PCP: A game controller is not a gun trigger

Malik Rahili

Abbi Pittman

The following article is part of a Point / Counter-point. Read the counter-point here.

Malik Rahili

“Call of Duty,” “Grand Theft Auto,” “Counter Strike” and many other violent games have been scrutinized and attacked by the media in the last decade. They have been blamed for mass-shootings, serial murders and turning the youth of America into desensitized monsters.

But correlation does not imply causation. Just because a person plays a violent video game does not mean they will become a violent person.

In a study done by The Washington Post, researchers looked at the world’s 10 largest video game markets and said they found “no evident, statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related killings.” 

Gunpolicy.org reports that the Netherlands had 76 gun-related deaths in 2010, and, according to The Washington Post, they also boast the largest video game market in the world. Behind the Netherlands is South Korea with only 14 gun-related deaths in 2006, and South Korea is known for having some of the best “StarCraft” players on the planet – a game that falls into the violent category.

The United States has the ninth largest video game market and one of the highest gun-related death rates in the world, but video games are not the culprit.

No game on the market today promotes or requires a player to murder innocent in-game characters. The only games that flirt with the edge are “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” and the “Grand Theft Auto” series. “Modern Warfare 2” warns the player before the mission and gives them the option to skip a scene where innocent people are murdered in an airport. If players choose to play it, they do not have to pull the trigger. None of the “Grand Theft Auto” games make the player kill innocent civilians. These actions depend on the choice of the person behind the controller not the game itself.

Psychologist Vaughan Bell wrote in the British newspaper Observer that “violent video games cause a reliable short-term increase in aggression during lab-based tests. However, this seems not to be something specific to computer games. Television and even violence in the news have been found to have a similar impact.” 

Bell said another psychologist, Christopher Ferguson at the Texas A&M International University, “has examined what predicts genuine violence committed by young people. It turns out that delinquent peers, depression and an abusive family environment account for actual violent incidents, while exposure to media violence seems to have only a minor and usually insignificant effect.”

Art, film and music have all gone through the same scrutiny and been blamed for violence, and it is now video games ‘turn. Shootings and mass murders are tragedies, but these horrible acts of aggression are not caused by video games – they come from other aspects of our society. Video games are just society’s scapegoat because they are the easiest to blame.

Rahili, a freshman computer science major from Durham, is the graphics editor.