Do You Think that Violent Video Games Can Do Harm?

This is definitely a topic we’re walking into with trepidation. It’s a hot-button issue, but it’s one that everyone has a definite opinion on, whether they are looking at it politically or not. For this topic we have decided to try and keep politics out of it and stick to the issue, but it was very difficult for us to tiptoe around the elephant in the room.

However, this question has been raised many times before, but now there is much more riding on it than before. With mass shootings such an issue in the United States, it’s being suggested that video games are to blame. So we posed this question to our writers: “Do you think that violent video games can do harm?” It turned out to be a very interesting, enlightening discussion.

Our Discussion

Alex spoke up right away. He finds it to be “terrifically wrong” to suggest video games can make people violent, noting that “no scientific study has established a credible, real link between video games and violent actions.” Alex believes people are capable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality and even dug up an interesting statistic that eighty percent of mass shooters did not show an interest in violent video games.”

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Simon picks up on the same thought of there being no proven link between video games and committing violence in the real world. To the contrary, he’s heard from friends that the more violent games actually “help them to calm down and disperse any anger that has built up over the day.” He thinks violent acts “stem from something far deeper than violent media,” such as personal issues.

Ada adds that violence existed for centuries before video games, so it’s hard to find them at fault. She suggests if you don’t like violence, then don’t watch those kinds of movies. She also has friends who find it relaxing and comforting to play the more violent games and notes while she sees herself as more aggressive than her friends that like those video games, she doesn’t play video games and doesn’t watch violent movies.

I jumped in here with my own thoughts. I have the experience of having a family member involved in a shooting that saw two die and sixteen injured. My sister was shot and luckily survived. It can’t be considered a mass shooting, however, as only two people died. But the killer actually watched a violent movie before committing the crimes. He watched the movie “Natural Born Killers” and then went to the bar with three guns and nearly 300 rounds of ammunition, yelling, “I’m a natural born killer!” So I can see the tendency to connect the violence to movies or video games, but I don’t think he did it because of the movie. I think he did it because he was already violent.

Robert also spends time as a video game journalist and is “frustrated by the circular arguments around video-game violence, when there is clearly a much bigger social problem happening specifically in America.” He knows he, too, could add stats to the mix, but he doesn’t feel it will stop the “facile attempts at headline grabs from reactionary sections of the media.”

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He believes that people with psychopathic predispositions use guns as a “convenient, impersonal way” to act out their fantasies. While games, movies, books, etc., may be a small part of the “vast, twisted fabric” of their “warped psyche,” he believes they have serious problems to conflate those things with reality.

Damien has a definite thought to ponder, wondering what percentage of gamers actually become a shooter or otherwise violent. He suspects that number is so small it’s negligible.

Robert agrees, noting we don’t have people acting out GTA V violence in the streets. And he notes people play violent video games world over, but the mass-shootings seem to be very much “country-specific.” He also points to a level of competitiveness, as a study he read about concluded that even after playing Chess, people get temporarily aggressive because of the competitiveness.

Phil discusses violence happening thirty years ago in the UK and that politicians and the media did the same: “pursue and inflate” the idea of video games causing violence “because it makes them look morally responsible while cynically collecting votes/eyeballs.”

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He looks to the countless research, inquiries, and studies that have been done in the past thirty years that have all concluding the same thing: “lots of correlation and no link to causation.” He also suggests that if you ban or restrict violent video games, then those who may have that inside them to be violent may find a stronger need to do it for real. He believes that the politicians and the media use the horrific events to get rid of things they don’t like.

Ada nailed the issue, stating that “blaming video games and movies is a convenient way to distract attention from the real reason – easily accessible weapons of mass destruction.”

Add to the Discussion!

Interestingly, this conversation between our writers here happened on a day when students across the United States staged more than 2,000 walkouts to protest that not enough is being done about gun control and mass shootings. This is the same age group that is being called out for playing violent video games. But it didn’t make them get violent. It reinforced in them that it’s wrong to act out so violently. They are able to separate fantasy from reality.

We want your thoughts on this. Do you think that violent video games can do harm? Join our discussion in the comments section below.

17 comments

  1. In a word NO.
    At one time or another acid rock, rap, heavy metal and the tango were accused of “causing violence”. Who can forget Dee Snyder of Twisted Sister being interrogated by a clueless Congressional committee on whether their music caused kids to become violent.

    To find the causes of violence, we need to look at the home life and social interactions. If the lives of all the perpetrators of all mass killings (school shootings, serial murders, assassins, political leaders, etc) we will find that none of them had what may be called a “happy childhood”. They also did not have “normal” social interactions. They were ostracized, shunned, made fun of, so on and so forth.

