One of the most debated clichés, when an episode of youth violence is reported in the news articles, is the one on the basis of which certain video games would induce children to commit crimes. The controversy tends to rekindle often in America due to school massacres.
Progress in the field of video games increasingly leads young people to live strong virtual experiences from that of war, theft, bank robberies, and massacres. This makes it possible to ask oneself that this may instigate violence in some way. This is a rather old question.
For minors, there are already safeguards, even in video games. In the European Union, games are classified with the Pegi code (Pan European game information), providing parents with a tool to protect their children from content that is inappropriate for their age.
Video games and weapons
When a school massacre is committed in the United States, video games are among the first “suspects” on which attention is focused. The debate on the arms market and on the constitutional amendment recognizing American citizens the right to arm themselves is also reignited.
There are games where you can make use of weapons (often faithful reproductions of those actually on the market) and commit real virtual massacres, such as the well known GTA V. Curiously, the correlation between video games and young violence is supported by those who do not want to limit the gun trade.
The US gun lobby has always been trying to use video games as a scapegoat, and this is no mystery. In 2012 the National rifle association (Nra) following the massacre at the Newtown elementary school attacked the main producers of videogame consoles, such as Xbox and Playstation. According to them, virtual weapons would, therefore, be more dangerous for society than the real ones.
The phenomenon of school massacres
Nicholas Cruz killed 17 people in February 2018 at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Even after this massacre, the controversy against violent video games was quickly revived, but Nikolas was actually in fact already a member of his school’s rifle team and was described as a ‘very good shot’. It was not really about him playing video games that caused his decisions.
The first massacre on an American campus was committed in 1966 by Charles Whitman. The killer after having killed his family went to take refuge at the top of the tower of the university campus of Austin in Texas, taking with him a small arsenal. Within 96 minutes Whitman took 46 shots, killing 16 and wounding 30, including an eight-month pregnant girl. Several citizens intervened together with the policemen to try to stop him, all armed.
The free movement of weapons was already a reality, while violent video games did not yet exist! Now that’s a statement to think about.
Games and violent behavior
In a longitudinal intervention study published in Nature Molecular Psychiatry in March 2018, researchers wanted to look for possible long-term effects between video games and violent behavior.
The volunteers were divided into three groups: some would play GTA V (violent game); others played The Sims 3 (non-violent game), and finally a group would not have played at all. The experiment lasted two months. The results are straightforward:
No significant changes were observed, nor when comparing the group playing a violent video game with a group playing a non-violent game, nor a passive control group.
Violence and video games: a statistical comparison
Researchers at Stetson University in November 2014 discovered that from 1996 to 2011 there has been a decrease in violence accompanied by an increase in the use of violent video games. In other words, the increase in the use of violent video games has not been a factor in the rise of violence, violence has actually decreased since the use of violent video games.
Violence among teens has been an issue for many years, even before violent video games ever existed. To say, for example, a school massacre is caused by a video game is terribly wrong as there are many other factors that could have contributed to it.
Is there really a relationship between video games and violence? No!