It's 10 PM, do you know where your kids are?
It's 10 PM, do you know where your kids are?
They may be playing video games, and if you somehow still live in the 1990s along with that PSA, then you're probably alarmed at how violent they're making America's children. But it's 2019, and the fallacy that video games induce violent behavior has been so widely discredited by myriad sources that the trending hashtag "VideoGamesAreToBlame" is Twitter's ironic mockery of Republicans who are pushing the unfounded belief after two back-to-back mass shootings. So let's revisit this myth one more time and debunk it in the context of 2019.
The non-issue was resurrected after a brutal weekend of at least 32 casualties and over 50 wounded from separate mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Patrick Crusius, the 21-year-old suspect of the El Paso shooting, posted a 2,300-word manifesto to the extremist message board 8chan, which briefly mentioned video games. In claiming to be "simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion" (specifically from what he perceived to be "the Hispanic invasion of Texas"), he asserted that a real shooting spree is not the same as a video game like Call of Duty. He wrote, "Don't attack heavily guarded areas to fulfill your super soldier COD fantasy."
In response to the shootings, Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick blamed the shootings on "video games that dehumanize individuals." While appearing on Fox & Friends, Mr. Patrick called for the government to "do something about the video game industry." Indeed, many Republicans refused to condemn the attacks as domestic terrorism by white supremacists (with few exceptions surpassing that low bar of expectation, including Texas Congressman Dan Crenshaw, Ted Cruz, and George P. Bush). Instead, as Vox notes, "Some condemned white supremacy. Some called for moderate gun control measures. Others argued that those seeking gun control or blaming Trump have it wrong. And still others sought to cast the blame elsewhere—for instance, on violent video games." During multiple appearances on Fox network, Dan Patrick reiterated, "What's changed in this country? We've always had guns. We've always had evil. But what's changed where we see this rash of shootings?" he said. "And I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill."
To his point, while America has "always had guns," the laws controlling access to arms have not kept up with changes in society, including technology that has made assault weapons as accessible as personal handguns in some states, particularly after the federal ban on assault weapons expired in 2004. As Vox points out, America's homicide rate soars above similarly developed nations; and with "more guns per capita than anywhere else in the world," an assault in the U.S. is thrice as likely to involve guns.
To the myth surrounding violent video games: Yes, experts confirm "there is research showing violent video games can make people more physically aggressive—but this is true of people in all countries, not just the US." Also, studies define said aggressive behavior as "children's feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game." Additionally, more recent studies find a correlation between high video game usage and a reduction in violent crime (multiple experts observe an "incapacitation" effect, which roughly finds that playing video games keeps would-be offenders busy).
More pointedly, countries with the highest video game revenue are South Korea, China, and the United States. Yet, amidst the booming popularity of video game culture in Korea and China, violent gun deaths are minimal. In fact, Korea's "gun laws make a mass shooting nearly unfathomable," while China responded to shooting incidents in 2018 by tightening its already strict gun laws, including outlawing hunting rifles. Similarly, when a mass shooting occurred at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the country banned assault rifles within 72 hours.
Overall, there have been "more mass shootings than days this year," as CNN pointed out, with at least 251 mass shootings within the first 216 days of 2019. Quartz reports the number to be as high as 292, and we can say conclusively that #VideoGamesAreNotToBlame
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