Given recent events, violent video games have been headlining a lot of news stories. Countless pundits have labelled them as a culprit for instilling violence in our youth. Most recently, even the president of the NRA, placed the blame of school shootings squarely on the shoulders of violent video games. Congress appears to be jumping on the bandwagon calling for bans or regulation of these dangerous products. On the other side, countless gamers declare that they have never been unduly influenced by their games. They claim that any such insinuation lacks merit. So which side is right?
Well, if we want to be honest, the best answer is no one knows. There simply isnt enough information to determine whether games contribute to violent behavior. Do they desensitive us to violence? Do they cause us to lose empathy and become more antisocial? It's possible but it's certainly not been proven. As such, most of the critics of violent video games are not basing their opinions on published research. They are going more on public perception or their own thoughts on the subject.
Most of the perpetrators of these mass shootings have been young men, and not suprisingly a lot of young men play video games. Hence, there is a correlation between those who perpetrate violent crime and those who play violent video games. But as we have often heard in these forums, "correlation does not imply causation". There are lots of things that are strongly correlated but have no direct impact on each other. One famous example - shown on freakonomics -, was ice cream and the incidence of polio (pre vaccination days). These two events had an incredibly strong correlation. So much so, that people back in the day thought ice cream caused polio. Both ice cream consumption and the incidence of polio shot up tremendously in the summertime and then dropped signficantly in the winter. But as we know now, polio is caused by a virus not food. When summer came around, kids played with each other and transmitted the virus. Given the hot temperatures, they also ate lots of ice cream. So the two events were correlated but had no cause and effect relationship.
Now this doesn't necessarily get these games off the hook either. They certainly may have deleterious effects on certain young and vulnerable minds. We just dont know. Rather than jump to unwise conclusions, maybe a little research is in order? However, psychiatry and psychology are incredibly complex disciplines. It may take quite a while to get any definitive data on this subject. The human mind is a very hard thing to study because you can't just isolate one variable.