Welcome to 2013: The end of gaming’s seventh generation where the violence gets more and more detailed with each release. E3 has debuted some of what we can expect for next year, and the preorders are sure to go through the roof for an industry that generates billions in revenue every year. But for the end of gaming’s chapter, we still lack closure on an issue that’s divided researchers for more than a decade. Are video games really what drive horrendous acts of violence? Does Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto really inspire someone to pick up a gun and a massacre a school? The answer isn’t as one dimensional as the media makes it out to be.
The link between aggression and violent video games is something that seems undeniable. Countless studies confirm that adolescents are more desensitized to acts of violence after playing these types of video games than they are before. But do these studies present an accurate depiction of what video games really do for the adolescent mind? I’d argue they don’t. While it’s easy to associate video games and aggressive behavior, the reality is that the level of aggression experienced depends on the person playing. Many of the kids who play video games and commit violent acts already have internal issues that need to be dealt with.
The University of Missouri’s Department of Psychological Sciences found that the level of aggression experienced after playing violent video games varies depending on one’s disposition to anger. In other words, if you have anger management issues then you’re likely to be more aggressive after playing a violent video game. This is similar to a study done by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, which revealed that not all gamers incur the same behavior and neural changes from video games. Given what these reliable sources are saying, is it possible that school shooters already have anger issues and psychological conflicts that are completely unrelated to gaming? It’s not just possible, it’s obvious.
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Forensic Scientist Tony Farrenkopf profiled mass shooters as people who feel rejected from their school or workplace and have low self-esteem. He also pointed out that many of them have a history of ineffective parenting. In that same article, Psychologist Peter Langman theorized the notion of manhood being about gaining power in our culture is what hurts the youth. Supposedly, violence is the way of gaining that power that we glorify most. On a similar note, Jan Hunt, M.Sc. Counseling Psychology with a Bachelor’s in the field as well, writes on her Natural Child Project page that children throw tantrums and act out because they feel powerless. What if these feelings of inferiority continue into young adulthood? Could school shootings be the product of bad parenting?
Two years ago, Current Science conducted a study on sex differences when it came to video games. Men were found to not only be more interested in shooting and combat games, but most of them played “to win.” This goes back to the issues of power struggle and self-esteem. As a parent, you are constantly giving and taking privileges, administering punishments and enforcing household authority. Many parents do this sloppily and instill negative values in their kids. Because two adults make an irresponsible decision to have a child when they don’t have the time or money to take care of one, adult gamers are expected to change THEIR form of entertainment. The wave of lazy parenting in this country needs to stop. The sooner we take responsibility for our actions, the sooner we take the real steps toward preventing the next tragedy from happening.