Video games are a pretty regular political football, thrown into mainstream media and blamed for inspiring violence among youth. Mass shootings, terrorism and numerous other acts of violence have always lead the media back to one thing: first-person shooters. With the rise of competitive esports and games like Fortnite receiving a lot of traction, it’s become all too easy for the media to blame a harmless hobby.
Why are game designers being blamed in the first place? Of course, it makes sense why the media would quickly place responsibility on gaming. Throughout the unfortunate history of mass shooting incidents, many of the perpetrators have either given mention to or been associated with video games.
The Aurora movie theater shooter played video games like Warcraft and Diablo III, both combat-focused games. So did the Christchurch shooter (he mentioned Fortnite and YouTube enfant terrible PewDiePie in his manifesto). And the Norwegian mass murderer behind the Oslo shooting. And the man who committed mass murder at the Florida Madden ’19 gaming convention. (Just FYI, we’re not a fan of remembering and spreading these murderers’ names around.) Sure, they all had playing video games in common, but also in common were symptoms of severe mental illness and delusions of supremacy (mostly white).
However a study at the University of Oxford showed that there was no correlation between violence and habitual video gaming. The study posted to Royal Society Open Science has been hailed as one of the most unbiased and truthful studies. The results did not support the argument that aggressive and violent behaviour was in any tangible way linked to video gaming.
What can be done to prevent the media from placing the blame on video gaming? Education, of course. Understandably, video gaming was not a significant part of generations prior to ours. However, the rapid growth of esports, first in Asia and now globally, means that video gaming is likely to become more culturally important in the future — possibly even in the Olympics.
In fact, video gaming has been shown to have some cognitive benefits: a study by Columbia University showed increased perception, cognitive flexibility and higher intellectual function in those who played video games.
To mainstream media, it’s exceptionally easy to deflect the issue onto something that seems so obvious, and so violent. It’s also a convenient way for these biased and sensationalist publishers to deflect unwanted attention from themselves, the messages they spread through their writing and to create fear mongering among parents.
But maybe at the end of all this, we should just be blaming the guns.
Image: Alex Haney, Epic