August 7, 2019

Video games causing violence once again a discussion, research still disagrees

Video games have once again been in the political crosshairs as America tries to heal from a weekend where over 30 people died in two mass shootings. As the national conversation aims to pinpoint the cause of this violence, video games are often pointed to as something that can be damaging to the youth. 

The conversation around the effects video games have on kids came straight from the top. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” said President Trump. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately.”

Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, and Kevin McCarthy, the Republican House minority leader, both echoed the president’s sentiments in clips that went viral after the shootings. But it wasn’t just members of the GOP speaking out against video games. 

Joe Biden, the former Vice President to Obama and the leader in early polling to be the democratic nominee for president, also indicated video games as “not healthy.” 

“I’ve talked about [violent games] too,” Biden said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN. “It is not healthy to have these games teaching the kids the dispassionate notion that you can shoot somebody and kind of blow their brains out.”

Video games were only one small part of his answer on why America continues to battle such crippling violence. He pointed to “the NRA and gun manufacturers” when asked to identify the main causes of the gun violence problem. 

The rhetoric around video games causing real-life violence truly began with Columbine. Back in 1999, video games were coming out of a decade that saw them move from cartoony 2D arcade games into truly fleshed out online experiences. Games were able to unlock details never before seen and that included violence. 

At the time, it seemed plausible that this recent increase in violent games also caused issues in real life. But now, with over 20 years of experience with modern violent games, researchers have been able to author comprehensive studies about the effects of violent games on people. 

They haven’t found much.

Oxford University published a report earlier this year saying they found no link between virtual violence and aggressive behavior. The University of York found the same in 2018. Reports in 2016 and 2015 also agreed with those conclusions.

“There’s absolutely no causal evidence that violent video game play leads to aggression in the real world,” said Andrew Przybylski, a co-author of the Oxford study in an interview with NBC News. “We found a whole lot of nothing.”

Those studies do well to break down the academic effects of violent video games on adolescents, but they are hardly necessary. The best case for video games is the fact that mass shootings are an American problem, not a global one.

The entire planet is playing the same level of violent games, but mass shootings are only happening in America.

That chart from Vox has been the most cited response to politicians blaming violence on video games. But a chart can never tell the whole story, the most staunch defender of video games in the mainstream media space has been Rod ‘Slasher’ Breslau. One of the old guard in esports, Slasher has seen this discussion plenty of times in the past. 

He went on Fox News to talk with Dana Perino about some of the misconceptions around the video game world in regards to violence.

This discussion won’t go away any time soon. With both the current Republican president and the leading democratic nominee identifying video games as a possible concern, there’s a solid chance that some sort of video game legislation will eventually be passed as an across-the-aisle solution to mass shootings. 

But the research says that won’t help one bit.

Credit: Mitch Reames

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  • Outstanding article! Not sure what in the background of any of the most recent shooters would indicate that they were influenced by gaming. In fact, the mainstream media pointed to their warped political motivations.
    Finding blame in video games is not going to solve this problem. Many gamers have remarked to me that gaming is not inciting them to violence, rather it is a great stress reliever and a safe place to blow off steam.

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