Every time tragedy strikes the United States, video games are a main scapegoat to blame our issues on. Kids acting out at school? Video games. Kids being rude to others and swearing? It’s those darn video games. Mass shooting resulting in dozens of deaths? It’s those damn vidya games, I tell ya.
The thing is, it’s been refuted multiple times, by scientists and researchers, that video games cause increased aggression and violent tendencies in kids. It’s factors like environment, what they see on TV, and the way they cope that can make kids angrier. If anything, video games offer a relief from stressful environments and allow someone to calm down and enjoy an escape – I’ll take a million dead virtual people over live people any day.
The shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the subsequent blame being placed on video games represent the cycle that we Americans repeat: shooting happens, everyone points fingers at each other until they settle on video games, we ignore the important debate of how we can actually stop shootings in favor of blaming video games and their developers, and then we completely forget about it a few weeks later.
This time, things have changed. It's not just the students at Parkland that are not letting anyone forget about the horrors they went through by having rallies and country-wide strikes, but it's also those who debate about video games and violence. This time, President Trump decided to have a meeting between video game executives (who claim video games aren’t to blame) and several anti-video game groups (who blame video games for violence and want to censor them). While these kinds of meetings have happened before (notably, one between Joe Biden and the same groups and executives), they are rare, and more importantly, pointless. Everyone goes in with arguments for and against violent games and their effect on people, but nothing ever comes out of them.
In this meeting, Trump listened to arguments from only a handful of corporate executives (Strauss Zelnick of Take-Two and Rockstar Games, Robert Altman of ZeniMax, and Mike Gallagher from the Entertainment Software Association) from the gaming industry, game critics (Dave Grossman, Brent Bozell, and Melissa Henson) and Republican lawmakers (Marco Rubio, Martha Roby and Vicky Hartzler) who are notoriously anti-video games. There were no scientists or researchers there (who would’ve thought) to explain the relevant data and give insight to how pointless it is to blame video games for everything.
Trump opened the meeting by watching a highlight reel of game scenes that were either hilariously funny or hilariously bloody. After that he asked “This is violent, isn’t it?” and after that the actual talk began. According to those who attended the session, Trump was open-minded about video games and sought solutions from everyone, including the executives. But as usual, nothing came out of the meeting except people throwing words at each other. Why does this always happen, every time a tragedy strikes the nation? Thank the Supreme Court.
Mirroring the gun control debate, people shout and yell at each other about what to do about games, there are arguments, someone decides to push some legislature, but nothing actually happens. Just as with guns, it’s hard to figure out what can actually be done to games to make them less violent, or whatever the anti-gamers want. In 2011, the Supreme Court decided that video games are protected under the First Amendment and are considered a form of free speech. As such, video games can’t be banned or censored – just like other forms of media – which is a big win for the games industry (and us).
Every time we experience a traumatic event for the country (usually another shooting), everyone points to games and/or guns, leveling blame. It’s preaching to the choir, but this cycle really isn’t the fault of video games. In fact, a recent study found that 80 percent of mass shooters didn’t show any interest in video games and their violent content. People are turned into shooters as a product of environment, Americans' obsession with becoming famous, and the real lack of care for vulnerable people in this country. Video games don’t have to be changed and censored and banned because of their content – the country just needs to think, and come to the conclusion that games are for enjoying life, not taking it.