Violent video games don't create violent people

By Joshua Leal
On February 9, 2012

  • Contributor. Pam Belcher

I have murdered thousands of people, stolen hundreds of items, and have never been punished for my crimes. Of course these actions have only occurred digitally, but this is something that others might view as dangerous behavior.

As a youngster my parents never let me play any video games they considered violent. I had to convince my parents that I deserved the reward of being able to play a video game and that the game was a non-violent one. This remained true until high school, when I was allowed to purchase any game that I chose. Why the change? My parents explained that I was old enough to distinguish fantasy from reality.

On April 20, 1999, two students entered their high school in Columbine, Colo. They proceeded to commit one of the most heinous acts in public school history as they murdered and injured their fellow classmates and teachers.

Violent video games such as "Doom" and "Wolfenstein 3D" were initially scrutinized for the role they might have played in the shootings. This is due to the fact that the teens, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, played them frequently. Many people wondered if video games had a part in the Virginia Tech massacre as well. Four days after the shooting occurred, MSNBC questioned if the students' "Counter-Strike" habits were to blame for the massacre. In both of these high-profile instances, video games were blamed. In both cases, no justifiable evidence surfaced to support these claims.

In response to the Columbine shooting, the Secret Service, in conjunction with the Department of Education, published a report called "The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States" (where's an acronym when you need it?). The study sampled 37 school shootings prior to 2002 and found that one-eighth of the attackers did in fact demonstrate interest in violent video games. Attackers who displayed interest in writing about violence in poems, essays or journals, however, made up a larger 37 percent. Another study done by Christopher Ferguson and Adolfo Garza has shown that since 1996, youth violence has gone down and video game sales have gone up. Does this mean kids are just too busy playing video games to commit violent crimes?

While I concede that some violent people do play violent video games, I don't believe that violent people are created from violent video games. Also, parents should decide what their children can handle at an early age, but we all have to grow up and make our own decisions. I have met numerous people who enjoy playing video games, whether violent or not, as a way to relax. Video games, as a whole, allow people to escape reality by providing experiences uncommon to most daily routines.

Lastly, I leave you with this. In 2010 "Zynga" reported that they averaged 65 million users a day playing their games on "Facebook." That is roughly one-fifth of the United States population playing video games.

That is a lot of violent people...

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