    As far as I am concerned, it is the games that politicians play that make me violent. :-)

  2. The blame game has been going on for a long time. When Elvis first shook things up, he became a target, blamed for all sorts of evil doings affecting our precious young. This has happened with every change to the status quo, in just about every area of life. Our leaders have to do something to show they are leaders. Blame some fringe group or new idea or anything they themselves or their “base” feels threatens their way of life. It’s much easier than delving deep into an issue, and it justifies the misgivings of those who are, generally speaking, totally unfamiliar or dissociated from the situation. If people genuinely disliked violence in movies, TV, or video games, they would vote with their wallets. But that hasn’t happened. It’s much safer for a politician to attack video games and movies than the ease of gun acquisition. We may finally be seeing an end to this, and our young are leading the charge.

    1. I agree, Dave, about the young leading the charge. It makes me feel some promise for the future.

    2. “We may finally be seeing an end to this, and our young are leading the charge.”
      I would not hold my breath. The anti-gun movement is directed at the wrong demographic. There is nothing being said, let alone done, about the thousands of illegal guns being sold on street corners in every town and city. No dealer license needed, no gun owner license needed, no background checks. The only thing needed is MONEY. When something like Columbine, Sandy Hook or Las Vegas happens everybody jumps on the “ban guns” bandwagon. But when hundreds of kids across the nation kill each other on a daily basis, nobody gives a damn. Not the public, not the media, and most of all, not the politicians.

      1. This is what I used to believe too, until I started paying attention, real attention, meaning every single day, to the cause. Sure, guns are sold illegally, but someone had to buy them to begin with. The manufacturers aren’t selling on street corners. And some of the ways they’re sold could be made illegal, such as gun shows and through the mail.

        And many of the guns used in mass shootings are legal. WE are legally selling weapons to children. You only need to be 18 to buy a semi-automatic rifle. The Parkland shooter was 19 and legally owned ALL his weapons, including the SA rifle that killed 17 people and despite the FBI receiving warnings about him.

        You mentioned Sandy Hook as well. That shooter also did not buy his weapons illegally on street corners. His mom bought the guns for him, again semi-automatic weapons, and then he killed her before all those Kindergarten and 1st-grade students.

        However, the guy who shot my sister did not buy his guns legally. It is not known how he obtained the handgun, rifle, shotgun, and nearly 300 rounds of ammo he walked into the crowded bar with that night, but it wasn’t legal. He was a convicted felon. But that’s not always the case.

        We need to cut down on the legal purchases before we can even begin to worry about the illegal purchases. But the NRA prevents politicians from enacting those types of laws, and that’s what the students are fighting.

        1. No matter what you want to believe, guns DO NOT kill on their own. No more than other inanimate objects such as rocks, knives, pipes, pillow cases, cars, etc. What they do is make it easier to kill quickly and impersonally. How many tens of thousands of people are killed and injured annually by cars? Yet there are no calls to ban all cars>

          You neglected one source of street guns – theft. Each year there are thousands of guns stolen from gun and sporting goods stores, military arsenals and transports, police cars and impounds. They are purchased illegally from crooked cops, crooked dealers, crooked military personnel. Firearms are being smuggled into the US in large quantities from overseas. Even if you get your wish and all gun shows and dealers are closed down, the supply of guns will not dry up or even be significantly reduced.

          “WE are legally selling weapons to children. ”
          No, WE are not. The federal law forbids sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 18. The only way an individual under 18 can possess a firearm is if an RELATED adult (over 21) buys it for them. In Florida, individuals under 18 can legally use the firearm only when supervised by an adult.

          “FBI receiving warnings about him”
          Don’t blame the gun, blame the FBI. They screwed the pooch on that one.

          “The Parkland shooter was 19 and legally owned ALL his weapons,”
          So did most, if not all, school shooters. What you are conveniently overlooking is that it was mental instability that caused all of them to shoot. Many of them should have been in mental institutions, under professional observation and care. Unfortunately, the same politicians that are pushing for more gun control were the ones that, for various reasons, caused the closing of many mental institutions.

          Our laws are working at cross-purposes. HIPAA and other privacy laws forbid mental health providers from reporting of individuals that are a danger to society. How is the background check supposed to be accurate and allow weeding out of those unsuitable for gun ownership when all pertinent information is not considered? I believe every prospective gun owner must fill out ATF form 4473. Question 11 F on that form asks “Have you ever been adjudicated as a mental defective OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution?” How do you propose to force people to answer that question truthfully? Not tellin the truth on a federal form is already a felony.

        2. “the guy who shot my sister did not buy his guns legally. ”
          He probably bought his guns on the street corner. As a convicted felon he knew where he could easily get them.

          As a convicted felon he was not supposed to be able to buy a gun. Obviously gun control laws did not prevent him from obtaining those firearms. What makes you think that more new laws will not stop him, or people like him? Short of incarcerating ALL felons for life, there is no way of preventing them from getting their hands on firearms.

          During WWII, in German-occupied Europe, the penalty for possessing a gun was death on the spot. And yet, thousands of people owned and used guns. Even with such draconian measures, the Germans could not control gun ownership. Do you think anything less draconian can do a better job?

