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Current Events & Hot Topics Current Events & Hot Topics

It's worth asking ourselves why we keep returning to video games despite the lack of evidence to support its link to violence

Posted by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM
  • 42 Replies

Video games didn't cause Newtown rampage

By Christopher J. Ferguson, Special to CNN
updated 9:43 AM EST, Wed February 20, 2013

Editor's note: Christopher J. Ferguson is chair of the psychology and communication department at Texas A&M International University. He is the author of the novel "Suicide Kings."

(CNN) -- Speculation continues to swirl around the potential involvement of violent video games in Adam Lanza's rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. The official investigation has yet to release its report, but consistent accounts indicate Lanza was an enthusiastic player of violent games.

On Monday, CBS News raised eyebrows with a report citing unnamed law enforcement sources conjecturing that Lanza was motivated in part by violent video games as well as Norway shooter Anders Breivik. The investigating Connecticut police later said that's "all speculation."

According to the Hartford Courant, we know that when the police searched Lanza's home after the shooting, they found thousands of dollars' worth of violent video games. We also know that Lanza's mom let him play games while she traveled.

News: Report -- Sandy Hook shooter tried to emulate Norway massacre

But just because violent video games seemed to have been a part of Lanza's life, as with many young men, we cannot jump to conclusions.

The reality is that there is no evidence linking violent games to mass shootings. We tend to return to this particular element, and it's interesting to see how quickly people like to latch on to this noncorrelation as if it were truly meaningful. The notion that mass homicides are linked to violent media was debunked as far back as 2002 by the U.S. Secret Service, which found that school shooters didn't consume high levels of violent media.


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'Raising Adam Lanza'

But as a society we tend to focus on video games because it's easy to do so. For example, in the recent case of Nehemiah Griego, a 15-year-old boy accused of killing his family in New Mexico, the police seemed to have been obsessed with violent games during a press conference. The police representative shifted a reporter's question about illegal drugs to video games, the gist of which seemed to be that the boy enjoyed talking about "Modern Warfare." However, other reports suggested the boy's access to violent games or television had been restricted by his family.

In the weeks since the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, there have been a host of high-profile crimes committed by older men. William Spengler, 62, shot and killed two firefighters and apparently killed his sister in New York. Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, killed a bus driver and kidnapped a 5-year-old boy in Alabama. And Douglas Harmon, 70, killed two people at a Phoenix law office, police said. These older men don't fit the profile of video game players, yet they all did something horrible.

Zakaria: Don't blame the video games

Curiously, no one seems interested in investigating the effects of media popular among the elderly. Our attention to video games in the cases of some shootings but not others is what psychologists call confirmation bias, and it creates the illusion of a correlation where there is none.

It's worth asking ourselves why we keep returning to video games despite the lack of evidence to support its link to violence. Of course, this kind of association is not new. Some scholars blamed television for the crime wave of the 1970s and '80s, which has since vanished. And comic books in the 1950s were blamed by psychiatrists for not only delinquency but homosexuality (Batman and Robin were secretly gay it seemed. I'm not making this up). In hindsight, these strands of associations look ridiculous, but in the moment they served a purpose.

Opinion: NRA's video game smacks of hypocrisy

Rare though they are, mass shootings often strike at schools, malls, churches, theaters -- places we all go in places we all live. One of the questions asked repeatedly after the Newtown shooting is why Lanza did what he did.

To say that he was an evil young man who cruelly inflicted suffering on others simply because, in his mind, life had given him the shaft is not satisfying. We want to control the uncontrollable, predict the unpredictable. We want to understand why an impossible to understand event happened and give ourselves some illusion of control. If violent video games were some small but critical component of Lanza's motivation, why we could just get rid of such games and make this whole problem go away. It's a tempting belief but absolutely wrong.

