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Video Games: The favored scapegoat of any event of violence

The year is 2004. I am playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas at my parent’s house at the age of 10. Moving forward to today, I am 28 years old and I have not killed anyone. Yet, video games remain the favorite scapegoat of conservative politicians even after recent mass shootings.

But hey, I’m not the expert here on how violence is linked between video games, so let’s see what the experts have to say. In 2020, the American Psychological Association concluded that the link between the two is not quite clear and obvious.

To quote the APA resolution on violent video games: “Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policymakers and the public. Attributing violence to violent video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors.”

238 people have been killed and 1095 injured out of 251 mass shooting incidents since the start of 2022 based on Gun Violence Archive. These crimes have once again brought the debate to the surface on whether video games are linked with violent crimes, especially ones that teenagers are involved.

So, why are video games so easily linked with violence?

That’s a question I’ve been trying to wrap my head around. How come video games is the first thing that comes to most people’s minds as the reason why a violent event happens? I don’t think we’ll find a direct answer to this, but it seems that according to an article from Washington Post, in most countries with both more media regulation and more gun regulation, politicians rarely blame games for acts of violence. But in the United States, this is a common practice.

During his presidency from 2017 to 2021, Donald Trump has blamed video games numerous times as the reason behind mass shootings. More specifically, here is what Trump said back in August 2019 in brief remarks from the White House after massacres in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed at least 31 people.

“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.”

United States stands alone in the frequency and severity of mass shootings compared to other countries across the world

The chart below includes violent gun deaths data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation and video game revenue data from Newzoo. It clearly shows that in other countries where there are stricter gun control laws, the violent gun deaths are extremely low and in some cases non existent. We need to rely on data like this to be able to show that video games are not the reason behind violent events. We are halfway 2022 and there have been over 250 mass shooting incidents already. Things definitely need to change.

Is there a connection between “violent” video games and violence?

Several organizations across the world like the American Psychological Association have worked for years to study the effects of video games and other media on children and have found no direct link between video games and violence. Instead, in their recent letter to the United States Congress they have specifically asked their members to pass gun safety legislation and stop gun violence. Video games were not mentioned even once in the letter.

The answer is laws that promote safe gun storage; expand background checks; raise the age limit on ownership; track unlawful attempts to purchase firearms; support Extreme Risk Protection Order laws; and ban weapons that can do mass destruction in a short period of time.

These laws can prevent suicides, deaths by firearms, and reduce the risks to others. The answer is to pass legislation now to promote gun safety and increase rigorous research on gun violence.

NO MORE DELAYS. NO MORE EXCUSES. NO MORE SENSELESS DEATHS. NO MORE.

Back in August 2015, APA had to update its 2015 resolution because members of the media or policymakers have cited that resolution as evidence that violent video games are the cause of violent behavior, including mass shootings. The 2015 resolution was updated by the Council of Representatives on March 1 with this caution.

“Violence is a complex social problem that likely stems from many factors that warrant attention from researchers, policymakers and the public. Attributing violence to video gaming is not scientifically sound and draws attention away from other factors, such as a history of violence, which we know from the research is a major predictor of future violence.”

Playing video games can be beneficial to your health

Since we have gone through the details on how there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the connection between video games and violent behavior, let’s dive into how and why playing video games is beneficial for people all over the world.

Video games can increase your cognitive skills.

Cognitive skills such as perception, attentional control, and decision-making are considered to be increased a lot when playing video games. Good eye-hand coordination, attention, excellent working memory, and quick decision-making can be achieved by playing video games of up to 10 hours per week.

Video games can increase your brain’s gray matter.

Your mind works a lot when playing and this results in an increase of gray matter in your brain. Gray matter is associated with muscle control, memories, perception, and spatial navigation.

Video games can improve your vision.

As long as its done in moderation, video games can be great for your overall vision. Gamers were trained for 30 hours in first-person action games and then tested against 10 non-gamers. The students who played were able to see objects more clearly in cluttered spaces because of improved spatial resolution. They were able to train their brains to see smaller details, because in each game, those details turned out to be important.

Some ending thoughts

As with all things, video games should be played in moderation. Any hobby or activity that we like should result in making us feel good and in no way have us harm others. Politicians around the world and especially in United States where the issue seems to be located at its core, should stop blaming video games and in turn enforce some serious laws around guns. One thing is certain: our love for video games will never end no matter how badly they will try to bring them down!