© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Debunking The Video Games Cause Gun Violence Myth

Glenn Carstens Peters
Research shows that violent video games do not cause violent behavior in the people who play them. Yet in the aftermath of the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, lawmakers pointed to them as a factor.

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 Weinsteinlooked 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 asrates of high gun ownership ormore permissive gun laws play a role in mass shooting and suicide rates.

Credit Kelly Sikkema / Unsplash
People who have played video games, especially parents who have played video games with their children, are less likely to believe that video games have positive or negative effects on the people who play them, says an expert at the University of Oxford.

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., wasinterviewed 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 inhis 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 alsostudied 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.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.