Violent video games under scrutiny after Newtown, Conn. school shootings

Video-game makers and retailers are facing growing pressure from Washington and advocacy groups concerned about possible links between violent games and tragedies like the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. A bill introduced Wednesday by U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller directs the National Academy of Sciences to examine whether violent games and programs lead children to act aggressively, the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement. He will also press the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission to expand their studies. The advocacy group Common Sense Media cheered the moves.
See Violent video games under scrutiny after Newtown, Conn. school shootings

Before the creation of video games people went to amusement parks and enjoyed themselves taking shots at mechanical targets. This photo (below) shows the remains of one such shooting gallery that had existed in Glen Echo Maryland. I don’t believe anyone has suggested that such recreational activity in amusement parks ever led to acts of mass murder, as some are suggesting is the case with these first person shooter video games.
Abandoned Amusement Park Shooting Gallery (Detail)

2 thoughts on “Violent video games under scrutiny after Newtown, Conn. school shootings

  1. When I was in Psych101, I read that the relationship between violent videogames and violent behavior was only correlational. A few days ago, I found this psychology article.

    Page 3 (figures 1 and 2) describe the General Agression Model (GAM). This is a model for how videogames prime people for aggressive cognitions.
    Page 4-7 describe the results of their meta analysis of various studies. I was having a bit of a hard time following it, so I stopped after page 4. I’m not accustomed to thinking like a meta analyst.
    They claim their meta analysis provides evidence for videogames effecting behavior. This includes short and long term increases in aggresive behavior and short term reduction in prosocial behavior.

    I stopped playing videogames when I was 15 (over 4 years ago), so I’m in the control group.

    • Interesting paper. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. Perusing it led to some other references, in particular one by Henry Jenkins, a noted media scholar. In his “Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked” he states:

      It’s true that young offenders who have committed school shootings in America have also been game players. But young people in general are more likely to be gamers — 90 percent of boys and 40 percent of girls play. The overwhelming majority of kids who play do not commit antisocial acts. According to a 2001 U.S. Surgeon General’s report, the strongest risk factors for school shootings centered on mental stability and the quality of home life, not media exposure. The moral panic over violent video games is doubly harmful. It has led adult authorities to be more suspicious and hostile to many kids who already feel cut off from the system. It also misdirects energy away from eliminating the actual causes of youth violence and allows problems to continue to fester.

      Independent of the opinions of these experts, I like to mention that a lot of aggression is expressed by spectators at football games, but I don’t think that the ranks of school age mass murderers is drawn from such football fans. BUT attending sporting events and drinking alcohol can be a deadly combination. Newspapers regularly carry stories of fans after a game getting into fights, which sometimes turn deadly.

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