In the United States, there has been consistent negative reports regarding mass shootings, which has sparked an ongoing debate as to what the main causes are behind the sudden violence that our nation has faced. Among the alleged numerous causes is violent video games, and their adverse effects on the individuals who play them. The first concern with violence in video games occurred in 1976 with the release of “DeathRace”. As a result of public outcry, the game was removed from the market. More serious concerns evolved in the 1980s and 1990s, especially when congress, in 1993, had a hearing about video game violence that resulted in banning of 2 violent video games. To address congressional issues the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) was created as a self policing organization with a purpose of rating level of violence in individual games. While strictly voluntary, it was somewhat effective, since most retail stores prohibited sale of unrated games. In 1997, Jack Thompson, an anti-video game activist and attorney, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the parents of 3 children killed in the Heath High School Shooting, alleging that the perpetrator played a number of violent video games. The suit was dismissed by a federal district court and Thompson was disbarred for inappropriate conduct. Furthermore, in 1999, violent video games, specifically “Doom”, were blamed in part for the Columbine High School mass shooting. Once again, lawsuits were filed against Entertainment companies, and once again, dismissed by the court of appeals. According to a 2001 study of violence in youth, the Surgeon General stated that media violence (engaging in violent video games) has a relatively small impact on violence.”
After numerous attempts to curb violence in video games, fast forward to 2012 and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Adam Lanza, a 20 year old, opened fire killing 26 people, including 20 children. The tragedy left many people extremely confused as to why somebody would commit such a cowardly act. In the struggle to comprehend the purpose behind such a shameful act, public figures turned their attention to the fact that Lanza was an excessive video game player. Lanza played countless hours of violent video games ranging from “Grand Theft Auto” to “Call of Duty”. This event was one that prompted an extraordinary debate on the impacts of playing violent video games, and if they, indeed, do prompt individuals to become more aggressive in reality.
On television, on the internet, and on social media, violence is ubiquitous. On February 14th, 2018, 21 year old Nicolas Cruz opened fired at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He was considered “an avid gamer” and spent most of his time alone playing the Xbox. Most games that he engaged in frequently were deemed “violent.” The mass shooting event prompted the question as to whether there was a correlation between increased aggression and playing violent video games. Furthermore, the recurring instances of domestic violence, including school shootings, has evolved into a raging question as to whether or not playing violent video games contributes to violent and aggressive behavior. In just 7 months in 2019, the United States has had 326 Mass Shootings. These numbers are staggering, and while there are many factors to blame for the violence, violent video games are potentially one of the root causes for the violent action.
There are two different standpoints in the argument on violent video games along with their correlation with violence in the real world. On one side of the argument, violent video game critics will argue that video games cause individuals to become more violent in real life, while on the other hand, violent video game supporters believe that these games actually lead to beneficial lives for the players. Throughout the course of this essay, I have answered the question on if playing violent video games leads to violence in real life.
With my research question, I aimed to seek the true relationship behind playing violent video games and expressing violent behavior in real life. In my research report, I discussed both sides of the argument followed by an in-depth analysis of the reasoning behind each standpoint. The theory I believe in and used for my report is that “playing violent video games does, indeed, cause someone to become more violent in real life.”.Through extensive research, I have been able to delve deeper and discover rather intriguing evidence that can be linked together in order to determine the accuracy of the theory.
To begin with, in the world we live in today, violence and violent video games are everywhere. Interestingly, according to the Pew Research Center, around 43% of adults in the United States play video games. (Warnick 2019). According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average game player age is 35 and the average game buyer age is 36. In the US, violent video games are obtainable regardless of age and socioeconomic status. Of nearly 2,000 ESRB ratings, over 13% are rated as mature, most of them violent in nature. In 1998, there were 570 violent crimes per hundred thousand people and video game sales were just under $400 million. In 2015, violent crimes were approximately 360 violent crimes per hundred thousand people, while video game sales were $16.5 Billion. The ESRB claims that the violence has little or nothing to do with the video games themselves, rather the preponderance of guns in the United States (an excess of 310 million) is a likely major reason behind all of the violence occurring. Moreover, the availability of video games in other parts of the world is quite similar to that of the United States, yet the rate of violence is significantly lower. (Shaldebeck). One may infer that the major difference is the number of guns per capita available. The ESRB’s contention that video games themselves are not responsible for the increase in violence may have some merit, however, this is looking at a very narrow slice of the overall problem. For example, while 13% of video games are titled mature, over 87% of video games have some degree of violence. If one then adds the population of over 300 million guns, as well as the omnipresent violence in movies and the media, there is a toxic mixture that almost certainly condones and provokes individuals towards potential violent behavior. This information provides contrasting views for each side and will be elaborated on throughout the course of my analysis.