Another terrible tragedy occurs in America. But yet another dig at violent video games becomes possible.
Joe Lieberman appeared on Fox News recently to scorn over the impact of violent video games, calling for a ‘national commission’.
With little scientific proof to back him up, it seems a strong case of tunnel vision has created his mindset that violent video games are responsible for all that goes wrong with these terrible events.
Really we should take a careful look at the link between video gaming violence and violent events because the least we can all do is try and find a way of preventing such catastrophes in the future.
The Science Behind The Gaming Violence
Research has sparsely linked video game violence to increased aggression.
However, practically all studies have shown that these games lead to short-term aggression, with only a few studies suggesting aggression over longer terms. The reasons for increased short-term aggression include the following:
- Increased desensitisation to real life events. The left medial frontal lobes function, which controls fear or aggression, functions less in violent video game users.
- Reduced cognitive control and planning. When shots have been fired in first person shooters, a link has been made to depressed activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, which is involved planning and control.
- Encouraged aggressive behaviour through rewards. The reward system in shooting games of today encourage violent behavior through kill streaks and levelling up for example. Increased neurotransmitters with dopamine-like strengthen increase in the ventral striatum and cause addiction, which coincides with longer periods playing games and the effects they cause.
There is no doubting there is some, albeit skeptical, correlation, though there’s research to suggest it’s not fundamentally gaming that causes it..
The video game industry is young and therefore these studies are still in their infancy.
We’re Missing Something Here…
However, to lay the blame is squarely on the feet of video games is quite ignorant. Despite the possible links, we are forgetting some other factors that can clearly be attributed to increased violence:
- The number of different media avenues that promote violence. Despite gaming being the most immersive form; TV, movies and digital technology all play their part in making violence mainstream.
- The legalisation of firearms in the USA. American culture is more freely accepting of firearms as a way of personal defence, but the sheer volume of cases involving guns in comparison with other countries can not be overstated. This infographic by Katie, Feministing really goes some way to show the discrepancies worldwide.
This still doesn’t explain the mass shootings that occur globally, whether that’s the Cumbria Shootings in the UK, 2011 Shootings in Norway or the recent Connecticut Shootings in the USA.
The UK has gun laws and gun culture is not as prevailing for example, yet still has mass shootings on a smaller scale.
The White Elephant
So what connects these mass shooting together? It’s clearly the person themselves.
- Adam Lanza had little social contact and no regular job
- He had Asperger’s Syndrome
- He had access to semi-automatic weapons capable of rapid fire
- He had a dysfunctional relationship with his mother
- He also played violent video games
In a nutshell, he was emotionally unstable to begin with and prone to being pushed over the edge to attempt these sick acts.
What this means is that video games are merely the symptom and not the cause of his emotional unstableness.
There is very little to suggest playing a shooter will turn you into a mass murder, much like 99.999%+ of the population.
But if you were already had problems and willing to delve into a feat so brutal? Turning to violent video games is very plausible, as a way to escape depression and anxiety.
It’s just the moral panic wheel that media companies want you to jump on to believe video games will turn you into a psychopath, without sufficient evidence to back it up.
These societal beliefs become the basis for early news stories and calls for ‘research’ of the potential problem. As the moral panic develops, research is ‘cherry-picked’ that supports the panic. Research supportive of the moral panic is accepted without question (or thorough examination), whereas research suggestive that little problem exists is typically ignored (or at best, criticised and discarded).
Video games are highly unlikely to be the root cause of these shootings or any other mass shooting event.
Changing For The Better
The real tragedy may be that these events can never be stopped entirely.
But the minimum people can do is try and prevent these things happening again. For a start, the mental care in America is known to be poor, but this should provide food for thought.
Even a mentally ill young man with a known propensity for violence, or even a history of serious violence, is likely to receive just an hour a week of counselling (if that) by a social worker.
Again, 99% of these people will not go on the rampage.
But the earlier and more proficiently these people are helped and treated, the better.
Maybe reducing access to guns may be the answer. That seems to have helped in the global community, from a British bystander looking in.
But if you are still set in your ways and seriously think video games caused these awful actions, then parents should certainly take more responsibility their children’s viewing early on.
That means setting limits on play time, following age restrictions on games and keeping a general eye their way.
Stop Hiding, Do Your Job!
It’s time people in power stopped shirking their responsibilities and taking the easy route out by having another excuse lined up against video games.
Once a clear link can be established between video games and these events, then it might be time to crack down.
Until then, how can you really blame this terrible tragedy on gaming? That’s just following the stigma already attached to video games. And that’s just idiocy.
If you agree with this, please spread the message and check this report out. If not, feel free to comment below. How much blame do you put on video games?