US shooting revives debate over videogame violence

by Leila Macor
Journalist play a version of the "Assassin's Creed" videogame in Istanbul on September 29, 2011. The massacre of 26 people, mostly young children, at a US school has revived the perennial debate about the impact of violent videogames on the warped minds of gunmen behind such tragedies. Experts are divided over whether games are blueprints for real-life violent behavior or harmless just fantasies.

The massacre of 26 people, mostly young children, at a US school has revived the perennial debate about the impact of violent videogames on the warped minds of gunmen behind such tragedies.

Experts are divided over whether games with names like "Assassin's Creed," "Thrill Kill" or "Manhunt - Executions" are blueprints for real-life or harmless fantasies that allow young men to vent testosterone.

Some politicians have highlighted the role of violence in television, movies and videogames—including Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, after 12 people were killed in a movie theater massacre near Denver in July.

"There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge—they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games," he told .

Senator Jay Rockefeller called the latest massacre a "wake-up call" for federal action. "While we don't know if such images impacted the killer in Newtown, the issue of is serious and must be addressed.

"As parents, research confirms what we already know—these violent images have a negative impact on our children's well-being," he said, adding: "I'm pushing for that action now before we have to mourn more innocent lives lost."

Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old who killed himself after massacring 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, was reportedly a fan of violent videogames, including "Dynasty Warriors."

California banned the sale of violent videogames to minors, but the struck down the law in June 2011, saying it violated the right to free speech, enshrined in the First Amendment of the US constitution.

Experts and say the evidence about such games' impact on players is mixed.

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper speaks at the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 5, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Some politicians have highlighted the role of violence in television, movies and videogames—including Hickenlooper, after 12 people were killed in a movie theater massacre near Denver in July.

"I'm rather tired of this argument. I'm sure you can find a study or two to support the claim that videogames foster violence, but I'm sure you can also find studies that deny it," said specialist and game designer Greg Costikyan.

"In general, my impression is that the idea that media of any sort cause anything other than short-term and minor changes in proclivities to violent behavior has been thoroughly debunked."

But Brad Bushman, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University and co-author of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology last month, said players grow more aggressive the longer they play such games.

Of experts who disagree, he said: "It's like global warming. Ninety-five percent of scientists say that global warming is occurring, but you can always find a few scientists saying it's not occurring.

"The same is true. I would say 95 percent of scientists believe that violent media, TV programs, movies, videogames, increase aggression, and only 5 percent or even less believes they have no effect.

"They are outliers, they're not the norm."

Blood-drenched videogames may well have a more harmful effect than violence in movies or TV shows, he told AFP.

When you're playing a videogame, "you're active. You're not just sitting on a couch watching other people. You are actively involved and people learn when they're actively involved.

"You're directly rewarded in a videogame for behaving aggressively... And you get to advance in the game. If you kill people you get points," he said.

But violent videogames do not by themselves create crazed killers.

"Shootings like the one in Connecticut are very rare and you cannot predict them," Bushman said. "But violent videogames increase behavior that's not so rare, like yelling, hitting, pushing, and being an aggressive driver.

"Maybe if you play violent videogames you won't kill somebody, but how do you treat your friends, how do you treat strangers? There's never one cause. Violent video games are maybe one factor."

Nevertheless, Rockefeller, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said the Newtown massacre must spark not just debate, but action.

"It would be a travesty if we only looked at Friday's attack—as well as the many other senseless tragedies we've seen—in silence and refuse to act," he said.

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Tristan
5 / 5 (1) Dec 19, 2012
"I'm rather tired of this argument. I'm sure you can find a study or two to support the claim that videogames foster violence, but I'm sure you can also find studies that deny it,"

Perhaps the politicians should be exploring some other possible causes, just to be safe? Here's some figures for you:

Shooting deaths in America last year: Just over 10000.
Shooting deaths in the United Kingdom last year: 8.

The UK has very roughly 1/3 the population of the United States. Kids play computer games there too. So what's the critical factor giving rise to the absurd difference in gun-related deaths?

My hypothesis: They don't have a second amendment in the UK. I believe that a 20 year old on medication for Schizophrenia would have a noticeably harder time getting access to firearms in the UK, and that this factor is in fact far more significant to this case than the fact that he (along with 90% of young men) plays violent videogames.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Dec 19, 2012
Tristan, you say that video games DO NOT foster violence, yet guns do foster violence. Inconsisent argument.

