Games get blamed for U.S. gun violence problem (again)

Arguing about whether video games lead to mass shootings is beyond reductive.

Games get blamed for U.S. gun violence problem (again)

The more I stared at this blank page, the less I wanted to write this article. I hate my headline. I hate the way the issue has been politicised. But more than both those things, I hate that it was, once again, a somewhat successful distraction.

Kids are dead. Human beings are dead. Gunned down by another kid for who knows what reason. And here we sit, goaded into talking about the distraction instead of demanding that the idiots doing the distracting stay on topic.

Arguing about whether video games lead to mass shootings is beyond reductive. It's not even insensitive or offensive. It's inhuman.

So here goes my attempt to break the cycle. To give some context and then go back to what's important.

First, there are two fallacious arguments being presented on both sides of the debate that need to be addressed.

Arguing that there are far more violent forms of media out there that kids are exposed to—like the news—is just another distraction. For some reason gaming industry experts are willing to conveniently ignore the interactive aspect of their medium when making this argument.

We have hard data on this now. There is no need to argue with anologies to try and make your case narratively.

On the other side of the debate, in addition to the lack of regard for scientific evidence, is the apparent dismissal of the fact that gaming is a global pastime. Media have homed in on Japan as an example of a country where the exact same violent video games are available, yet there are nearly no gun deaths.

Japan is certainly no exception, aside from just how effective it has been at eliminating gun violence from the country. The exception is the United States, where just in 2018 there have been at least 9 school shootings (including universities) involving someone firing a gun at students.

That's not counting a university shooting where a student killed his parents when they fetched him from campus to take him home for spring break. There was also an incident where a grade 12 student at Liberty High School in Arizona brought a loaded gun to school a week after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. Police received an anonymous tip from a fellow student and was able to make an arrest before the school day began.

Of the shootings counted above, six were at high schools and one at a middle school. Two were mass shootings where more than 10 people were injured or killed: Marshall County High School on 23 January, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on 14 February.

Focusing just on school shootings to make this point is risky, because it suggests that the United States has a public mass shooting problem at academic institutions. That's not true.

The United States has a gun violence problem.

Those trying to blame it on video games for their own political ends, provided they still have a conscience, should take a real hard look at what they're doing.

The first time violent video games were blamed for a mass shooting at a school in the United States was Columbine High in 1999. Brian Hugh Warner, better known as Marilyn Manson, served as another whipping boy for the tragedy.

Manson, along with id Software's Doom, had been blamed for inspiring two Columbine High School students to murder their classmates.

Later another id Software title, Quake, along with Redneck Rampage would be added to the list when they were named in a 2001 lawsuit that the families of Columbine victims brought against several game studios and publishers. Doom was the main scapegoat, though. One of the shooters had named his sawed-off shotgun Arlene, after a character in the Doom novels.

It wouldn't be the last time video games, or Manson, get blamed for mass shootings.

In his 2002 Bowling for Columbine interview, Michael Moore asked Marilyn Manson what he would say if he could speak directly to the children at Columbine and the people of that community.

"I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say," Manson said.

"That's what no-one did."

Authors Note: The comments below are for discussing the issue of violence in video games, and the effect violent video games might have on underaged players. If you want to discuss gun control, follow the preceding link to a separate area for that.

Post image is Triforce of Power by notnyt on Flickr.