On September 16th, 2013, Aaron Alexis killed twelve people and injured fourteen others at the Navy Yard in Washington D.C. Mainstream media outlets quickly began their typical calling card when it comes to mass shootings: Are violent video games, such as Call of Duty, to blame? Sadly, they seem to have been ignoring the fact that Alexis allegedly heard voices and wasn’t happy with America. Those seem like indictors that he’s instable to me.
In October of 2002, the Washington D.C. area was struck with tragedy when it was under attack by the D.C. Sniper, resulting in the death of at least thirteen people and possibly twelve others. Yet no one really seemed to want to make a link between games and their rampage. Ironically, the defense attorney claimed sniper Lee Malvo got his training from video games. However, Grand Theft Childhood authors Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson argued that Malvo was trained to shoot a real gun, had both antisocial and criminal behavior, and tortured small animals.
You know who else tortured small animals? Dexter Morgan.
This isn’t the first time video games have been used as a scapegoat for one’s behavior. Last year, Adam Lanza killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary. He was quickly labeled as an antisocial gamer. In 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered thirteen people and injured twenty-seven others. Video games such as DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D were suggested to be a factor. People often asked young adults should have access to mature games. To be honest, they shouldn’t. That’s why they have ratings parents seem to often ignore. Sadly, people weren’t asking why nothing was done about the fact that Klebold had a website that contained many death threats against students and teachers of Columbine High School. In 1927, Andrew Kehoe killed 38 students, six adults, and injured 58 others while bombing an elementary school in Bath, Michigan. It is still the deadliest school disaster to date; video games weren’t to blame since they weren’t around.
Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 and injured 17 others at Virginia Tech in 2007. Video games, particularly Counter-Strike, were linked to a possible cause. Not the disturbing images or videos he sent into news stations, not his behavior; Counter-Strike. Video games weren’t, however, suggested as a cause for the seventeen and wounding of thirty-two by Charles Whitman in 1966 at the University of Texas. Like the Bath bombing in 1927, games weren’t exactly around to blame.
Sadly, the mainstream media continues to act like mass shootings haven’t happened before the invention of video games. But they have; 1927 and 1966 are only two examples of that.
While research shows that violent video games can cause aggression, the truth may be a bit different. Let’s take a look at this report by John M. Grohol. Not only does it showcase data that proves that youth violence has decreased as the sale of video games increased, but also brings into account a factor we need to consider with every scientific study:
“The first decision you have to make in a meta-analysis — that is, a study of previous research on a given topic — is what studies will you actually look at in your analysis and what studies will you ignore? This is referred to as your 'inclusion' and 'exclusion' criteria, and for most researchers, it’s pretty straight-forward.”
Grohol takes a look at a 2010 report by Anderson et al. that says violent video games can’t be ignored when it comes to real life violence. Grohol shows that Anderson et al “began stacking the deck…by including unpublished studies they gleaned haphazardly from other research and database searches. They also sub-divided their analysis into two groups – one that included 129 studies that did not meet a set of 'best practices' for this analysis, and another set of what they defined as higher-quality research. (who defined these 'best practices?' The researchers did, of course!”
Grohol’s point is that while some studies may claim there’s a link, we instead have to look at all the data, not just the ones hand-picked to prove a point. And the data here says that there isn’t a direct correlation.
I just wish the media would stop making one.