Video Games

On August 3rd and 4th, our nation was rocked by two appalling mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that together claimed the lives of 31 innocent people. In the nationwide debate that followed, some high-ranking Republican leaders sought to lay some of the blame on video games. Lieutenant Governor of Texas Dan Patrick appeared on Fox and Friends to condemn the attacks as acts of evil. “We’ve always had guns, always had evil, but I see a video game industry that teaches young people to kill,” he commented. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed Patrick’s statements, and claimed: “When you look at these photos of how [the shootings] took place, you can see the actions within video games.” President Donald Trump weighed in, calling for an end to “the glorification of violence in our society,” including “the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.” This trend of Republican leaders blaming video games for our nationwide shooting problem is a terrible political strategy because it is factually incorrect and will only further alienate young people from the Republican Party.

Most of the people who commit mass shootings are young men; suggesting that the reason these men commit heinous atrocities is that they play video games is a facile argument considering almost all young men play video games, and the vast majority of them never commit any crimes. Japan and South Korea spend more money per capita on video games than the United States, and they have a tiny fraction of the mass shooting rate of the U.S. Juvenile crime has been consistently falling since the early 1990s, while violent video game sales have drastically increased. Some research has found a correlation between playing violent video games and an increase in aggression, but it is absurd to suggest that gaming is responsible for pushing people over the edge to commit the worst crimes imaginable. If violent video games cause individuals to gun down innocent people in public places, with millions of young men playing these games every day, you would expect hundreds of such atrocities to happen daily.

By accepting the premise that violent video games are to blame for mass shootings and that these games should be regulated or banned, the Republican Party is committing political suicide with young voters. Trump and the Republican Party are currently polling very poorly among young people, and threatening to regulate the gaming medium millions of young people enjoy will only further alienate them from the Party. Unfortunately, mainstream Republican politicians are adopting this unfounded position that is reminiscent of the moral panics over rock and roll or Dungeons and Dragons. This irrationalism only encourages people to see center-right politics as a joke. The root causes of mass shootings are too numerous and complex to be discussed here, but to chalk up the El Paso or Dayton shootings to the fault of violent video games is a superficial analysis that will not help ensure that fewer lives are lost to these acts of evil.

– Elie Aoun ’21

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