A recent report has (once again) concluded that there is no definitive link or correlation between video games and violent or aggressive behavior. This is a question that has followed the gaming medium throughout its existence, and as gaming platforms evolve and new methods of study emerge, it will likely continue to be a focal point for those concerned about the impact gaming has on players.

Looking back at some of the earliest video games that have come under criticism for their depictions or perceived glorification of violence, it’s difficult to not find them laughable by today’s standards. Arcade games such as 1976’s Death Race, for example, sparked widespread media concern because it, according to psychologist Dr. Byrde Meeks, “appeals to the morbidity in a person,” likening it to the kind of game that violent prisoners would enjoy. Years later, the first Mortal Kombat helped spark congressional hearings centered around violence in video games, ultimately leading to the creation of the ESRB. One can’t help but wonder how those concerned journalists and Senators would react to something like the Brutalities in Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath today.

According to Guardian, the most recent study (as conducted by Massey University’s Aaron Drummond and published today in Royal Society Open Science) looked at 28 studies over the past 12 years in order to draw a conclusion based on their overall findings. The researchers found that “current research is unable to support the hypothesis that violent video games have a meaningful long-term predictive impact on youth aggression.” For many gamers, this is welcome–albeit unsurprising–news. Video games have been put through both literal courts and the court of public opinion many times over the past few decades as a possible contributing factor to events such as mass shootings and bullying in schools, and these trials have almost always resulted in their exoneration.

Other researchers have acknowledged the seemingly cyclic nature of questioning the effects that violent video games have on us. In a 2019 report, Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein wrote that despite their (identical) findings, “history gives us reason to suspect the idea that violent video games drives aggressive behavior will remain an unsettled question for parents, pundits, and policy-makers.” The reasons for why this is the case are not explored in their study, but understanding them may be the key to settling the debate once and for all.

The first explanation is simple; it seems to defy logic. If one were to spend most of their time consuming violent media, why wouldn’t they take on some of those traits? That’s a study all by itself. Secondly, as technology evolves, developers are able to depict violence with increasing realism, something that virtual reality is only making more immersive. Third, violent video games have quickly become some of the most popular titles and are therefore easier for younger players to access. Despite the best intentions of the ESRB, it is undoubtedly easier than ever for adolescent players to find ways to play DOOM Eternal, The Last of Us: Part II, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, or any other modern title that depicts gratuitous amounts of realistic violence. Finally - and this may be the most basic reason of all - parents will never not worry about what their children are exposed to, especially if it’s something that they are unfamiliar with.