In our neverending quest for quick and easy solutions to gun violence, one of the easiest paths is to blame video games for inspiring mass shootings. There is nothing even remotely new about politicians and the people who fund them and support them blaming video games, music and movies for whatever is wrong at the moment.
But the evidence may be hard to swallow. It does not pan out that there is a direct link. The New York Times reported:
Armed with little and often unconvincing evidence, politicians have blamed violence on video games for decades. Their rhetoric quickly ramped up in the 1990s, after games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom popularized the genre of violent first-person shooting games. Since then, video games have been blamed for shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, and many others in between.
Researchers have extensively studied whether there is a causal link between video games and violent behavior, and while there isn’t quite a consensus, there is broad agreement that no such link exists.
According to a policy statement from the media psychology division of the American Psychological Association, “Scant evidence has emerged that makes any causal or correlational connection between playing violent video games and actually committing violent activities.”
Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University, led the committee that developed the policy statement. In an interview Monday, he said the evidence was clear that violent video games are not a risk factor for serious acts of aggression. Neither are violent movies, nor other forms of media.
The Times’ piece includes a zinger at the end, pointing to a research project that tracked 6,814 news accounts of mass shooting. The researchers found that video games were more than “eight times as likely to be brought up when the shooter is white than when the shooter is black.” The researcher said, “We should think about when we are more comfortable looking for something else to blame,” he said, adding, “I haven’t heard any senators talk about video games when an immigrant commits a crime.”