Atmosphere during Day Three at Call of Duty World League Finals 2019 at the Miami Beach Convention Center on July 21, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)
If you are reading this you’ve probably played a video game before. Perhaps you’ve played Mortal Kombat or even Call of Duty. Perhaps you are a bit older and you’ve played Contra or Space Invaders. Either way you’ve played a game that contains some sort of conflict, most of these conflicts being violent in nature. Perhaps you are a gun owner as well. So before I proceed, I want to pose a simple question. If you are a law-abiding gun owner, and have played violent games/watched violent movies, why haven’t you become a mass shooter?
I’m aware that the question is absurd, I’m aware that there are many other factors that go into what makes someone commit the most grave of atrocities against their fellow man. But with the recent wave of legislators, talking heads and even President Trump touting that video games are somehow the primary motivator in radicalizing domestic terrorists, I’ll ask it again. Why haven’t you become a mass shooter?
Games Can Lead To “Aggression” not Mass Murder
The tragic domestic terror attacks in El Paso and Dayton sparked this all-too-familiar straw man argument, propping up violent video games as the object of Middle America’s ire. This is especially ironic considering the week before everyone was contemplating having their kids go pro in Fortnite for a shot at over $3 million. But blaming games for their violent content is based on inconclusive studies and tired talking points.
Primarily, the notion that violent video games have a direct correlation with mass shootings is simply false. At most, studies have found links to “aggression” not “criminal violence”. Let me draw an example, you are a big New England Patriots fan. Tom Brady throws an interception during a critical drive in the AFC Championship, dashing any hopes of another ring. You throw your hands in the air in disbelief, swear profusely at the big screen you’re watching at your favorite pub. You slam your fist on the bar in rage and disappointment. This is an aggressive, violent act. By definition. However, it is not criminal. This is the link studies are finding in video games. A slam of a controller, the expletives shouted in defeat. And at worst a fight in school, all aggressive. And none of it leading to mass shootings.
America Isn’t The Only Place With Violent Games, But Is The Only Place With A Mass Shooter Problem
Secondly, the concept that America is on an island as it pertains to experiencing violent game content is at best intellectually dishonest.
As shown above, the largest consumer of video games on Earth is South Korea. South Korea has access to all of the violent games that we have, and they consume them at a higher rate. South Koreans dominate the professional gaming space and have for the better part of a decade. And yet, they have virtually no mass shootings or gun deaths per 100,000 people. But I understand that South Korea is a very different place than America. So what about Canada? It’s a country very similar to ours. One that also has a relationship with hunting and guns and consumes violent video games like we do. And yet, Canada has a fraction of the gun deaths that we have here in America.
To have a conversation about mass SHOOTINGS that doesn’t include guns is the most asinine, trash and lazy argument you could muster. Its even more baffling when these killers put their motivations in print. They have told you in their manifestos why they have turned to murder. To not address those points is nothing short of insanity. This stratagem of attacking video games obfuscates the major issues of racism and gun legislation that people simply don’t want to discuss. You wouldn’t talk about mass drunk driving deaths without talking about alcohol or mass stabbings without knives. However, alcohol and knives have other uses. Guns do not. America would much prefer to point the finger at “the crazy thing all the kids are doing” instead of talking to their loved ones about guns or being radicalized online.
Let’s Have A Fair Conversation About Games
History will not look upon this era with fondness. The longer mass shootings continue to proliferate the more we fail the future of this country. History books (or at least Wikipedia pages) will highlight the 2010’s as an era of turmoil and discord. Where the vile seeds of racism and hatred were allowed to be fully expressed by way of massacre. Generations after us will look at this time with the same disgust that we do the Jim Crow South. But instead of asking “Why would people murder innocent black folks?”, they will ask “How did they see children get murdered in schools and Walmarts and do nothing?” They will also ask “Why the hell were people blaming video games for it?”
But let’s be honest, some video games are indeed violent. Some shouldn’t come within 100 yards of children under the age of 14. But the same goes for all forms of mass media and art. However, in this conversation we haven’t talked about the good that games have done. About how people meet each other in “Final Fantasy XIV”, get married and start gamer families. About how esports is offering opportunity to an entire generation of kids that would have been bullied for their skill and interest in gaming 15 years ago. We haven’t talked about how titles like “Life is Strange” have helped countless gamers talk more openly about depression and suicide. Or how the latest “God of War” is one of the most complex yet touching depictions of fatherhood in media today.
Video games have changed and saved more lives than they’ve ruined. They’ve built more communities than they have destroyed. And gamers, both young and old, are tired of being taken to task for every violent act that takes place in America. Games are not the issue. Our inability to hold ourselves responsible as a society is.
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