With a recent incline in violent shootings many have turned to what the shooter did in their spare time to understand what could have triggered this behavior. A common factory among these shooters is that they often played violent online video games and have prompted for many to feel like the censorship or even in some extreme cases banning of these games is needed. Although it may be seen like the perfect culprit these games would suffer i the censorship was allowed, and there are often other factors in the shooter’s lives that have led up to a tragic event. The recent rise in violent shootings needs a solution, but one must understand what is the real cause of these shootings in order to prevent them in the future.
Violent video games have been blamed for adding stress to players but it is often used more as a stress reliever, a way for players to escape for a few hours to a fantasy world and live out fantasies that would not be allowed in normal society. Many players in the gaming community have claimed that video games, especially competitive games, are the more satisfying to play. Even some researchers such as Osamah Tahir in his article “Dangerous or Merely Fun?” states, “but some experts say violent video games help relieve stress and anger virtually.” And although the research is still divide very evenly, many on the opposing side have stated that video games that often require less attentive thought have been known to relieve stress. But this would not be the case if they were censored. There is a system set up to give these games ratings to better inform buyers about the content in the games, but no set way to censor the content or even the online interactions between players. There is a gray area in determining what is offensive or too violent, but that’s what the rating system is for after all.
But there are two sides to every situation. Unfortunately studies done to fully understand the effects of violent video games on children to young adults are often too conflicting or incomplete to determine an absolute link. In studies between the violent tendencies of young adults and the video games they play controlled factors in them such as a child’s upbringing and mental health were often not kept at a controlled factor of the tests and results were sometimes inconclusive. In “Violent Video Games Do Not Create Violent Behaviors” Emma Zambrycki States “There’s so many other factors that go into it, like your personality, your history, any history of abuse, and mental illness, things of that nature. So many factors go into how you behave in terms of aggressive or violent behaviors. Violent video games may be a predictor, but to say that violent video games are the cause of those things, and they the only reason why, is incorrect.”
Unfortunately the amount of factors that must be taken into account cannot be kept at a constant or even closely monitored adequately enough to state that violent video games cause or do not cause violent tendencies.
A more recent event where violent video games were blamed for a shooter’s behavior was in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. The shooter, Adam Lanza, was known to play these online games such as Call of Duty for hours on end, however Lanza had multiple mental disabilities that should have been red flags before the Sandy Hook tragedy. In the Front Line video documentary on Lanza it is said that Lanza had Asperger’s– a learning disorder that is known as a higher form of autism– and Sensory Intergration Disorder– a neurological disorder that results from the brain’s inability to fully compile and pull from the five main senses efficiently. While one of the disorders can be known to make socializing difficult for those affected by them both together made Lanza detached from the world, often not wanting people to touch him and preferring to stay away from others and change. This began to slowly change when a teacher that Lanza had begun to trust invited him to join the technology club at his high school. While in the technology club it wasn’t just Lanza playing the video game on the computer, the other students were as well and his interest was seen as normal. It’s also important to look a Lanza’s mother and the actions that she took. Although she saw and acknowledged her son’s improvement she pulled him from the high school for unknown reasons, backtracking on the progress he had made and did not participate in groups or therapy to continue to help her son’s development. To get closer to her sons Lanza’s mother often took him and his brother to a shooting range, and kept large guns in her home. The idea that video games was to cause this unfortunate even in American history or that Adam Lanza suddenly snapped is far from the truth.
The thought that video games are the sole reason for violent shootings and the “growth” in violent and aggressive behaviors is not looking at the larger picture. Censoring mature games that are originally meant for adults will not help in either’s decline. Closer monitoring of children who have been diagnosed and need help, educating parents who might not be aware of what mature ratings mean, and getting proper help for those children early on are good places to start though.
Raising Adam Lanza. (2013, February 19). Retrieved December 4, 2014.
Zambrycki, E. (2014, October 19). Violent video games do not create aggressive behavior. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
Tahmir, O. (2013, May 19). Dangerous Or Merely Fun. Retrieved December 4, 2014.