          1. You’ve demonstrated here the very reason why nothing is ever solved with regards to gun control. It’s not a pick and choose issue. You can’t highlight a line and say this is wrong. Read through and find another line and say this is wrong. Politicians do the same thing, and that’s why nothing gets solved.

            When you look at the big picture, what we’re doing is not working. Period. And it’s getting worse. Arguing about this and that solves nothing. But that’s all the politicians are willing to do. And then they want to put a bandaid on the issue such as saying let’s get rid of violent video games. That will solve nothing. Video games aren’t the issue. We can argue the finer points back and forth repeatedly, but it doesn’t change anything, just like trying to ban violent video games.

        3. “You can’t highlight a line and say this is wrong”
          Isn’t that what you are doing? You, and many others, have fixated on guns and decided they are THE problem and getting rid of them will solve everything. If you look across the world, there are countries where much stricter gun control laws have not eliminated gun violence and gun deaths. OTOH, there are countries with laxer gun laws where gun violence and guns deaths are a rarity.

          United States, Yemen and Switzerland have the highest per capita gun ownership in the world. US and Yemen have a high rate of gun violence and gun deaths. Switzerland has very liberal gun laws and members of the military are allowed to take their service weapons home. And yet there is very illegal use of guns. The last time a gun was used to kill more than one person was 10 or 12 years ago. The difference between the three countries is the culture. US and Yemen still have a frontier mentality. Switzerland does not. Switzerland also has a very low violent crime rate.

          Passing gun control laws is treating the symptoms, not the root cause of the disease. What is needed to cure the disease is a major change in a culture that sees violence, not negotiation, as a solution to all problems. The anti-gun movement is pretty similar in its goals to the temperance movement, a total ban. We should take a lesson from the Prohibition. It didn’t work for alcohol and it will not work for guns. All it will do is create more crime.

          I do not belong to the NRA. I do not own a gun. I am not even pro gun. However, I do not have tunnel vision, either. I do not fixate on one issue. I try to a look at the big picture with many variables.

  3. It depends on the person… how “mentally damaged” that person may be… BTW, statistics can be manipulated… I can find stats to support both sides of the argument. Example… if I were an alcoholic or addict that is in denial, I would say that I don’t have a problem… yet everyone around me knows that I do… I would expect that MOST of the responses would be that video games are NOT harmful. But if you take a child who has very low social skills, and let them play violent video games until that have passed puberty, I would suspect that you would have a bit of a “powder keg” on your hands… JMHO…

    1. “I would expect that MOST of the responses would be that video games are NOT harmful. ”
      Have you seen an objective, reputable study that proves or disproves cause and effect between violent games and violence? All the studies I’ve read start with a conclusion and then find the facts to support that conclusion. Not exactly the scientific method.

      “But if you take a child who has very low social skills”
      Is it your contention that children are born with “low social skills”?

  4. So, in general, I don’t think violent computer games “make people violent”. Normal people are able to distinguish between reality and gameplay, and will never recreate in-game violence in the real world. However I do think there are two potential dangers that should be considered:
    1) A very small number of people who could be considered true “sociopaths” might use the simulated violence to feed their disorder, especially if the simulated violence is graphic, and performed against realistic human victims. Once they become saturated or tire of the simulated environment, moving to the real world might be the next step.
    2) Graphic violence against realistic human victims may de-sensitize children/adolescents to violence against others. Parents need to be very careful to monitor how much time their children are spending in these games and that they are mature enough to understand the difference between in-game violence (which has no repercussions or consequences) vs. the serious moral implications of violence in the real world.

    1. “A very small number of people who could be considered true “sociopaths” ”
      How do they get to be “sociopaths”?

      “Graphic violence against realistic human victims may de-sensitize children/adolescents to violence against others.”
      Wouldn’t you think that real violence, such as in TV news, de-sensitize even more? After all, games are only make-belief, while TV news shows how people relate to each other in real life.

      Wouldn’t the real violence of combat de-sensitize soldiers to violence? We have hundreds of thousands of war veterans in our midst. Why aren’t most of them running around, indiscriminately killing people?

  5. I thihnk the first time ones nees to establich is why people like violent games.
    It cannot be a good thing to keep playing games with violent killings and for it not affect the py´sychology of that person…even if only to make thta person less empathic.
    So all in all I think yes…it could be bad.

    1. I am sorry for all the typological errors in my reply. I hit the “sen post” without a proof read.

  6. I’m more concerned with the kids (and their parents who encourage/push them) into violent, high contact sports. Aggression is drilled in to the players from the get-go.
    Couple this with the kids’ still developing but repeatedly damaged gray matter that’s involved in socialization, decision making and impulse control and you have a ready and steady supply of ticking time bombs.

    1. Do you know of any objective studies that support your statement about “violent, high contact” sports?

      “Aggression is drilled in to the players from the get-go.”
      Maybe you have that backwards. Maybe it is the already aggressive kids who go into the violent sports.

      BTW – have you ever engaged in competitive sports of any kind?

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