Everyone was devastated when on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and 6 staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Connecticut, U.S.A. It was revealed that before the shootings, Lanza frequently played the violent Call of Duty video games, which is where he gained his fascination with guns and weapons. Some advocates for the banning of media violence believe the game is what led Lanza to committing the heinous act. As an avid gamer for at least seven years, I’m completely against the notion.
This is a scene that has been repeated often over the last few years. The first-person shooter videogame genre, which includes games such as Call of Duty, where people typically take on the role of the protagonist, has been gaining popularity in North America, and becoming more realistic with every installment. However, are these games to blame for the increasing number of shootings in recent years?
Some sources, like the American Academy of Family Physicians, show “that media violence leads to actual violence…” After conducting “more than 1,000 lab experiments,” they suggest that media aggression can also desensitize young people to brutality. The American Academy of Pediatrics has come up with the same conclusion.
If video games cause hostile behaviour, why then does every gamer not grab the nearest object and try to bludgeon people? The answer is simple: Most people have the ability to see the difference between fictional media and reality. I’ve played violent games for years and I’m not aggressive at all.
Not all analyses have come out with this result. Some experiments conducted have, in fact, come out with the opposite conclusion, which suggests video games help to decrease real life destructive inclinations. As Erik Kain of Forbes Magazine explains, “No study has ever shown that violent video games result directly in actual violence, let alone mass shootings. That doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, though the numbers suggest it’s very unlikely.”
In 2010, there were 11,422 homicides committed with firearms in the United States. Few of these have been related at all to vicious videogames. In fact, as violent videogames have increased in popularity, yearly shootings have decreased. Millions of people, old and young, play savage, brutal games and it’s quite obvious that many have not gone on mass shootings. I played my first M (18+) rated video game when I was around nine years old, and I have no hostile feelings towards others, to this day.
The point I am trying to make, of course, is that when a person enters a park and brutally murders 40 people in cold blood, it is not because they played Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto or Assassin’s Creed, but because they already have severe violent tendencies. If someone is hostile and mentally unstable, chances are that they should not be playing games which contain large amounts of bloodshed and carnage. While the games may help trigger the act, the person is the one who makes the decision to commit it.
– Brian Calderwood is a Grade 11 student at Belmont secondary school.