If we could make it legal to regulate violence in games, would that have stopped Lanza or any of the other mass homicides through history? No, not a one. We should not be distracted from looking for the real contributing factors to societal violence.

by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 9:59 AM
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FromAtoZ
by AllieCat on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:10 AM

I've never thought that video games caused this young man to do what he did.

Whether or not there was any influence on this kid, due to the games he played, I don't know.  I can't make a statement to that at all.

IhartU
by Gold Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:15 AM
7 moms liked this

 A happy, mentally sound person does not get influenced by violent video games. If a person has mental issues already, then that violence may just contribute to their actions, so IMO it always comes back to mental health and something needs to be done about THAT.

mylifemylove864
by Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:26 AM
Exactly



Quoting IhartU:

 A happy, mentally sound person does not get influenced by violent video games. If a person has mental issues already, then that violence may just contribute to their actions, so IMO it always comes back to mental health and something needs to be done about THAT.


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Euphoric
by Bazinga! on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:28 AM

 I've never thought that video games causes violence.

futureshock
by Ruby Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:33 AM
3 moms liked this

lol

Fox News makes people violent.

Curiously, no one seems interested in investigating the effects of media popular among the elderly.

cammibear
by Gold Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:49 AM
What are the "real" contributing factors of societal violence?

Of course that's the million dollar question, but nobody really wants to look at the heart of the issue. They just want to blame video games, or guns, or anything else that distracts from the issues of the heart.

I think "mental health" is a cop out too. Drugging, "counseling", etc., are temporary fixes. Again, not the cause of the problem, just a result.

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Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:51 AM


Quoting cammibear:

What are the "real" contributing factors of societal violence?

Of course that's the million dollar question, but nobody really wants to look at the heart of the issue. They just want to blame video games, or guns, or anything else that distracts from the issues of the heart.

I think "mental health" is a cop out too. Drugging, "counseling", etc., are temporary fixes. Again, not the cause of the problem, just a result.

If mental health is a cop out, what do you feel isn't a cop out?

MicheleJM
by Bronze Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:52 AM

I still won't have my children play the most violent video games.  This is an ongoing argument I am having with ds12.  He says it's a matter of I don't trust him.  I say that by having things like Halo and Grand Theft Auto (which I feel no human should play) that I am condoning the violence in the game.  I told him yes it's pretend but it still bothers me and therefore you can play those M for mature...when you move out of my house.  Will it cause him to be violent?  Probably not but it still doesn't stop the fact that I find some games appalling and I don't want them.

Veni.Vidi.Vici.
by on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:55 AM


Quoting MicheleJM:

I still won't have my children play the most violent video games.  This is an ongoing argument I am having with ds12.  He says it's a matter of I don't trust him.  I say that by having things like Halo and Grand Theft Auto (which I feel no human should play) that I am condoning the violence in the game.  I told him yes it's pretend but it still bothers me and therefore you can play those M for mature...when you move out of my house.  Will it cause him to be violent?  Probably not but it still doesn't stop the fact that I find some games appalling and I don't want them.

I giggled about the part when you stated your son says you don't trust him. FUNNY! Kids, IMO, will never understand that as parents we have to make decisions we can live with and give us peace of mind regardless of what our children might believe. lol

IhartU
by Gold Member on Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:58 AM

 

Quoting cammibear:

What are the "real" contributing factors of societal violence?

Of course that's the million dollar question, but nobody really wants to look at the heart of the issue. They just want to blame video games, or guns, or anything else that distracts from the issues of the heart.

I think "mental health" is a cop out too. Drugging, "counseling", etc., are temporary fixes. Again, not the cause of the problem, just a result.

 

 If those are the results, what is the root cause?

  Does it all boil down to family unit? If there isn't a strong family with values, morals and so on, it causes individual problems: drug and alcohol abuse, low self esteem, mental and emotional issues, violence etc. which then leads to societal problems:  crime and poverty.

 Do we, as a society need to concentrate on making our families stronger? How would we go about doing that now that it seems so damaged?

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