Every time news breaks of a violent attack involving a young person, the media is all over it trying to understand why. Take, for instance, the random school shootings in the US, in which the criminal is typically described as a loner with a grudge against the school and his classmates. Also, in many cases, the perpetrator is said to have a passion for a certain video game, probably something violent. Is that proof enough that video games make people more susceptible to crime?
The link between video games and aggressive behavior
Over the past 40 years there have been countless studies on video games and the way they affect human behavior. The subjects are usually children and teenagers as these categories tend to spend more time playing video games and, being still in their formative years, they are more susceptible to be influenced by the violence they are exposed to.
Many of the studies came to the conclusion that exposure to violent video games leads to an increase in ‘aggressive behavior’ and makes young people less emphatic. Now, it must be said that all these studies were done in a laboratory setting and at no point did the youngsters involved act out on that supposed ‘aggressive behavior’. At most, they were shown pictures or videos and their reactions were monitored.
Many experts, including leading psychologists, pointed out that such studies are irrelevant and the results can easily be manipulated.
What other factors are involved in pushing people to crime?
One of the famous cases used to show a link between video games and criminal activity is that of Adam Lanza, the 20-year old shooter who committed the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre in the US, which left 27 people dead, mostly kids. This Lanza boy was said to be addicted to violent video games and the media pounced on it. In the US Congress there were calls to ban violent video games to prevent another massacre.
However, there were other troubling aspects in Lanza’s life the media purposefully ignored. The young man suffered from a variety of mental issues, including OCD, depression, and Asperger syndrome and had been on medication for years. Also, he was extremely isolated, his only meaningful relationship at the time being that with his mother, whom she killed before driving to the school. If you put it like this, one can only wonder what played a role in his terrible crime – his mental issues or his passion for video games?
Does this mean that the millions of young people playing video games every day should be considered future criminals? Should they all be ordered to undergo police checks even if it is from simple and fast online providers like Australian national character check (based in Australia) when they apply for a job? Do you have to assume that if they write in their CV that video games are their main hobby they must have a criminal record?
Probably not, 99.9% of those million of avid video games fans out there are perfectly normal young people. They’re not more likely to commit a crime than people who don’t have a passion for such games.