Video games in the news
Video games and their makers came under public scrutiny again this week following the latest mass shootings in America in the states of Texas and Ohio.
In light of these awful tragedies, which US President Donald Trump partially attributed to the “gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace”, I wanted to discuss whether they are – as the president says – a damaging force for young people or whether he's simply not addressing the elephant in the room.
Tragedies in the USA
As I’m sure you’ve seen in world news over the past few days, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, were the scenes of two separate mass shootings last weekend.
The former attack left 22 shoppers at the El Paso Walmart department store dead and 26 injured, before police detained the 21-year-old responsible for the massacre.
This was followed just 13 hours later by a separate attack in a popular nightlife district in Dayton, in which a gunman claimed the lives of nine people and wounded 27 others within the space of just 30 seconds, before being shot and killed by the police.
First of all, my thoughts go out to the families whose loved ones have either been killed or injured in this type of attack. So far in 2019, 62 people have lost their lives in mass shootings in the USA alone.
Trump blames video games
At a press conference shortly afterwards, President Trump confirmed that the author of the first shooting in El Paso, Patrick Crusius, was motivated by white supremacist and explicitly racist rhetoric. It has since come to light that he had posted a hate-filled message against the border state’s Hispanic community right before committing the atrocity.
As part of his speech, President Trump smarmed about how “hate has no place in America” and called for an end to racism, bigotry and white supremacy… before going on a rant about the Internet, video games and how their creators were directly responsible for the safety of his country’s people.
Presumably because it was all getting a little close to home.
Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke accused the president of “promoting” and “inciting racism and violence” instead of condemning it. He gave examples of Trump having referred to Mexicans as “rapists and criminals” and criticised him for doing nothing to change the image of White America during his presidential term.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand went even further in an interview in response to the attacks by claiming “he has been emboldening white supremacists his entire presidency”.
Do video games lead to violence?
Much research has been done in this field and, certainly from what I’ve been able to dig up, there’s no compelling research confirming the correlation between violent video games and increased aggression to the level that drives you to kill civilians en masse.
While they can lead to a marginal loss of empathy, and therefore slight desensitisation to violence, the leap to make video games the scapegoat for mass shootings is, for me at least, absurd.
Much more plausible is a pre-existing condition or mental illness, past trauma, feeling of isolation (only natural if you’re allowed to lock yourself away for days at a time with just a computer screen) or whatever else.
I’m not a doctor, but I would sooner diagnose a personality disorder than a first person shooter game.
Don’t get me wrong, I dislike video games as much as the next man (assuming, of course, the “next man” is not one of the billions of new gamers created every year). I personally think they’re a waste of time, money and effort and I’d much sooner kick a ball around in the park than hole myself away in my room and get square eyes.
But, to be clear, that’s not the point. Call of Duty doesn’t make murderers and Mr Trump should know that, too.
He should also know that politicians who have a history of saying controversial things – listen up, Boris – will get called out on their hypocrisy sooner or later.
What do you think on the subject? Do you think Trump has a point about video games? Or do you see it as deflecting another issue, too? Leave me a message in the comments below!