A lot of blame gets thrown around during mass shootings, but one thing that is consistently pointed to by members on both sides of the aisle is video games.
If the shooter so much as looked in the direction of a video game before he or she decides to pull the trigger, the suggestion that video games influence violence enters the national conversation. After the Jacksonville Landing shooting, it did so again.
this is to all people who say that video games don't make people violent: apologize
— Adrinvs Avrelivs (@adrianStrong666) August 27, 2018
Do violent video games cause violence? 🧐 https://t.co/jPDStQ4qwH
— Max Keiser (@maxkeiser) August 26, 2018
Gamers: Please consider this point. What other terrible act is ok2 engage with in games but not real life besides shooting/murder. Would a video game about molestation or rape be ok? No? Then why the killings of humans. I promise we will look back on the gaming of murder as WRONG
— Ⓥ 🐦 #BernieNina2020~Love is STRONG ~ I try to be (@InLWithLBeingL) August 26, 2018
There was a mass shooting today in Jacksonville at the Madden Tournament, and I’m not surprised at all. I have been warning ppl for the longest, that the gaming community is festering with dangerous extremists and it was only a matter of time before they launched an attack https://t.co/MRPGICrAts
— Tariq Nasheed (@tariqnasheed) August 26, 2018
The idea that gaming causes aggression to the point of murderous intent has has yielded little evidence. Studies from The American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics both claimed that research suggests so.
However, more thorough research finds the exact opposite. These studies include:
- A study by sociologist Whitney DeCamp and psychologist Christopher Ferguson of Western Michigan University.
- A study by Dr. Andy Przybylski, from Oxford University’s Oxford Internet Institute.
- A study by Dr David Zendle at the University of York.
- A study by Dr. Gregor Szycik of the Hannover Medical School
These studies all pointed to video games being a non-factor in the buildup of aggression among gamers. In fact, a common reoccurring theme from studies is that gaming actually reduced aggression in males.
As DeCamp notes, previous studies that find links tend to be less comprehensive and do not account for the fact that violent children who play violent video games were predisposed toward violence before they ever picked up a controller. The real responsibility for many of the violent children’s tendencies begins with home life.
“The parenting measures in my study were some of the bigger predictors,” DeCamp said. “The parental attachment between the youth and the parent, the monitoring activities of the parents—that is, whether the parents are aware of what the kids are doing—and parental enforcement of the rules were all strong predictors. Seeing or hearing violence in the home and experiencing violence in the home were also powerful predictors. So home life seems to matter more than just playing violent video games.”
The logic behind video games causing violence is the same we use to defend gun owners. Owning a gun is not an accurate predictor of whether or not a person will engage in violent activity. If it was, then America would be drowning in Jacksonvilles. I’m willing to believe that the number of gamers outnumber the amount of gun owners given the fact that over 150 million Americans play often according to the Entertainment Software Association and there is no restrictions on who can purchase and play. If video games did cause violence, then the nation’s gutters would be stained red with blood.
However, they’re not. Mass shootings like the one in Jacksonville remain statistically rare.
Is trash talking, and trolling more common? Yes, but that’s not necessarily a byproduct of video games specifically. Anonymity mixed with zero repercussions for foul behavior is going to inspire some to communicate maliciously. This isn’t just seen in video games, but throughout the entirety of the internet. If you want a clear example of this, espouse some center-right, or anti-feminist opinions on Twitter. Someone very angry will be with you shortly.
I want to remind everyone that the victims of the Jacksonville shooting were gamers. Normal people who gathered to compete and good fun and fellowship with one another in peace. The shooter — who’s name I won’t have a hand in writing into the forever that is the internet — must have had something else that made him willing to brutally take the lives of other gamers. Since we can now logically rule out video games and guns being the driving factor behind the violence, then there must be something else.
And that is the mystery we should be trying to solve.