Exactly one week ago today the unthinkable happened—a deranged gunman went to an elementary school to slaughter children. He succeeded in killing 20 children—all six years old—and six adults who died trying to save them. Then he turned the gun on himself. Police later learned that Adam Lanza had already killed his own mother before going to the school.
It was breathtaking. Literally. It took a full day of stunned disbelief to absorb the horror.
As the shock wore off, the questions began. In trying to understand why and how this happened, the nation hopes to prevent this from happening again.
Gun control advocates immediately called for a ban on assault rifles. Next came the questions about how we, as a society, deal with the mentally ill.
And then there’s this—violence in video games. Lanza was a video game enthusiast, spending hours playing “Call of Duty” and “Starcraft.” From California to Capitol Hill, people are questioning if desensitization to violence because of video games may have played a role in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced legislation calling for the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games on children who play them. But the studies already exist. Dr. Craig Anderson, who directs the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University in Ames, reviewed more than 130 studies in 2010. According to Anderson, the studies strongly suggest that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behavior while decreasing empathy.
Not so fast says the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). It insists that other influences in American society come into play, pointing out that “Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.”
In California, the issue is further complicated by economics—tens of thousands of residents earn a paycheck directly or indirectly from the video game industry. Electronic Arts (EA) of Redwood City employs around 2,000 people at its corporate headquarters. (EA did not return a call for comment on this story.) According to ESA, the industry organization, the average corporate paycheck is $90,000.
According to ESA, video gaming added $25 billion dollars to the global economy in 2011.
Would you agree to a ban of violent video games or do you think the video game industry is being used as a scapegoat—trying to explain the unfathomable? Tell us in comments.