hospital
  • Video games
  • Violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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