Another alert pops up on cell phones everywhere. Another mass shooting, it says. There was one like that the week before, and another the week before that. It becomes difficult to keep up with the increasing rate of mass shootings in America.
“It’s pretty scary,” said UNCG student Jillian Cain. “There’s that fear of ‘oh no, it’s happening again’ and you get kind of desensitized to that violence, which isn’t good.”
In taking preventative measures, America is fumbling around with who to blame. Some, like Parkland shooting survivor Emma Gonzalez, argue for restrictive measures against guns. Others, like President Donald Trump, argue that mental health and violent media are the cause of this epidemic.
The idea that violent media, especially violent video games, may be responsible for the rise in mass shooters in America is not an old one. This rhetoric became popular after the discovery that the Columbine shooters were avid players of a video game called Doom. Doom is a first-person shooter game where players can create their own levels.
While the Columbine shooters did not prompt the first wave of the forty years of research on the topic, according to the American Psychology Association, they did bring the idea into public consciousness.
In 2003, American Psychology Association Fellow Craig Andersen, wrote an online article referencing two of his own studies that found children who played violent video games were significantly more likely to behave more violently in real life directly after.
Andersen did admit that his studies lacked a long-term aspect and that more would have to be done to prove the overall effect of video games on aggression and violence in the long run.
There were improvements made on this study when the Associate Dean of Faculty for Social Sciences at Dartmouth College, Jay Hull, ran his study from 2010 to 2017. Hull defined violence in video games through citing specific games, such as ‘Manhunter’ and ‘God of War’ for specific reference. The study used children ages nine through nineteen and observed behavior over the course of seven years.
What the study found was that there was a link between aggressive behavior and violent video games. However, the data relied on being self-reported by the teenagers and was still largely informed by how violent the teenagers perceived the games to be.
However, recently there has been a push back against the idea that violent video games are to blame for violence in America today.
In 2015, the American Psychology Association discovered a link between aggression and violent video games, but was unable to confirm a link between violent video games and violent crimes committed later in life.
In fact, the opposite was suggested in 2015, when a Chinese study discovered that there were in fact positive neural benefits to playing violent video games. The study found that playing violent video games enhanced neural networks and caused more brain activity.
In February of 2019, the Royal Society published a study finding that there was no link as well. The study was designed to play off of the weaknesses of Jay Hull’s experiment by using the official game ratings to determine which games were used for the study. And had relied on caregivers and adults to give the data on the aggressiveness of the subjects.
However, this study ran for a shorter length of time than Hull’s experiment, mitigating the study’s statement.
Ultimately, the research on this topic is limited. More longitudinal studies over longer periods of time are required to discover whether the link truly exists or not. Students like Jillian Cain, however, have come to their own conclusions.
“I don’t think video games cause mass shootings,” Cain said. “I have plenty of friends who play violent video games and they would never hurt anyone.”
The question whether violent video games are connected to the mass shootings still remains unanswered. But what do you think?