Video games are created and developed by an industry worth $93 billion to entertain mass audiences. But can video games influence gamers to kill? The public seems to be split on the idea that games should be seen as catalysts for an uptick in mass shootings. Some refute the suggestion while others feel the topic should remain a concern, especially with recent tragedies such as the shooting in El Paso and Ohio in mind.
Violence in video games is not new, it has been around since the 1980s. “Pac-Man,” a game where the player controls the titular character, must eat every dot in an enclosed maze to advance to the next level while facing opposition from four ghosts who try to eat Pac-Man. There has even been controversy surrounding “Mortal Kombat” since its release in 1992. It was similar to “Street Fighter” but the only way to win was by killing their opponent in a gruesome manner. Now today, the most popular games are combat related like “Battlefield,” “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty.” So when did the war on video games really start?
I feel the blame on video games originally rose after the Columbine shooting. Both shooters, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, played the video games “Doom” and “Quake” obsessively. One of the shooters wrote in his journal that his thoughts often reflected his favorite game, Doom. But how much of a correlation is there between violent images depicted in video games and the behavior of gamers?
According to an article published by CNN, the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics report that more than 90% of children in the United States, between the ages of 12-17, play video games. More than 85% of the games on the market have violence of some sort. In the same article however, associate sociology professor, Whitney DeCamp, took a survey from 6,567 eighth-graders in Delaware, asking if they had played violent video games in the past year. After conducting the study, DeCamp found that playing video games did not predict violent behavior. In fact, there had been an economic study by the Southern Economic Association which saw general societal violence decreased in the weeks after a new game was released.
In the same study it was found that 20% of school shooters showed an active interest in violent video games while 70% of high school students played violent video games. This means that that school shooters are less likely to enjoy playing violent video games than the average high school student. If we take a look at other shootings like Aurora, Vegas, Pulse, Dayton and El Paso, none of their motivations can be traced back to video games and none of the perpetrators fit the typical gamer profile.
Tragedies from El Paso and Pulse stem from an agenda of hatred and bigotry. The El Paso shooter, Patrick Crusius’ social media account revealed that Crusius was a Republican who heavily supported President Trump and took a militant stance against immigration. Investigators reported that Crusius targeted the Walmart in El Paso because it has a high population of Mexicans. He apparently showed no remorse for the shooting and said that he wanted to kill as many Mexicans as he could. Now, I’m not suggesting that Crusius is a fair representation of what republicans stand for, but it gives a motive as to why Crusius committed the crime.
Another question to be asked is if violent video games are played by people all over the world, why does it seem like it is a problem unique to Americans? In an article by the Business Insider, it was noted that gaming is very important in Japanese culture, and while their games are considered more brutal in comparison to American games, there has been fewer gun deaths in Japan than America in the last 10 years.
Video games are not responsible for mass shootings. There is no indication or evidence to suggest that violent video games are responsible for mass shootings. If there was, stats of gun violence would be far higher and would involve other countries. That responsibility lies within the individual who would rather enact their frustrations in a destructive way than a constructive, mature way.
Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell