In defense of violent video games

By on January 10, 2013

In light of the recent Sandy Hook massacre, a community organization in Southington, Connecticut, a town about 30 miles south of Newton, CT, is hosting a drive to collect violent video games and media. In return for turning in a video game, each person receives a $25 voucher to a local business. What happens to the video games? They will be destroyed.

Though Southington SOS, the group behind the collection drive, say that they are in no way attributing the shooting to violent video games, they do claim that such video games, along with other portrayals of violence in the media, contribute to “increasing aggressiveness, fear, anxiety and is desensitizing our children to acts of violence including bullying.”

Before I go on to my point, let me make myself clear: I do not in any way condone violence in video games. Instead, I find it troubling that we, as a society, have a tendency to find scapegoats instead of understanding and addressing the real issues.

The argument is simple. Violence in video games desensitizes children to violence in real life. Thus, they are more likely to commit crimes in real life. Sounds straightforward, right? Unlike climate change, however, there is no scientific consensus behind this claim. Though there are some studies linking violence in gaming to aggression in real life, there are just as many studies showing no correlation. Grand Theft Childhood, a book detailing a Harvard Medical School study, for example, shows no relationship between violence and video games.

A cornerstone saying of statistics is “correlation does not imply causation.” In other words, just because two events happen together, one does not necessarily cause the other. The studies that did find a relationship between violent video games and real-life violence found a correlation, not causation. They do not definitely prove that violence in video games increases violence in real life. It may just be that children who are predisposed to violence prefer violent video games. Using such conclusions to blame video games would be akin to blaming ice cream sales for the increased numbers of drowning in summer.

Attributing violence to video games also has a flip side. What about the non-violent games? Why haven’t games like The Sims helped kids organize their lives and be better homemakers? The argument simply does not hold water.

I feel that the deeper, actual problem is how we socialize members of society. I think that perpetrators of such heinous crimes as massacres do so out of a grudge against society. They feel that society has wronged them in a way. Perhaps they had traumatizing childhoods or unsupported friends, or they may have been bullied.

Instead of blaming outside influences, we should rethink how we interact with other people. We should make sure that every person receives support and help. The killers of Sandy Hook, Aurora, Virginia Tech, and others were all somehow outcasts of society. Perhaps if someone had reached out to them and made them feel welcome and a part of something, they would not have turned to violence.

Blaming video games is the easy way out. It allows us to find a superficial cause, and then move on as if nothing had happened. Instead of finding a scapegoat, society should ask itself: what have we done wrong?

Tianjlao Zhang
Staff Writer
tzhang@uab.edu

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