The Rise Of Gun Violence Because Of Video Game Violence
A constant threat of violence lurked from January 2019 to May 2019. A ridiculous eight school shootings would occur, each varying in intensity. The United States was on edge, looking for a reason why their children had to risk their lives in order to pursue an education. The pressure was building on those in power to make a move, to say something, because as the days went on their “thoughts and prayers” meant less and less. And as the months of terror came to a close, a new controversy came to light. Politicians had pinpointed the exact cause for each and every mass shooting in the days between January and May. It was graphic video games. Quickly this idea spread, the media, politicians, and most people in power began their slander against such games. But, should video games really be the center point of the conversation, or does this theory stray the conversation in the wrong direction? Leading to arguments, zero progress, and decline of a need for action. Are video games truly the reason for the outbreak of violence in the United States, or is this scapegoat distracting us from a progressive conversation.
First examine the argument presented by the Head of State. The President, Donald Trump, said “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence. We must stop or substantially reduce this and it has to begin immediately'(Timm). President Trump calls for the end of glorification of violence, but only mentions video games as the main media to set the blame upon. No mention of news, movies, magazines, etc. All these outlets also “glorify” violence. For example, whenever the media covers a tragic shooting at a school they almost always spotlight the killer. Giving that killer the spotlight they wanted and also encouraging others to follow suit seeing the coverage and effect this one killer had. So, the question is then, why are video games singled out.
There is one very distinct reason for this laser focus on video games, the age difference between politicians and media versus the youth that play video games. Ask any parent who doesn’t understand why you spend hours sitting at your desk or couch. There is a very large disconnect between the average gamer, median age 33 (Whalen), and political office holder, depending on office is about 55. They have grown up in an era where videogames were not as mainstream compared to the media. Millennials and below are growing up in an era where Fortnite, a battle royale with 100 players, has created a mass conversation, where gaming is as mainstream, if not greater than older media, where video games are available in everyday devices. An article created in 2018 detailing a research done on the percentage of people who play video games states that “about 67% of Americans, or roughly 211 million people, play video games on at least one type of device, with more than half of those who game, playing on multiple platforms, according to a new study released by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. The study, which is based on an online survey of 5,000 people, also showed that 90 percent of those play games on their smartphones, tablets, or both” (Crecente). Politicians see something they are not used to, and it plays a major role in everyday life as well.
The United States and China are easily the two greatest contributors in revenue for the gaming industry. The United States at about $36,700 million per year and China at about $36,600 million per year (Top Countries). Yet, the United States has a homicide rate at about a hundred times worse than China. A graph created in 2017 put the United States at 4.43 violent gun deaths per 100,000 people, while China was at a rating of .04 (Aizenman). Without considering the governmental system of each nation, there is a stark difference in profit from the industry and a homicide rate in the respective countries. Hypothetically, say governmental disparities may play a role in the violence rate, then look at a country that was rebuilt by the United States, Japan. As stated before, the United States has a 4.43, violent gun deaths per 100,000 people, while Japan has a .04, violent gun deaths per 100,000 (Aizenman). Both Japan and China have the exact same value for violent gun deaths, this cannot simply be a coincidence. These nations are polar opposites to one another yet both nations have equal rates of violence. Japan makes about $19 million per year from the video game industry placing them at the third highest profiter for the industry (Top Countries). This is a lot of information to consume on paper and it would be easier to understand with a graph.
Just a bare bones look at the second bar, you can tell there is a huge variation in the numerical data. While creating this graph, the bar for both China and Japan would not show up unless the image was zoomed in on. The bars had to be put in 3D in order to be seen by the viewer. If this doesn’t give you the context that the United States is in a crisis and that this crisis is not the fault of a singular industry then look at what the United States Judicial branch thinks about the correlation.
On April 26, 2010, the United States Supreme Court granted the case of the state of California v.s. Video Games. California fought for the sale of violent video games to youth be illegal. The lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the lawsuit began, defended the video game industry. The U.S. Court of Appeals said “(1) violent video games did not constitute ‘obscenity’ under the First Amendment, (2) the state did not not have a compelling interest in preventing psychological or neurological harm to minors allegedly caused by video games, and (3) even if the state had a compelling interest, the law was not narrowly tailored enough to meet that objective” (Brown). Though, this was not the judgement that the State was looking for so they pushed the case to the Supreme Court. On November 2010, the case began, but quickly the evidence that the state had brought was being deflected. The main argument that California presented that video games presented obscene visuals to the children and that these images have physiological effects. The Supreme Court responded with “California’s argument would fare better if there were a longstanding tradition in this country of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence, but there is none. Certainly the books we give children to read—or read to them when they are younger—contain no shortage of gore. Grimm’s Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers ‘till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy” (Supreme Court). The court is explaining that even fairy tales have an underlying tale of violence. They use the example of Snow White, but another example would be the old Alladin tales before the Disney adaptation. The original story was called “The Arabian Night”, a story told by the wife of a murderous king. She tells these stories in order to avoid her inevitable death. The court’s main counterargument was that there was an obvious bias against video games. They showed examples of “obscenities” in all forms of media that was available to children, the quote above is only one of the many examples they used in the majority opinion. The Supreme Court defended the video game industry, a huge victory, giving the industry a defense other than just data.
Finally, look at the scientific correlation between violence in real life that could be caused by video games. In July 2019, a paper on this topic called “Perspectives on Psychological Science” by Maya Mathur and Tyler VanderWeele was released on the influence of violent video games on behavior. “Mathur and VanderWeele looked at these meta-analyses carefully and suggest that these analyses are not really telling different stories. In their view, a detailed look at the literature on violence and video games suggests that video games probably do increase aggressive reactions, but that the effects are quite small. That is, playing a lot of violent video games probably makes people a little more aggressive overall—but not much” (The Evidence That). Maya and Tyler came to the conclusion that there is a rise in aggression for a short period of time when playing violent video games, this is nowhere near enough the aggression needed to perform a mass shooting. From personal experience, this anger comes from the intensity and competitiveness of the said video game, not the fact that the game is graphic. Also, this aggression or anger only lasts a few minutes, how long it lasts depends on the person’s ability to deal with emotions. Usually, this anger is not towards the real world but rather towards online friends, the game, or teammates, for causing a loss, trolling, etc.
There is a better conversation to be had about gun violence in The United States, that isn’t violent video games. Politicians have used this scapegoat many times over the years, to deflect, and avoid talking about real change, because the actual conversation is not easy. This has no simple solution. Any decision made by the government will cause a stir in the United States because no one can agree on a solution. There is no neutral ground in the government currently and every decision has to be radical in order for change. So, in order to protect society from these tragic events, the government must first compromise. There has to be a better dialogue in congress because it seems as though they have continued to ignore the situation. Treating it as a day to day, rather than thinking about the future that is currently being built for the generation after us. If they continue to ignore the current state of society in the United States, it will only worsen, and finding a scapegoat will not satisfy the nation any longer.
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