While the Sandy Hook
killings are a tragedy deplored universally, old familiar scapegoats have emerged in the wake of this disaster as people try, desperately, to find rationality in the irrational. While gun rights are the first target in a bid to prevent such a tragedy from happening again, video game violence isn't too far behind, following the news that shooter Adam Lanza was at least something of a gamer.
Lanza's taste in gaming favored toward the fairly popular, including South Korean mainstay "Starcraft" and wide-spread favorite the "Call of Duty" series. His fondness for video games
has some wondering if maybe the games didn't have something to do with his seeming desensitization, sufficient to run amok through a school full of small children.
Yet at the same time, many express the belief that it was Lanza's mental illness--reportedly involving antipsychotic drugs--that had much more impact than any game he played in his off hours.
This may well be the greatest point in favor of the "violent video games don't breed violence" argument: there is simply minimal correlation. Consider if you will sales of "Call of Duty: Black Ops
2". We actually discussed these numbers recently, featuring the discovery that, within a matter of days, fully 7.4 million copies of the highly popular game had been purchased. It was safe to say that most of them--say nine out of ten--were played within the same period. That would be nearly 6.7 million copies of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2"--a clearly violent video game--played in that period.
By way of comparison, the number of murders in the United States, according to reports, is around 45 per day, on average. If that average held true for an entire year, it would represent fully 16,425 murders total.
It becomes readily apparent that violent video games cannot be a cause of murder, simply because the numbers do not match up. 6.7 million players of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" against 16,425 murders in the United States represents somewhere around one quarter of one percent of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2", and this doesn't even account for the murderers who have never played any video game, let alone those who bought and played other violent video games instead of "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2". "Far Cry 3" only recently came out, you know. "Battlefield 3", "Crysis", three "Skyrim" expansions...even assuming the same people bought those that bought "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2", that still represents a whole lot of people who play without killing.
I'm not out to be dismissive of a tragedy. Certainly not! Any one of us would be devastated in a similar situation. I merely suggest here that there are far too many people who enjoy video games--yes, even those of the violent persuasion--and will never actually do anything more violent than the swatting of a housefly to warrant a truly faulty piece of logic that may well take away the thing they enjoy despite the fact that they have done nothing at all to merit such a move.
It's also wrong to say that violent video games have no effect. The minds of children are particularly susceptible to such influences, but the counterbalancing effects of proper, active parenting tend to negate those effects nicely. Additionally, the Electronic Software Ratings Board (ESRB) routinely rates games against standard content metrics to help provide a better framework from which parents can make decisions about the games their children play, as the case should be.
This is a tragedy large enough for anyone--larger than anyone should have to bear--but now is not the time to strike out at the first thing that comes into view. Video games didn't kill those children. One man did.