Are video games the training ground for real-life carnage?
As you all may know, a very tragic event occurred in Tucson recently, resulting in the near-death of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords at the hands of Jared Loughner. After the event, people began looking for answers, and The Arizona Republic looked into Loughner’s background. During interviews with his classmates, it was discovered, and, for some reason, considered important, that Loughner was a “big video gamer.”
Gamers have always had an air of controversy surrounding them, and it only gets worse when someone who plays them commits an act of violence. It seems like the first thing people look for when they try to find a reason for these actions.
To an avid video game player, this viewpoint is silly. I have never once committed a violent crime. I get a little heated when playing, but remain a gracious winner or loser. The idea that video games directly correlate to violence is socially lazy; a cop-out when the motivation for an act such as Loughner’s isn’t entirely clear.
It seems like this has happened with all new media. It goes through tough growing pains as it finds its proper niche in society. Film and television have undergone a similarly unnecessary scrutiny. Even comic books raised public anxiety when psychiatrist Frederic Wertham’s 1954 book ,“Seduction of the Innocent,” accused the medium of carrying sadistic and homosexual undertones.
However, according to Dr. Janet Colvin, assistant professor in the communications department here at UVU, “Five or six researchers have made their career on [the idea that video games lead to violent behavior], and can’t prove causality.” In her research on over 130 years of research on media effects, Colvin has found “correlation studies, but no causation.”
In layman’s terms, some people who have committed violent acts have indulged in violent media, but this isn’t what caused the acts.
“Watching, listening, or reading violent content can cause it, if there are other factors in play, ” says Colvin. These “other factors” could include a mental illness, which Loughner is believed to have suffered from.
As the coming weeks progress, we may see a rain of hate speech against video games. The fact is, however, that people need to stop blaming gaming as a cause of violence. It isn’t the only factor that causes it, and, frankly, a mature and sane person will not go around murdering people just because he played Gears of War.
Besides, the Wall Street Journal found out what game Loughner was playing: Earth Empires, a text based strategy game. That sounds exactly like a game to inspire bloodshed and mayhem, doesn’t it?