On September 16th, 2013, tragedy struck Washington, D.C. and the United Sates when an armed assailant left nearly two dozen innocent victims injured, over half of whom were fatally wounded. The mass shooting happened at the D.C. Navy Yard at approximately 8:20 a.m. Eastern Time. While there are no words to express the irreparable damage caused to the victims and their families, a familiar question began making its way into the discussion. In a report published by CNN, a statement by Michael Ritrovato, a friend of the suspected shooter Aaron Alexis, indicated that while according to Ritrovato, Alexis had no known issues with aggressiveness or violence, he had played quite a bit of online shooters.
The question has been asked numerous times, discussed on a national stage, and been a hot topic among media outlets for years. It is a perfectly understandable question. Do the violent actions some video games present have any lasting psychological or emotional effect on those that have played them? When looking at the previous actions of violent criminals, especially those who have had no known history of violence, it would only seem natural to focus on the aspects of their life that could possibly be related to aggressiveness, even if the aggression was presented in a virtual environment.
In my personal experience, I cannot say that violent video games have any connection with real crime. I, myself, prefer violent video games over more casual experiences, yet I am, what some would say, docile by nature. Never has a video game, or any other form of media or entertainment, ever influenced my real world actions. With that being said, I am only one person, and millions of people play violent video games, so I am a rather meaningless sample in the grand scheme of things.
To take a closer look at any potential link that violent video games have with real life violence, we need to peer into a much larger base of data. Now, many researchers and psychologists have been toying with the idea that video games may, or may not, have a psychological or emotional effect on users. One of the ways they have preformed research on this topic is through examining the actual act of committing violent crimes, and the amount of violent video games sold. Below are two graphs. One represents the number of video games sold in the United States from 2008-2012 (information courtesy of VGChartz.com). The other is a graph representing the number of violent crimes committed in the United States during the same time period (violent crime statistics for the year 2012 have yet to be reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigations).
As you can see, the graph shows that video game sales in the United States have fluctuated within the past few years. The amount of sales rose between 2008 to 2010 substantially, but the fell dramatically by 2012.
The statistics clearly show that violent crimes have been on the decline since 2008. This is very alarming considering that the national population has grown at an average of about 2.4 Million persons per year in that same time frame. according to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
So what can we take from this data? Video game sales have been fluctuating over the past 5 years, while population has increased and violent crimes reported have decreased. The discrepancies between the three statistics would lead me to believe that regardless of the sales of video games, no matter their level of violence, have no effect on the amount of violent crimes reported. The statistics point to a country that grows in population, but has been decreasing aggressive behavior. Based on the statistics, if one were inclined to do so, one could make the assumption that if you were to contribute video games to violent behavior, you could also contribute video games to the decline of violent behavior. This is, of course, just an observation.
Regardless of how the media portrays it, violent crimes are on a decline nationally. Those statistics come from the FBI. So if violent crimes are linked to video game use, as some may suggest, then by that logic, the amount of people playing video games, and time spent playing them, should also have decreased at a similar rate, correct? In an article published by VentureBeat, a research conducted by Parks Associates revealed that the amount of the United States gaming population had nearly tripled from 2008-2012. The study showed that 135 million people spent at least 1 hour monthly playing video games, compared to just 56 million in 2008.
If these statistics hold true, one cannot determine that playing video games has any direct result in the committing of a violent crime. The math just doesn’t support the claim. My guess is that the theory that violent video games have desensitized our youth by subjecting them to extreme acts of murder and violence makes for great television ratings. One thing is for certain though, more research is needed to finally put this hot bed issue to rest.
So tell us what you think. Do you believe that violent video games play a role in the committing of violent crimes? Answer in the poll below!