Playing the blame game with video games, yet again
A gunman enters a populated area and mows down innocent lives. Many are left dead and in the aftermath, we are all looking for answers: Why? How? What motivated such evil?
One of the rationalizations many want to draw from regarding such violence includes whether these younger, male gunmen play violent video games.
The Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas was another tragedy on the massive list of school shootings that have occurred here in the United States. There will be more, unfortunately. It’s a sad reality.
But blaming video games — which millions of people use and enjoy — is creating a scapegoat.
Blame Game While Ignoring Gun Access
“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” former U.S president Donald Trump said at a roundtable discussion in 2018, shortly after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the questions asked led to the same place: what about video games?
Just recently at the NRA convention that took place shortly after the shooting, Texas US Senator Ted Cruz insinuated just that: “They’re living a virtual life in the absence of community and faith and love.” These sentiments fall in line with what we’ve seen dozens of times before. Meanwhile, the easy access to guns for teenagers in Texas is ignored. Blame the video game, instead.
This conversation has roots stretching all the way back to the early 1990s, when a push to inform parents about what their kids might be playing and the video game violence paranoia was at an all-time high. Because of the infamy of games such as “Night Trap” and “Mortal Kombat,” the Entertainment Software Ratings Board was created and has operated since then, which is a good thing. Similar to the movie ratings we know today, game ratings help inform anyone about what they’re consuming.
These days, you can’t buy an “M” rated video game, the highest possible rating for most mainstream video games, without a parent or guardian being present during the purchase. However, this particular system isn’t perfect. It can be circumvented by online purchases and digital purchases, which can’t account for parental supervision easily.
Video Games Are Not Triggers
While true that many killers involved in mass shootings have some sort of relationship with video games, whether or not those games play any sort of role in the shooting itself is another matter entirely. Many studies have been done to explore whether or not violent video games play a role in violent acts.
For instance, the Royal Society Open Science Journal conducted a 2019 study to see whether or not youth that was exposed to violent video games were capable of committing violent acts. The findings of the piece suggest that they do not, as, “…the results derived from our hypothesis testing did not support the position that violent gaming relates to aggressive behaviour.”
The results of the study show that while there is evidence that violent video games may foster negative reactions, they couldn’t definitively prove that these games made adolescents more aggressive as a result, much less commit a horrific school shooting because of a game. Towards the end, the study goes on to admit that studies like this rely on self-reporting on behalf of the subjects, which isn’t always accurate.
Why is it only the U.S?
There are many other studies that are similar to this one, and they compete with other studies that claim the opposite, that video games do actually play a factor in real-world violence. The most revealing fact about the existence of both kinds of studies is that violent video games may have some kind of effect on people, but aren’t some root cause that explicitly causes real-world violence.
Violent and gun-laden movies are never blamed for unthinkable crimes against society, why should video games?
The U.S leads the world in school shootings by a wide margin and consistently places high on lists of countries with the most gun-related deaths. When it comes to video games, the U.S ranks just behind China for most money made in video game revenue.
The amount of video games that are played worldwide is only growing, yet it’s only the U.S that has such an absurd amount of school shootings. The thesis that video games trigger violence doesn’t add up.
If violent video games are to blame, then how have those numbers not grown further? The number of gamers in the U.S in 2020 was estimated to be about 224 million. How have we not had even more mass shootings? The only answer is that video games have absolutely nothing to do with the tragedies that have only become more frequent as the years pass by.
As more tragedies occur in our country, the argument about violent video games and violent media perpetuating heinous acts seems only more absurd as time goes on. Violent video games as a scapegoat for the horror that plagues this country is a card that has gotten very old, very fast.
Maybe the introspection that needs to be done should be focused on our country’s relationship with weaponry instead of a medium that has answered this question dozens of times before.
You can reach Eloin Barahona-Garcia at firstname.lastname@example.org