Blaming Video Games for the Newtown School Shooting

The school shooter played video games. Did that play a role in his violent behavior?


Exactly one week ago today the unthinkable happened—a deranged gunman went to an elementary school to slaughter children. He succeeded in killing 20 children—all six years old—and six adults who died trying to save them. Then he turned the gun on himself. Police later learned that Adam Lanza had already killed his own mother before going to the school.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It took a full day of stunned disbelief to absorb the horror.

As the shock wore off, the questions began. In trying to understand why and how this happened, the nation hopes to prevent this from happening again.

Gun control advocates immediately called for a ban on assault rifles. Next came the questions about how we, as a society, deal with the mentally ill.

And then there’s this—violence in video games. Lanza was a video game enthusiast, spending hours playing “Call of Duty” and “Starcraft.” From California to Capitol Hill, people are questioning if desensitization to violence because of video games may have played a role in the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller introduced legislation calling for the National Academy of Sciences to study the impact of violent video games on children who play them. But the studies already exist. Dr. Craig Anderson, who directs the Center for the Study of Violence at Iowa State University in Ames, reviewed more than 130 studies in 2010. According to Anderson, the studies strongly suggest that playing violent video games increases aggressive thoughts and behavior while decreasing empathy.

Not so fast says the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).  It insists that other influences in American society come into play, pointing out that “Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.”

In California, the issue is further complicated by economics—tens of thousands of residents earn a paycheck directly or indirectly from the video game industry. Electronic Arts (EA) of Redwood City employs around 2,000 people at its corporate headquarters. (EA did not return a call for comment on this story.) According to ESA, the industry organization, the average corporate paycheck is $90,000.

According to ESA, video gaming added $25 billion dollars to the global economy in 2011.

Would you agree to a ban of violent video games or do you think the video game industry is being used as a scapegoat—trying to explain the unfathomable?  Tell us in comments.

Vanessa Castañeda December 21, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I agree with you, Chris. Video games, movies, and other media are entertainment. The problem is that some people are not able to differentiate between reality and fantasy. @John Funds are still available. Question is how do we destigmatize the process of seeking mental health help? Some people are saying that the shooter flipped out because his mom was going to send him to an institution.
Alana Gomez December 21, 2012 at 08:38 PM
I think there is a valid concern over video and violence to the suseptible. When kids like Adam Lanza sit in their basement and play for hours it is reason to think he is mesmerized, in a zombie like state thus affected to confuse reality with screen action. I worried when my son played for hours too, and I used to call him out of his room to get out and breathe fresh air. The unfortunate thing is that Adam lived in an environment where guns were available. I'm fairly convinced he would have never done this otherwise.
Gretchen Wengenroth December 21, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Why do video games have ratings? Perhaps parents who ignore these ratings ought to be disciplined somehow. Young brains aren't fully developed until around 20. If we love our kids why set them up for failure. ITS like food choices. Don't put bad choicesin front of kids and expect them to make the right decision. In todays world I just think they need our love more than they know. Let's help them make good decisions.
TGD December 22, 2012 at 03:57 AM
I remember watching all those Roadrunner/Coyote cartoons and getting an urge to create some mayhem with an anvil.
Pretty Asian... December 23, 2012 at 11:35 PM
yeah, i must agree cuz this, i believe, is the underlying cause of the whole tragedy! we should feed the minds of the younger generations with values and morals. my heart goes out to the families who lost their kids in Newton, CT.


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