The conflation of fantasy and reality continues unabated...with media pundits, who continue to blame video games. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the newest member of Fox & Friends, reacted to the news about Monday's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard with claims that the issue wasn't about gun control, it was about video games. Co-host Brian Kilmeade set the stage:
But you talk about this guy’s background, as we look into it. He’s got a friend, who said, ‘Yeah, he had an obsession with video games, shooting video games. In fact, he would come over and he would be playing so long — these video games, these shooting games — we’d have to give him dinner, we’d have to feed him while he continued to stay on them.'
According to Hasselbeck, what the country really needs is a video game registry to track game purchases:
Are more people susceptible to playing video games? Is there a link between a certain age group or [demographic] in 20- to 34-year-old men, perhaps, that are playing these video games and their violent actions? What about frequency testing? How often has this game been played? I’m not one to get in there and say, monitor everything, but if this, indeed, is a strong link, right, to mass killings then why aren’t we looking at frequency of purchases per person? And also, how often they’re playing and maybe they time out after a certain hour.
So do video games kill? The American Sociological Association published an article by Karen Sternheimer which argued that:
By focusing so heavily on video games, news reports downplay the broader social contexts. While a handful of articles note the roles that guns, poverty, families, and the organization of schools may play in youth violence in general, when reporters mention research to explain the shooters’ behavior, the vast majority of studies cited concern media effects, suggesting that video games are a central cause… The biggest problem with media-effects research is that it attempts to decontextualize violence. Poverty, neighborhood instability, unemployment, and even family violence fall by the wayside in most of these studies. Ironically, even mental illness tends to be overlooked in this psychologically oriented research. Young people are seen as passive media consumers, uniquely and uniformly vulnerable to media messages.
USA Today summarizes her research:
...which involved analyzing newspaper coverage and FBI statistics detailing trends on youth crime, found that in the 10 years after the release of Doom— and many other brutal-sounding titles — juvenile homicide arrest rates in the United States fell 77%. Students have less than a 7 in 10 million chance of being killed at school, Sternheimer found.
If this all sounds familiar it's because the Supreme Court has already reviewed and upheld video game rights:
California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, “[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology.” Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F. 3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between expo-sure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children’s feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game… And he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner, id., at 1304, or when they play video games like Sonic the Hedgehog that are rated “E” (appropriate for all ages), id., at 1270, or even when they “vie[w] a picture of a gun,” id., at 1315–1316.8
A video game registry sounds suspiciously like a form of profiling.
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