Ever since games like Doom came into existence, with its pixelated ultra-violence, people –politicians especially- have been trying to link virtual bloodletting with the real world equivalent. This ridiculous conclusion has never been collaborated by any studies or research, but the claim is still made all the same.
Of course, people are often looking for a scapegoat to blame when terrible things happen; like the two mass shootings this past weekend. Many politicians, including the President, tried to point the finger at violent video games. In a White House address on Monday, Trump said “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”
This sentiment has been shared by Lieutenant governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, and Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Sunday morning, Patrick ‘implored’ the government to take action against the video game industry. “We’ve watched from studies, shown before, what it does to individuals, and you look at these photos of how it took place, you can see the actions within video games and others.”
Virtual entertainment being blamed for acts of mass violence is nothing new. Politicians have been making such claims with next to no evidence for decades, going so far back as Columbine in 1990. With so many claims being made regarding this issue, you’d better believe there have been dozens of studies into whether or not there is a causal link between video games and real world violence. A complete consensus doesn’t exist, but most every researcher agrees that there is no such link.
Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University, led the American Psychological Association committee in their policy statement regarding the data. ‘Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal connection or correlation between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities. The data on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive. Literally. The numbers work out about the same.’
This is not to say, of course, that no mass shooters are gamers. However, video games are so commonplace in our society, and even more so with men, that it means almost nothing for a shooter to be one. It’s the same as saying that he watches TV or goes to the movies.
Why this matters is because casting unfair blame on video games not only diverts attention away from the real issues, but it also bears the risk of penalizing those of us who love games, even violent ones, and never have any desire to go out and hurt people in the real world. Thankfully, courts have rejected the idea of video games being to blame for shootings right now, but so long as the rhetoric exists, there is some danger of restrictions being put in place on something we consider a freedom in our country.