What causes violence? Progressive philosophies of, If I want it, it is mine. I can do what I want. Ends Justify the means. It's ok to shout down people. It's ok to occupy a place or building and poop on police cars. It's ok to storm buildings to harass voting. It's excusing union thugs. No one needs to be responsible for their actions. The culture of death. If you have more than me, it's ok for me to take it. It takes a community to raise a child. Divorce is ok. Having kids out of Wedlock OK. Demeaning people is ok. There is no truth, no absolutes.

I am raising 4 children, they are taught self confidence, self discipline, caring for others, that it is not ok to demean others, I do not allow them to watch shows which glorify demeaning others.
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2012
As for violence, you are mistaken. Violent crime is worse in Britain than in the USA.

http://www.dailym...-US.html

Britain thugs and evil people like to use knives and clubs.

In Britain a thug with a club can beat a 90 year old grandma. In the usa, the grandma can shoot back
freethinking
1 / 5 (5) Dec 19, 2012
Some additional facts that are not commonly spoken.

Murders are classified differenly in diffrent countries. In the USA, you kill yourself thats counted in the murder stats, in Japan if a father kills his family then himself, its counted as a suicide.

Additionally, if you remove the murders comitted by African Americans (generally against other African Americans) the murder rate in the USA will be one of the lowest in the world.

If Progressives really want to reduce gun violence, then they should be in favor of preventing African Americans from owning/possessing guns. (Just for the record, I'm NOT in favor of this.

Lets solve the root cause of violence, and ensure that if an honest decent person is attacked, that they have an option and ability to defend themselves.
RobertKarlStonjek
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 19, 2012
The rise of computer games through the 1990s saw a corresponding fall in violent crime worldwide, especially in the USA.

The statistics seem to indicate that most young people play these games *instead* of enacting the real thing...
Tristan
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2012
freethinking, I don't think you grasped the thrust of my argument, perhaps I didn't express myself clearly enough. To summarize:

a) The jury is still very much out on whether violent videogames have any effect on behaviour, there are many studies supporting both sides of the argument.

b) Regardless of whether violent videogames do cause an increase in likelihood to commit violent crimes, the ready availabilty of firearms makes the consequences of such crimes vastly more damaging to the victims, and this is a far larger factor in the damage to victims and society than any *still contested* increase due to a).

Your link in the second post is actually an excellent demonstration of this. Violent crime in the UK is higher and yet the number of deaths from crime are *vastly* lower.
thewhitebear
4 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2012
maybe it's more like a bell curve. that is, violent media promotes an increase in minor aggressive behaviors (as noted in the article; pushing, hitting, tailgating) this functions as a shift of the center of the curve towards a more violent culture as a whole. That cultural shift increases the probability for extreme violent actions. Correlating stricter gun laws with lower crime rates in other countries is tricky, what else could be having an impact on those crime rates? socialized medicine that catches mental illness early? better education systems? a culture of community awareness? lots to think about, but I think that if you deny that the exponential increase in violent media over the past half century could have anything but a tendency to increase aggressive behavior then you, like climate change skeptics, will always find a way to validate your arguments.
freethinking
1 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2012
When you can't trust the stats. Murder rate, should that include suicide? In the USA it does, almost everywhere else it does not. What about killing your family then yourself is that murder? In the USA it is, in other countries it is considered suicide.

If Progressives really care, then why don't they address the real problem. If it were not for African Americans, the USA would have one of the lowest murder rate in the world.

Question is WHY are African Americans statistically so violent, and what can be done? Could it be that years under Progressive indoctrination has harmed the African American community?

When a community (or individual) constantly blames others for their failings, is constantly given a free pass on bad behavious, is encouraged to act out, are taught to hate, not take responsiblity for their actions is it any wonder they become violent, any wonder most criminals are Progressives.

Progressives, you own the murderer.
Tristan
3 / 5 (2) Dec 20, 2012
lol, I sincerely hope you're trolling freethinking :)

Whitebear, great to get a rational response. I would say however that although I certainly agree with you that it *seems* to follow that more violence in media would increase violent tendencies, the figures (surprisingly) don't carry that out.

There are plenty of figures out there on this but in case you're interested, here are a couple of posts demonstrating that violent crime in the US and the UK have been dropping since the early nineties (when computer games really started to take off):

http://edition.cn...dex.html
http://en.wikiped...2007.png
cantdrive85
1 / 5 (4) Dec 20, 2012
The discussion is continuously being diverted from the root of the issue, a society poisoned by neurotoxins and other harmful chemicals.

http://savemylife...-doctor/