by Johanna Kumpula
Violence in video games has been a controversial subject for years and many are claiming that this uncensored exposure to violence is causing kids to act out and become aggressive. Games like Grand Theft Auto V are supposedly encouraging kids to take to the streets with weapons and commit theft and assault. Now, as an avid lover of games that are normally considered violent, I find this claim suspiciously lacks a substantial amount of evidence. Blaming an object or fictional portrayal for an act of brutality is misguided, especially when there are always other factors to consider.
Take the Sandy Hook shooting. Twenty students and six teachers were slaughtered by Adam Lanza in late 2012. What did everyone say the cause of this violence was? They blamed Adam’s addiction to Call of Duty. A game about soldiers protecting their homeland was blamed for a mass school shooting. Police originally suspected the shooter to be Adam’s brother Ryan Lanza and, once his name was released to the public, there was a mad dash to find his social media profiles. They found his Facebook page and sifted through all of the information they could get their hands on. It was determined that one of the games he liked was an obvious cause for the shootings; Mass Effect 3. People immediately turned to the games page; posting ridiculous and hurtful comments towards the developers (Ashcraft, 2012). The people who put the game together were being blamed for a murder they took no part in. Imagine someone blamed you for the deaths of 26 innocent people because you decided to code a game that is considered violent. Of course, the people who were pointing fingers neglected to consider the fact that Adam had severe mental illnesses and an obsession with mass shootings.
A study done in 2013 did determine that exposure to video games for a short time can cause people to act more aggressively. A group of undergraduate students were allotted fifteen minutes of Mortal Combat play time and were then told to distribute hot sauce to a person they were told did not like spicy foods but was required to eat it. Lo and behold, the test subjects who played Mortal Combat dished out more hot sauce then those who played other non-violent games (Carey, 2013). Of course, giving hot sauce to someone is a lot less violent than murdering children. Many believe that, because Mortal Combat is such an intense game, the players could simply be releasing their pent up frustration on an over-indulgence of hot sauce. However, this does not prove that long time exposure can cause a person to become violent.
Statistics prove that over the last few years as video game sales have increased, youth violence has decreased (Video Games & Youth Violence, 2010). Some claim that the games are keeping potential offenders off the street, while others believe it to be a fluke. I believe that other factors need to be taken into consideration. Maybe more people have developed a video game habit at the same time youth mental illnesses happen to be declining, due to a pro-active approach to treatment. There are many other possible occurrences such as the launch of an anticipated game that has everyone running to their console of choice, or the founding of a Big Brothers program. Or perhaps the amount of people who like games is just rising, while more youth criminals are being punished and taken off the streets.
I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to say that video games are solely the cause of youth crime, yet people are still pointing fingers left and right at this industry. I do agree that an over exposure to violent video games can cause aggression in the youth, but I don’t believe it is to the same degree as people are willing to blame the industry for. Many other factors have to be taken into consideration, factors that are being neglected, before we can decide what the cause of youth crime is. Mental illnesses, living situation, family neglect, and other issues will sooner be the cause of youth violence then the violent video games that society has come to blame. We’re essentially saying that anything but the youth is the cause of these crime rates. Blame needs to be put on those who commit the crime. We can’t blame the developers of Call of Duty for the Sandy Hook shooting any more than we can credit Tetris for my precise packing skills. Games don’t make people violent, and they never have. Some people are just violent by nature and their actions can’t be justified by other means.
Carey, B. (2013, February 11). Shooting in the Dark. Retrieved October 17, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/science/studying-the-effects-of-playing-violent-video-games.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
Ashcraft, B. (2012, December 15). Mob Blames Mass Effect For School Shooting, Is Embarrassingly Wrong. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://kotaku.com/5968683/mob-blames-mass-effect-for-school-shooting-is-embarrassingly-wrong
22 Charts & Graphs on Video Games & Youth Violence – Violent Video Games – ProCon.org. (2010, February 18). Retrieved November 20, 2015, from http://videogames.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003627