For the Last Fucking Time, It’s Not the Video Games


August 5th, 2019:

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States.

One day before, on August 4th, a gunman in Dayton, Ohio killed ten and injured twenty seven others by firing a semi-automatic rifle into a crowd. A day before that, on August 3rd, a gunman in El Paso, Texas killed twenty two and injured twenty four others by firing a semi-automatic rifle into a crowd.

This isn’t the first time a politician has tied violent video games to a mass shooting.

May 5th, 2007:

“Pornography and violence poison our music and movies and TV and video games. The Virginia Tech shooter, like the Columbine shooters before him, had drunk from this cesspool.”—Mitt Romney, 2008 Presidential drop out.

Nineteen days before, on April 16th, a gunman on the Virginia Tech campus killed thirty two people and injured seventeen others by firing two semi-automatic pistols into a crowd.

One more, also August 5th, 2019:

“I’ve talked about it, too,” Biden said. “But it is not healthy to have these games teaching kids that, you know, this dispassionate notion that you can shoot somebody and just, you know, sort of blow their brains out…But it’s not in and of itself the reason why we have this carnage on our streets.”—Vice President Joe Biden, 2020 Presidential Candidate

It’s funny, really. For all the talk about the damage that video games can cause to society at large, the only 100% proven negative impact video games have is making our politicians sound really, really stupid. Most of these poor 60-something, super-pac funded public servants wouldn’t know Call of Duty from Halo, or Fortnite from League of Legends, and so on. When these people who are wildly ignorant of video games as a medium of entertainment, a canvas for art, a vehicle for complex social interaction, and so much more, feebly attempt to blame games for the horrific amount of mass shootings in the United States year after year, I almost feel pity for how out of touch they sound. Almost. The anger normally takes over before the pity sets in.

Historically, though, the misguided proclamations of  ignorant politicians have fallen on deaf ears and have had zero tangible impact. Until August 5th, 2019. In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton shootings, this is how mega-corporation Walmart chose to react:

This is a video game display that’s in the process of having the violent titles removed. While the initial reports of Walmart banning video games sales outright were incorrect, the truth was really not any better. Walmart directed it’s stores to remove displays of violent video games, as well as other violent material in their stores like hunting videos.  But guess what didn’t get pulled from the shelves? The motherfucking guns. The tangibly violent item was still being bought and sold at Walmarts across the nation while video games were being pulled from the shelves “out of respect for the incidents of the past week.” If this multi-billion dollar corporation cared an ounce for the victims of mass shootings, they would halt the sales of actual firearms and not digital ones at the behest of an ignorant, misguided President. But this is an important moment. Donald Trump’s words condemning violent video games led to immediate, tangible effects in the real world. And that’s terrifying.

The purported connection between violent video games causing individuals to be more prone to violent action has been debunked for years now. So, for what I hope but know won’t be the last time, here are the facts surrounding violent video games.

1. In the early 2000’s, the American Psychological Association released a report claiming a direct link between violent video games and aggressive, physically violent behavior in children and adolescents.

2. In the last decade, these findings have been called out as being intellectually and methodologically dubious.

3. Numerous studies have since been conducted and the jury is still out as to whether or not there exists a link between violent video games and increased aggression exists.

4. Figure 1, or the only figure necessary –

As former Nintendo of America COO and President Reggie Fils-Aime once tweeted, facts are facts. This year alone, we’ve experienced more mass shooting events than there have been daysSo why then? Why have our politicians historically been so quick to turn to violence in entertainment to blame real-world violence?

Because pointing the finger elsewhere is easy. Politicians have long since pointed the finger at the outcast—from the metal-head, D&D players in the satanic-panic of the 80’s and 90’s, to gamers today. These are people who, for one reason or another, decide not to conform to the norms of society and seek solace and comfort in non-traditional places and imagined or digital spaces. They’re intentionally not in the public eye because they don’t identify with the public. The outcast doesn’t have a face. And so it’s easy to place blame on a faceless enemy—an amorphous “they.” It’s much harder to look in a mirror and recognize your own shortcomings and take responsibility for your own inaction. It’s something our politicians will need to have the guts to do if they ever want to enact real change and curtail our massive gun violence problem. Because it’s not the video games killing people. It’s the fucking guns. It’s the politicians making it easy to access the guns. It’s the gun lobbyists paying our politicians to push pro-gun policies and block dissenting ones. It’s the fact that we can’t pass any legislation on the rights of gun owners, from basic universal background checks to a gun registry.

The next time a politician takes the stage and proclaims that the video games you play or the music you listen to or the TV and movies you watch are spoiling your mind or causing all of the violence inherent in our society, know that they’re just wrong. The real cause of all of the tragedies in our country is that the person speaking on stage is too afraid of losing a donor to do something about it.

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