Video Games and Violence: Correlation is not Causation

In lieu of several tragic mass shooting incidents in the span of just a few short days in the US, lawmakers and politicians are once again quick to come forth and blame violence in video games for the incidents. At the very front lines of this discussion is Kevin McCarthy – the House Minority Leader blames video games for the incidents in El Paso and Dayton.

According to him, ‘video games dehumanize individuals’. Of course he’s not the only one to make such claims. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick claimed that the incident in El Paso was a hate crime against immigrants, however still pointed to the fact that apparently ‘the video game industry teaches young people to kill’.

A little more apropos, he also mentions that ‘violence of bullying and social media’ are possible reasons for the shootings. Now, you may notice that one of these things is not like the others. Racism, hatred and fear of immigrants and similar sentiments have been a cause of violent incidents and murders for a very, very long time – they happen everywhere, and anywhere in the world.

The claims that video games are responsible for violence are almost as old – these claims have certainly been around nearly as long as video games have. This is despite the fact that no evidence has been found to link the two together. Last year, president Trump blamed vide games for causing deadly violence – almost a decade after a Supreme Court judgement in 2011 that summarily dismissed such claims.

According to Justice Antonin Scalia, video games have a ‘minimal effect’ on children, comparable to cartoons. There is not and has not been evidence to support this claim, no matter who made it. Dan Patrick claimed: “We’ve always had guns. We’ve always had evil. But what’s changed where we see this rash of shooting? I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill.

On the other side of this debate is Alan Fox, a criminologist who has four decades of experience on the matter. His analysis of the matter is quite sombre: “They don’t lose votes by blaming the video-game industry. You can lose votes blaming the gun industry, which is why some people choose not to do that.

Given the amount of evidence to the contrary it’s startling how readily and easily these politicians make false claims, and ones that can be so easily disproven at that. The university of Oxford just finished a study on the subject earlier this year, and found no correlation between aggressive behaviour in young people and the time they spend playing video games.

The earliest connection made between video games and gun violence in the US happened in the wake of the 1999 Columbine High School tragedy. The shooters had made casual comparisons between ‘Doom’, a shooter they played and the shooting they eventually carried out.

In a poll after this information became public, some 83% of Americans supported restrictions on the sale of violent media to children. At the time, president Clinton asked for an investigation on the correlation here. Needless to say, none was found.

In fact, there is so much material to disprove these claims, it’s difficult to know what to cite. A Secret Service report in 2004 showed that only 12% of the shooters in school shootings had any interest in video games at all. That’s significantly below the national average of kids and teenagers that play video games in general.

Needless to say, this has not stopped politicians from blaming video games, and even attempts to set up legislation on this matter have failed spectacularly. California passed a law restricting the sale of violent video games to minors, and it was found to be against the US constitution by the Supreme Court. Once again, no evidence could be provided to support this.

Looking at numbers, a comparison between the UK and the US shows some truly shocking numbers. Where the UK has a population of roughly 65 million, the US has about 330 million. That’s about 5 times as much. As it happens, there are actually more privately owned firearms in the US than there are citizens – nearly 400 million.

Now, video game revenue in the UK is about $5 billion. In the US, it numbers $25 billion – roughly 5 times, again. Taking a look at gun homicides in 2017, the UK saw a total of 31. The US had 14.542. That’s about 469 times as many. Even discounting multiple scientific studies and expert opinions, numbers don’t lie – it’s high time for the US to look at the REAL causes of their repeated and frequent violent incidents.
Thank you US, but your princess is in another castle.