Video games unfairly blamed for violence

By Nick Johnson

contributing writer

[email protected]

Whenever there is a teen involved in a shooting, the first thing people seem to point their fingers at are video games.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, reasons why a young man went on the rampage were flying around, but the one that many seemed to jump on the most were video games. They claim the violence is a bad influence and the cause of shootings, which is an unfair accusation.

When the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., happened, the game “Doom” was blamed as the source of the teens’ rage with its intense violence for the time. Parents attempted to sue multiple game developers, claiming their products had helped bring about the killing.

When the NRA came forward to talk about the Sandy Hook shooting, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said, “There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows violence against its own people.” They then went on to name a few games, including “Grand Theft Auto” and “Mortal Kombat,” a game devoid of any guns. There were two movies mentioned and not a single book, which can easily have as much violence as games and movies.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress to spend $10 million for a study by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. There have already been studies done on the effects of video game violence on a person. Instead of spending all that on research for something that isn’t even a main cause for the shootings, why don’t they give it to a school in need? Is all this attention towards video games really needed?

Video games are still a fairly new source of entertainment, only becoming popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They have been controversial since the beginning for the violence they depicted, so much so that a rating system was created in 1994. The Entertainment Software Rating Board now rates games from “E for everybody” to “Adults Only 18+,” where they go through the game to find all the blood, violence and adult content that may be in the game and rate them appropriately.

The most recent “Call of Duty,” one of the most popular games, sold 15 million copies in the U.S. Half of the console gamers in America own this game. If game violence is really that big of an influence, wouldn’t you think our crime would be higher, rather than declining since the ‘90s?

There was a bill proposed in 2012 by former U.S. Rep. Joe Baca that would treat games like tobacco, with labels on them saying, “Warning: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior” Just like movies and books, video games are under the protection of the First Amendment, so the bill was dropped. Imagine every violent movie having a warning label on every poster or every violent book. Would this change anything? No, because this is why we have the rating system.

This rating system has been around my whole life and my parents followed the rating rules. I was able to play some T for Teens games, but never M for Mature, successfully sheltering me from shooting peoples heads off. If you are under 17, you cannot purchase M-rated titles, so all of the kids playing games like “Gears of War” got it from someone older. The accusations being made towards games showing children violence are not the fault of game developers, but of parents letting their underage children play them.

The studies that have been done have shown slight increases in aggression when someone plays a violent video game compared to a non-violent one. That alone cannot be proven to cause someone to go on shooting spree. It is usually a combination of things, and video games may just be a small part of a larger problem.

Will people still try to blame video games if another school shooting or any shooting involving a teenager happens? My guess is they will until there is hard evidence that convinces people otherwise, or until another form of controversial entertainment becomes mainstream.