Do video games cause violence? We shouldn’t even be talking about this in 2019; it’s a tired debunked argument. We talked about it in 1994 when Mortal Kombat’s pixelated blood led to multiple controversies and even paved the way for the ESRB (the game rating system in the US). We talked about it in the 2000s when lawyer, Jack Thompson, repeatedly brought several lawsuits against GTA developer, Rockstar, claiming the series inspired violent crimes. And we’re still talking about it now, in 2019. This past weekend after 31 people died in two separate mass shootings, President Trump returned to his usual shtick of blaming anything but himself, including video games. Despite the fact science and research have debunked the argument over and over and over again.
In 2014, Villanova University found no correlation between real world violence and video games. In 2018, the University of York also found “no evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour’. If those two don’t seem legitimate enough, the University of Oxford came to the same conclusion earlier this year. It’s clear this conversation doesn’t need to be had anymore, so I’m not going to have it.
Blaming games for the loss of real human life is disrespectful. These aren’t random digital characters that will respawn when you load up your save file. Every time there’s a mass shooting real people will lose their lives, their family and some of them might even be fellow gamers.
The violent state of Trump’s America inspires violent video games rather than the opposite. The GTA series – developed by a Northern Irish developer – is actually just a satire of modern America. That’s why the series is full of political corruption and glorified gun crime. It’s making fun of the state of America, not shaping it.
Look no further than Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. MachineGames’ 2017 shooter came under fire for its marketing campaign and controversial slogan: “Kill All Nazis”. This came at a time where real world neo-Nazis and white supremacists were marching on Washington. And this offended the alt-right? Anti-Nazi sentiments use to be something that were especially Western. Indiana Jones, James Bond and BJ Blazkowicz have all been fighting Nazis for decades and now we’re in a position where a game needs to be careful about openly criticising the ideology that murdered tens of millions.
Video games are a global, billion dollar industry, but homegrown gun violence is a uniquely American problem. Defending the games industry any longer is playing right into the President’s hand. We’ve won the war, video games aren’t going anywhere and having this discussion one more time will mean Trump’s gross misdirection will have succeeded. The game’s media should stop trying to defend the industry against these blatantly exploitative claims. We’ve been doing it for decades and it’s time we talked about the real roots of America’s gun epidemic.
The truth is the only reason many American politicians have blamed video games for every major mass shooting in the past few years is because they don’t want to talk about the real issues. They don’t want to talk about stricter gun laws in fear of upsetting campaign contributors. And Trump certainly doesn’t want to talk about America’s growing white nationalist extremist problem because he directly enables, and even encourages it.
His rhetoric even before his 2016 campaign has been overtly racist, and more than a few times he’s directly encouraged acts of violence. In May, the president laughed at the suggestion that border patrol should shoot immigrants coming into the country in front of an entire crowd. For some additional context the El Paso shooter cited the “Hispanic Invasion” as a reason for his massacre near the Mexican border. On a similar note, Trump has run over 2,000 Facebook ads in the past year referring to an “immigrant invasion” that doesn’t exist… mass shooters aren’t quoting Call of Duty, they’re quoting the president.
If you’re still not convinced that Trump’s base is desperately trying to avert the public’s gaze, look no further than Ohio lawmaker Candice Keller. State Republican Keller blamed mass shootings in her statement on “homosexual marriage”, “drag queen advocates”, “recreational marijuana” and, yes, “violent video games”.
We can spend the next decade having this same argument. Another mass shooting will leave dozens dead. A politician will blame video games, gay marriage or sliced bread. The internet will meme them, the media will go out of their way to debunk them and the rest of us will scoff at their claims. Meme culture, living room sofas and online articles can call Trump an idiot as long as they like. The truth is that he isn’t an idiot, is he? He doesn’t believe that video games caused the racist terrorist attack in El Paso. But here we are talking about it anyway, instead of talking about how he is just as culpable as the companies making billions off of selling weapons of war. His distraction succeeded.
Every second we spend defending an industry that doesn’t need defending, is another second wasted. As I said, video games aren’t going anywhere, but at this rate, neither are mass shootings. Next time, instead of banding together to laugh at the president, how about we don’t take the bait. How about we talk about why these tragedies are really happening? Why is it easier to get a gun in America, than it is to beat Dark Souls? Why are the load times longer when finding a Halo match, but faster when buying a gun? Why does the Outer World’s corporate dystopia not seem that different to American politics?
Trump can wiggle his finger and moan “fake news” at the outlets that do call him out, the only thing it’ll do is make me more excited for Cyberpunk 2077. Playing in a game world where corporations rule the city, gun violence is abundant and the army controls the internet will provide me with some comfort. I already feel like we’re halfway there, so in a sense, Cyberpunk 2077 is more of a peek into the future, right?
It’s unfortunate that this is what the discourse is about. I do genuinely feel that many games put too much of an emphasis on combat and violence. Not because I believe that they inspire massacres, but because games like Stardew Valley, Super Mario and the Outer Wilds prove that there’s fun to be had in environments without the blood.