Disclaimer: The following article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the view of BagoGames, it’s staff or anyone else related to the site.
America’s far-right (and the far-right in a number of other countries) always like to perpetuate a lot of uninformed opinions. Fake news, if you will. That’s something that Cheeto-In-Chief Donald Trump is recently guilty of with his comments about violent video games. In response to the massacre in Parkland, Florida, Agent Orange uttered what many have (wrongly) thought for the past several decades; that video games cause violence. In Mr. Trump’s words:
“I’m hearing more and more people say the level of violence on [sic] video games is really shaping young people’s thoughts.”
Considering how many controversial comments Donald Trump makes in a given week, it’s easy to understand how this didn’t get a lot of attention; the attention it did generate was mainly from video game magazines and only lasted briefly. What many on America’s far-right (and Mr. Trump himself) fail to understand is that, just because a small circle of uninformed speakers believe something to be true doesn’t make it so.
In short; video games don’t directly cause violence.
According to the vast majority of studies done on the subject, there’s a minimal (if any) connection between violent video games and real-world violence, especially the likes of what happened in Parkland, Florida. According to Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University and something of an expert on video game violence, there’s almost no connection. In an interview with Yahoo!, Mr. Ferguson said that no link was found between the two in the vast majority of studies.
“There is very clearly no evidence to suggest that violent video games or violent movies or violent television contribute to violent crime. That seems to be, at this point, the consensus view among a majority of scholars.”
However, despite no direct links between the two, the connection has consistently been made between violence and video games, for good or for ill. As task force chair for an American Psychological Association task force report into violence and video games, Mark Appelbaum examined a wide breadth of studies examining the connection published over a 20 year period. According to his examination, the connection has been widely examined and with pretty consistent results, to the ire of Donald Trump and the American far-right.
In Mr. Appelbaum’s (informed) opinion, there is no direct relationship between violence and video games. Rather, real-world violence, especially the likes of what happened in Parkland, Florida, is the result of a somewhat toxic mix of several factors, each coming together in a certain way in order to fuel violence. While video games may be a part of that, it’s a very minimal factor, and definitely isn’t the decisive one. Mr. Appelbaum also found that there was a severe lack of proper research into what exactly leads to this kind of violence.
“We know that there are numerous risk factors for aggressive behavior. What researchers need to do now is conduct studies that look at the effects of video game play in people at risk for aggression or violence due to a combination of risk factors. For example, how do depression or delinquency interact with violent video game use?”
The task force identified a number of limitations in the research that require further study. These include a general failure to look for any differences in outcomes between boys and girls who play violent video games; a dearth of studies that have examined the effects of violent video game play on children younger than 10; and a lack of research that has examined the games’ effects over the course of children’s development.
Essentially, researchers need to look further into the connection between mental health issues and violent behavior; video games might be a factor in this, but there are underlying issues that triggered the violent episode in the first place. However, tackling mental health issues seems to be too much of an effort for the likes of Donald Trump and many prominent Republicans. Instead, they scapegoat and fight for the NRA, I mean, Second Amendment.
Despite all of Mr. Trump’s comments about violent video games, it looks as though that’s where it’ll stay; simple comments made by a simple man, no matter how uninformed he is. With how rarely Donald Trump actually follows through on his comments, video games are pretty safe. And should America’s far-right attempt to take on video games in their further scapegoating of the issues, it looks as though it’ll be a losing battle for them; America’s Supreme Court held in Brown v. EMA, in a 7-2 decision penned by Justice Antonin Scalia, that video games are entitled to First Amendment protection.
In a ruling, the Supreme Court found:
“A legislature cannot create new categories of unprotected speech simply by weighing the value of a particular category against its social costs and then punishing it if it fails the test…This country has no tradition of specially restricting children’s access to depictions of violence.”
However, the NRA has a considerable sway in Washington D.C, with many politicians – mainly Republicans, but some Democrats – already in the gun lobbyists pockets. And after all, guns are a multi-billion dollar industry in America. That doesn’t mean that video games are set to be spayed, however. As big as the gun industry is, video games are just as big, with an increasing foothold in the American political system.