Sandy Hook And Video Game Violence; Get Off The Bandwagon, There’s Nothing Here

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.

Mass Shootings Video Game Violence

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.

Violent Video Games

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.

PS3 Violent Video Games

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.

Addicted Children Video Game

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?


8 responses to “Sandy Hook And Video Game Violence; Get Off The Bandwagon, There’s Nothing Here

  1. I agree with what you are saying here about video games, but I disagree that the answer is “gun control”. I do however, think that we should be looking into the link between these kinds of crimes and pharaceutical SSRI’s (antidepressants), which is rarely mentioned.

    • Gun control is just one aspect that needs considering. However, being British, my culture is obviously completely different to that of an American. Though talking to a few Americans I think it’s getting more acceptance that gun control…

      I think that’s a great issue to bring up. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some relationship between the two. Yet again, it may be just that there’s always going to be a small percentage of people who attempt these mass murders, and whether they are on antidepressants or playing video games, it won’t alter their course of action much. Keep tuned as I will definitely look into it in the future!

  2. I personally don’t think videos games are to blame, I live in the UK we have very little gun crime or issues, guns are licensed, I don’t think I have ever seen a gun in the UK and i’ve lived here 35 years, My wife is American the first time I visited her family I shot two shotguns, given 6 different hand guns to view and shown two safes full of guns in basements ( I was there 10 days) and must have seen over 60 guns.

    At the time I thought it was cool but now I have a child of my own I think this is a concern America should address but I have no idea where to start.

    • Yep, the cultural differences between us and Americans are surprisingly apparent, though you wouldn’t think it if you hadn’t been there.

      Obviously reducing access and maybe a lot more education on the topic might be a start, but I think it’s so engraved in their philosophy that it’s going to be harder to eradicate. I just remembered a quote by George Washington that really typifies it:

      “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”

      In the UK, it’s frowned upon, whereas it’s practically glorified in the USA. How do you deal with that?! Thank goodness I’m not a politician…!

  3. Nothing is too strong a statement. The functional issue is if someone with some previously existing condition could have that violent tendency exacerbated. There is not enough research, at least that I am aware of, to make any current determinations. We should all support additional investigation.

    • Additional research is a must. Like I stated in the article, there’s superficial evidence that relates the two, but to what degree no one is really sure. And to link them to a mass murder such as this is pretty stupid really, like I’ve seen on some other news pieces. There’s other pressing matters that need to be sorted first before we can even think about legislating against video games, which some have suggested.

  4. You know what the real problem is? All you idiots playing the stupid blame game. Blame is a device used to make an unmentioned party seem less accountable. There is always more than one ’cause’ for any given effect. If all a person consumes is violent media, they’re more likely to be violent, but it isn’t because of one specific piece of that media, it’s a multitude of factors. Anyone trying to place blame on anything is really just patting themselves on the back and saying they and their principles and culture (or whatever) had nothing to do with it. It’s a cop-out: it’s lazy, stupid and everything that’s wrong with politics that will never be fixed.

    • The funny thing is, if you read the post properly then I’ve actually concluded there’s a number of different possible reasons for these events. Whether that’s the gun laws, gaming violence or mental issues of the person themselves. My argument is that people see a mass murder, find out he or she plays violent video games, then make the connection they are both linked without any research.

      If you look at scientific studies of violent video games, it usually ends in ‘requiring more research’. Ie, it’s inconclusive.

      I’m not a politian so I’m hardly going to have many answers. But the first step in the process is figuring out the causes of this tragedy. Which is what this post attempts to do.

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