Violence breeds violence?

Modern video games are getting more complex exponentially, with startlingly realistic graphics, intricate plots, and long playtimes – but do they contribute to violence?

ON THE On May 24, the deadliest U.S. school shooting of the year occurred when Salvator Ramos broke into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas and claimed 21 innocent lives, 19 of whom were children.

In the days that followed, investigators pieced together information about Ramos’ past, and eventually news broke that the 18-year-old allegedly threatened to “shoot up the school” after losing a video game, a threat he’s been known to hurl during a game.

Surprisingly, the American media (and politicians) haven’t seized on the alleged connection between Ramos and video games, as they did after previous mass shootings in the past.

However, the Fox News host said, “Things seem to have gotten a lot worse since video games have gotten so realistic and so violent.”

He was referring to another mass shooting incident that took place before the Texas incident.

This isn’t the first time the media (and politicians) have tried to link real-world violence to video games or entertainment media in general, and it’s certainly not limited to America.

Nine years ago, a Malaysian politician tried to get a game. Grand Theft Auto 5 banned in the country due to in-game violence.

Finger pointing is as natural to a person as breathing, and pointing fingers at violence in video games (and movies and TV shows) has been around for a long time and, frankly, distracts from the real causes of violence in the real world. primarily mental health and parenting.

Correlation vs. causality

The idea that the consumption of content from video games and related entertainment media directly causes an outburst of hostility, antisocial behavior and eventually explosive aggression in the real world, or that children become murderers after playing a violent video game, is inherently false. .

While there have been studies abroad and in Malaysia of propensity to violence and whether entertainment media exacerbate it, the results are either “poor” due to limited research methodologies, i.e. small sample sizes, or if they are decent, the correlation so small. , they mean nothing on a larger scale.

This is supported by a 2020 study that reanalyzed 28 global studies on the subject, reporting that all previous studies taken together showed a non-significant positive correlation between gaming and aggression.

It makes sense

Video games have been present in Malaysia for decades, and games are becoming more common in every home, while the availability of movies and TV streaming is just as widespread, however, mass casualties or violent attacks rarely – if ever – happen in Malaysia. like in America.

However, the real-world violence that we encounter “regularly” is often—ironically—isolated, occurring once per blue moon, such as the torture and subsequent death of a Navy cadet or school assaults on lonely children by groups of other people. children, which are sometimes shared on social media.

In addition, there is violence in poorer third world countries without access to video games or entertainment media that other developing or developed countries have.

This does not mean that video games, movies, or TV shows are completely flawless, or that research on these subjects is a waste of time, but scale must take into account other variables, such as the mental state of children or adults who resort to violence (“There are do they have anger management problems?”), their upbringing (“Were they neglected/abused as children?”) and other real factors behind why they are the way they are.

In most situations, correlation is out of the question because most people—whether children, teenagers, or adults—who consume violent material are not violent in the real world, even if they exhibit some antisocial behavior.

However, there are strong causal relationships where aggressive or violent people are naturally attracted to violent media, which can “exacerbate” existing trends and in most cases can lead to their aggression in the real world due to desensitization and weakening. . moral barriers.

In these cases, again, entertainment media is still not the main reason for the behavior of a small part of the population.

After all, most video games, movies, TV shows, and music “with violent or graphic content” are just politically charged talking points turned into a handy scarecrow designed to divert attention from the root causes of violence in the real world.