Video games and mass shootings

Published: August 21, 2019


PHOTO: REUTERS The writer takes interest in political and social issues

For those who follow America’s politics closely, their government’s response to recent mass shootings comes as no surprise. When 24-year-old Connor Stephen Betts opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, and shot 10 people to death, it marked the 250th instance of mass shooting in the US in 2019. While on the one hand, these shootings speak volumes about the incapability of Donald Trump’s Republican Party to enact strict gun laws, their naive claim to cite these shootings as a result of video games has been profoundly disappointing, as it reflects their apparent reluctance to address real concerns.

It is a grim reality but a reality nonetheless that the American government has put more efforts in creating scapegoats in video games instead of getting to the root of the problem. Much of President Trump’s proposals in dealing with these shootings revolved around the suggestion to ban video games.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly videogames that are now commonplace,” Trump said. “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,” he added.

Joe Biden, the former US vice president, too agreed with Donald Trump. “It is not healthy to have these games teaching kids that, you know, this dispassionate notion that you can shoot somebody and just, you know, sort of blow their brains out,” Biden said.

Kevin McCarthy, the current House Minority Leader, echoed similar views. “When you look at these photos of how [the El Paso shooting] took place, you can see the actions within video games and others. Video games dehumanize individuals to have a game of shooting individuals or others,” said McCarthy.

So, are these video games the main reason why these shootings took place? The short answer is no. Textbooks, research studies and latest statistics blatantly debunk this blithe claim and offer very little evidence to substantiate this absurd logic. To get a clear picture, it is imperative to look at some authentic studies and data that can make us understand why blaming video games is nonsensical. In 2000 in Saint Helena, Tony Charlton and his colleagues, in their study of whether video games lead to increased aggression, found that viewing violence did not affect the participants’ behaviour. Randy Dotinga, the former president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, came to a similar conclusion in his research about the effect of violent video games on our behavior. Chapter 3 of Roman Espejo’s book, Violent Video Games, also rejects this notion by dismissing this debate as rhetoric. Puzzlingly, as Vox media pointed out, despite almost 36% per person video game revenue, South Korea’s casualties to gun deaths are much lower than the US. All of this leads us towards a single solution: imposing a ban on video games is not a solution to curb gun violence but rather would be a death of a well-established industry.

It is also worth noting that a lot of us have played games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Project IGI, Max Payne and Counter-Strike in our teenage years but we did not turn out to be mass shooters which is a further antithesis of these ill-informed claims of the American government. It does not take rocket science to understand that it is not video games which cause violence. Instead it is guns that are shooting people to death. In order to rectify this upheaval and save civilian lives, Donald Trump should toughen up his stance on gun control and implement gun prevention laws like the “red flag” law.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2019.

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