If we want progress, stop scapegoating gaming

By Grant Stoner | Staff Writer


Last Wednesday, high school students and faculty members became the victims of yet another mass shooting, this time in Parkland, Florida. A 19-year-old gunman ended the lives of 17 innocent people with a modified AR-15 rifle.

As is tradition in the wake of these tragedies, politicians and self-proclaimed denizens of social media began to search for solutions to the exhausting question of how this continues to happen.

“Is it mental illness? Or bullying?”

“You know what? I bet it was those violent video games!”

As a gamer, my favorite form of entertainment is constantly under scrutiny. We’ve been called antisocial, basement-dwellers and suffer virulent criticism whenever a tragedy occurs. If a gun was involved, you better believe video games will be blamed.

But, if we examine actual studies, rather than listen to obnoxious diatribes from the self-righteous, it becomes evident that video games are nothing more than a scapegoat.

For example, according to “The Good, the Bad and the Partly: A Meta-Analytic Review of Positive and Negative Effects of Violent Video Games,” found within the December 2007 issue of Psychiatric Quarterly, video game violence has no correlation with real-world events.

“Results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition,” writes Christopher John Ferguson. “Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression.”

To further reinforce this statement, let’s examine the sales for one of the most popular games of all time. According to the fiscal second quarter sales for publisher Take-Two Interactive Software, Grand Theft Auto V, as of November 2017, has sold over 85 million units. For those who are not familiar, the Grand Theft Auto series allows players to kill police officers, sell drugs, steal vehicles, rob stores and fornicate with prostitutes. Essentially, gamers have the freedom to do whatever they please, with an emphasis on breaking the law.

Now, with over 85 million copies being distributed across the globe, have we seen an increase in crime by the gaming population? No, we have not.

In fact, video games can have a positive social effect. Most people can attest to meeting friends via online gaming (myself included), and few can deny the pleasure in losing yourself in exploring a wonderful fantasy world. Games create opportunities to socialize and explore new cultures and beliefs.

Which is why the false accusations need to stop. Until video games cease to be a political straw man for mass shootings, no real progress can be made. Politicians, regardless of the political spectrum, know what to do but are too afraid to upset their constituents. With every innocent life lost, our news feeds are filled with an egregious amount of thoughts and prayers and witch hunts against incorrect perpetrators. It’s time to stop directing futile arguments toward an innocent form of entertainment.