What Research Says About Gory Video Games’ Impact on Gun Violence
As the nation scrambled to make sense of a rash of high-profile mass shootings in the past year, some targeted violent video games—such as the popular Call of Duty series that Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza reportedly played obsessively. But while gory games have long been blamed real-world violence, researchers have struggled to link the two.
There's no substantial evidence show that shows video game violence has an corollary effect on aggressive behaviors, Texas A&M psychologist Christopher Ferguson argued in a recent column for The Chronicle. Out of hundreds of studies on violence and video games, Ferguson said, not a single one has conclusively proven a causal relationship between violent behaviors in the real world and violent video-game play.
"After a national tragedy like Sandy Hook, it's quite common to see lawmakers lash out at media in an effort to appear to be 'doing something,'" Ferguson told Campus Progress. "It's low hanging fruit."
Japan, which has some of the most graphically violent games in the world, has crime rates that are a fraction of those in the United States. Both South Korea and The Netherlands spend more than twice as much per capita on video games, but gun murder rates are far lower than they are here in the United States.
On the flip side, numerous studies have shown benefits of playing video games including faster decision-making, enhanced motor skills, and pain relief.
In 2007, after the Virginia Tech Massacre, pundits including the influential Dr. Phil swiftly blamed video games. The official investigation, though, revealed that the perpetrator had little interest in violent titles.
In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, the Supreme Court ruled that video games constituted protected speech. Justice Antonin Scalia said that "psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”
Shawn Shaligram is an Online Communications Intern with Campus Progress. You can follow him on Twitter at @shatelegram.