Articles

Why Blaming Video Games for Violence is Wrong | NYT Opinion

September 15, 2019


Video games are
everywhere nowadays. Invading your living rooms,
storming your phones, even taking the blame
for society’s ills. “These video games
dehumanize individuals.” Like after the recent
wave of shootings when American politicians
shared thoughts, prayers and concerns about video games. “This was a maybe a video
game to this evil demon. He wanted to be
a super soldier for his Call of Duty game.” Even the president urged us
to stop the glorification of violence in our
society, including “the gruesome and
grisly video games that are now commonplace.” Let’s debunk this whole
“video games causes violence” red herring once and for all. I’m Charle Goldberg. I’ve been reporting on
video games for eight years. I’ve been a lifelong
video game player. I have amassed nearly
two million subscribers on my gaming YouTube channel. And, well, I play a
lot of video games. The violent ones, the shooter
ones more specifically. I also love LEGOs. I’m a father. I know I’m just one gamer, but
I’m not a threat to society and neither are the
millions of other people who play video games. Let’s take a look at
the world of evidence. American video game sales per
person are on similar levels to countries like South
Korea, Japan, or Germany. But our rate of violent gun
deaths is 10 to 100 times higher than any of
those countries’. Even within America, there
is zero empirical evidence that video games are
linked to mass shootings. Decades of research from
the American Psychological Association have shown there’s
no link between playing violent video games
and participating in violent crime. This all looks nominal. No link, no evidence. Now, it’s true that some
research shows a relationship between video games
and aggression, but aggression is also linked
to lots of things, including organized sports. Now, maybe you’re thinking,
what about Columbine. Didn’t the two shooters
in that also play the violent video game Doom? And yes, they did, but violent
criminals also watch movies, they read books and
digest the news, real or fake. As one A.P.A. expert put it, “The data
on bananas causing suicide is about as conclusive.” In fact, in 2017
an A.P.A. committee issued a statement
discouraging politicians and journalists from trying
to connect video games and shootings precisely
because they feared the rhetoric would distract
us from addressing issues that we know contribute
to real-world violence. So why, against the objections
of science and ethics, do politicians still insist
on deflecting our attention? Because it’s easy. It works. And it’s time tested. In 1915, the Supreme
Court supported censorship of movies because
they could “cause evil.” Film didn’t become a
form of protected speech until the ’50s, just when politicians
turned their energies to a new scapegoat — comic books. Now fast-forward to the paranoias about heavy metal
in the 1960s, Dungeons and Dragons in the ’80s, hip-hop in the ’90s. “Here we go again.” Solutions are hard and
we like simple answers to complicated questions. And it doesn’t take much
to get disgruntled parents frustrated by their
kids’ screen time and Fortnite addiction to
believe that video games are evil. The fact that politicians are
so removed from video game culture is another reason we should
ignore their deflections. Would you listen
to a book critic who’s never read a book? “Shut your pie hole.” And just like books, video games are actually
an art form protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court made
that clear in 2011 when Justice Scalia reminded
us that violence is not novel to gaming. It’s as old as the plots of
Cinderella and Snow White. Gamers don’t really have
an issue deciphering fantasy from the real world. But politicians seem
to have lost themselves in a politically
convenient fiction. Just when we need
them to focus on the crisis of our reality.

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