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Debunking The Video Games Cause Gun Violence Myth

By Adhiti Bandlamudi

Originally published on August 5, 2019 4:34 pm

Following the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio,  which killed at least 31 people, lawmakers started to point to one factor that could have contributed to shootings: violent video games.

Here’s the problem: They don’t.

What Research Says

Andrew Przybylski is a professor of psychology at the University of Oxford and is the Director of Research for the Oxford Internet Institute. He and Dr. Netta Weinstein  looked into whether violent video games were associated with aggressive behavior in adolescents.

“We found a whole lot of nothing,” Przybylski said. “Basically, we found that having information about the kinds of video games people played, how violent they were, how much time they spent on them, there was no linear connection.”

Przybylski surveyed over a 1,000 British teens aged 14 and 15 on their gaming habits and asked their parents to evaluate their behavior.

“We found pretty conclusive evidence that, among at least British teens, there is no connection between violent video game play and violent aggression,” he said.

Gamers In The U.S. Vs. Worldwide

But that’s the U.K. Aren’t American teens different?

He said, even if a person were to argue that a study of British teens can’t be applied to a study of American teens, the evidence still sticks. He points out that teens are playing the same games all over the world.

“You will find that young people in Germany, in the United Kingdom, in Japan, they’re all playing the same video games that young people are playing in the U.S.,” he said. “But we don’t have, here in the U.K., mass shootings and tragedies like this.”

Instead, there is research showing that factors such as  rates of high gun ownership or  more permissive gun laws play a role in mass shooting and suicide rates.

The Source Of The Stigma

Part of the problem is that,  like many myths, it’s commonly repeated. On Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was  interviewed on Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures in the wake of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“The idea of these video games, they dehumanize individuals to have a game out of shooting individuals and others,” McCarthy said. “I’ve always felt that is a problem for future generations and others.”

And in his remarks on Monday morning about the shootings, President Donald Trump talked about some solutions to combat gun violence.  He also mentioned video games.

“We must stop the glorification of violence in our society,” he said. “This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace.”

Andrew Przybylski has also  studied why there is a stigmaagainst video games.

He found that people who have never played video games before are more likely to have biases about them and unrealistic expectations about them.

“You have a large slice, [of] mostly older Americans, who don’t have experience with games directly,” he said. “They might think Fortnite is violent or that people who play Mario are more likely to be aggressive towards turtles. But once you get the hands-on experience, you see that this is a pretty silly idea.”

Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.