Full disclosure, I’m a big fan of video games. I grew up playing the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), trying to conquer Super Mario Bros. and later Super Mario Bros. 3. As I grew up, I evolved from the cartoonish games to titles that had more mature ratings. Goldeneye 007 (a James Bond game), rated T for teen, was a must-get when I was in middle school. Now as an adult, I play games at the mature rating. I know, how grown up of me.
I can honestly say that after hours of playing Grand Theft Auto, I don’t feel the need to drive on the wrong side of the road and steal someone else’s car. I know video games aren’t real, and I’m not a more violent person for it. Heck, I’d argue quite the opposite actually, since I use video games to wind down, but that’s a topic for another day.
As you probably have already read, we’re back in the vicious cycle of school shooting leads to thoughts and prayers leads to anger leads to inaction leads to another school shooting. Only this time, video games are to blame again, something I didn’t think would happen since, you know, the last time it’s been proven that violent video games don’t incite violent criminal behavior.
Whether it’s President Donald Trump saying, “I’m hearing more and more people seeing the level of violence in video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts,” or Kentucky governor Matt Bevin claiming “guns are not the problem. We have a cultural problem in America… You look at the ‘culture of death’ that is being celebrated. There are video games, that yes, are listed for mature audiences, but kids play them and everybody knows it and there’s nothing to prevent the child from playing them, that celebrate the slaughtering of people,” or even our own police department suggesting the same idea by writing on Facebook, “What causes simple encounters with our youth to escalate into anger and rage? Graphic violence in video games and movies playing in a child’s head from an early age are certainly among the factors,” there are many people going back to the tried-and-true method of blaming video games for something its not directly involved with.
I get it. We want answers to problems that need to be fixed. But what exactly should we do then about video games if indeed that’s the problem?
Before I get to that, let me clarify by saying, violent video games aren’t the problem. There have been studies done on the correlation of video games and violent behavior and there is simply no scientific data linking the two. As a matter of fact, in June 2017, the Media Psychology and Technology division of the American Psychologic Association (APA) recommended that “public officials and news media should avoid stating explicitly or implicitly that criminal offenses were caused by violent media. This would extend to implicit language such as ‘it was as if they were playing a video game’ or ‘the offender was obsessed with violent video games.’”
It should also be noted that in August 2015, the APA did confirm a link between playing violent video games and aggression, but within the article, they still said that they found “insufficient research to link violent video game play to criminal violence.”
But even if we wanted to operate under the assumption that kids playing violent video games may want to commit violent crimes in the near future, you know what’s the easy way to stop that? Don’t let your children play those games.
You see that Rated M for Mature rating on the game? That’s not a suggestion. That “M” doesn’t mean for the modern, mature minor. It’s for adults who can distinguish between fantasy and reality.
Would you call me crazy if I said we should ban alcohol because certain individuals do not respect other human beings by drinking and driving? What about if I said something outrageous such as we should ban cookies since too much sugar can lead to heart disease? Or here’s a good one. Let’s ban assault rifles, because in the wrong hands, they lead to mass murder.
Didn’t like that last example, did you? Yet somehow, the same people who shout, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” are also saying “maybe we should do something about these video games?” Seems a bit hypocritical to me.
Is there a link between violent video games and violent crimes? No. There’s no evidence behind that.
But if you’re so worried that Grand Theft Auto will turn little Jimmy to Jason from Friday the 13th, then maybe the solution is to not buy him that game?
Not only will that put you at ease for minimizing any outside negative effects violent media may have on your child, it would definitely minimize the amount of times I’m called a gay or racial slur on the headset while I’m gaming.