Do Violent Video Games Influence Violent Behavior?
Matt Mobley discusses the President’s request to conduct research on violent video games.
On December 14, 2012, the citizens of Newtown, Connecticut suffered a tragedy in their town. Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed twenty children, six- and seven-year olds, and six members of the school staff. Lanza had a rifle and two handguns on his person, and he used all three to murder these people, these innocent and helpless children. He shot all of his victims multiple times, even going so far as to shoot one child eleven times. The shooting finally stopped when Lanza turned the gun on himself after being spotted by a police officer who had entered the building.
It’s been one month since that awful morning, and President Barack Obama has asked Congress to help provide funding for research on violence in video games and their possible connection to real-world gun violence. The President is requesting the allocation of $10 million for this study.
The Sandy Hook shooting was a horrifying day for everyone in the town, and people across the nation grieved for the victims. I myself could feel my eyes well up as I wrote the opening paragraph to this article, because the fact that this happened at all deeply upsets and disturbs me. That being said, spending $10 million to figure out if violent media causes violence in real life is a gigantic waste of time and, more importantly, money.
I’ll begin my argument by saying I’m not an expert on the matter by any means. My argument is really my opinion, and anyone is free to contest it with hard evidence. This is an opinion piece written to inspire discussion on a controversial topic.
I personally believe there is no real correlation between violent media and behavior. Sure, a child can play pretend and act like a Jedi after watching Star Wars, but even kids know you can’t go whacking other children with sticks, pretending it’s a light saber, because they know they’ll get in trouble. Depending on their age, they should be able to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Adam Lanza was twenty years old, and though friends of his mother reported that he had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, this is still no reason to blame the media. If Lanza did happen to play violent video games, it isn’t the cause the shooting, it’s really only a coincidence.
I play violent video games, as I’m sure so many others across the nation do. Almost every game with a T or an M rating has violent imagery, and most of them are incredibly popular. Yet the only hostility that games inspire are the angry children on your Xbox Live Call Of Duty games, who always seem to know your mother very intimately.
As anyone who listens to the podcast knows, I love Grand Theft Auto. It is my favorite video game franchise, and I talk about it almost constantly. It drives my girlfriend nuts. Never once has my love of GTA caused me to actually steal a car and speed off, because I know that I can’t just drive away until the stars disappear. I know that there are consequences. If I did, for some reason, decide to go on a crime spree (stealing cars, killing civilians, calling my cousin up to go bowling) it would not be Rockstar’s fault. I would be the one to blame, because I made a conscious decision to do these things. I’m almost twenty-four years old, I know the difference from real and make believe. Only a severe lack of common sense and a high dose of complete idiocy would cause me to do such a thing, and it would be one hundred percent my fault.
Before Lanza was identified, his brother, Ryan Lanza, was the suspect of the shootings, because he had liked the Mass Effect Facebook page. People attacked the page, blaming the series for having an influence on the shootings. Where in Mass Effect, do you shoot a child at any point? As far as I can remember when I played all three games back to back last summer, there was only one child who died at the hands of the Reapers at the beginning of Mass Effect 3, and that child haunted Shepard throughout the game because he couldn’t save him. So how in any way is it excusable to point a finger at the series?
What Adam Lanza did was unforgivable. The Sandy Hook shooting was a horrible tragedy, as are all mass shootings. I’m not trying to cheapen that in any way. He was old enough to know that it was wrong. He may or may not have been mentally disturbed, I don’t know for certain. Either way, he made a decision that day to go into that school and murder those defenseless children. He made the choice to go in and shoot the adults that tried to help them. He made a choice. The blame lies with him, not with any video game.
My personal opinion is that this study into video game violence is a ridiculous idea. It’s up to parents to monitor what their children play, and explain to them why the things they do in the game are not okay to do in real life. It is never the game or the game’s developers who are to blame. We don’t need this study, we don’t need to invest $10 million into it, we’re already in enough debt.
What do you think, though? Do you believe that the research should be done? Do you believe that there is a correlation between violent media and real-world violence? Let us know in the comments, here or on Facebook, or tweet at us at @VGUTV to let us know how you feel.
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