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The debate on violent video games fails to consider other contributing factors

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Violent video games are a hotly debated topic in politics today, and most of the controversy surrounds the question of whether violent video games, especially violent shooting games, are a major contributor to real world gun violence. Many arguments against violent video games claim that the graphic visuals combined with the immersive aspect of the gameplay both desensitize the players and encourage troubled teens and adults to emulate the action they see on their television screens.

Opinions such as these lack perspective on the video gaming audience and also fail to take into account other cultural factors and socialization agents that may influence violent behavior. If violent video games are the primary cause of violent behavior, then in theory, all players should be equally affected. However, a Nielsen study conducted in 2009 showed that 1 out of 6 first-person shooter game players are female. Despite this fact, there has not been an observed increase in mass shootings perpetrated by women. In contrast, players in the young male demographic are much more likely to engage in “problematic use of video games.” This indicates that there are likely other cultural and societal factors to take into consideration when questioning the effect violent games have on its players.

It is also important to consider other forces in society that contribute to a culture of gun violence, such as the arms industry itself. The realism of modern-day shooting games would not be possible without the help of the arms industry. In fact, guns manufacturers have a vested interest in having their guns featured in first-person shooters, as these manufacturers receive royalties from video game companies who use their guns in their games. Gun manufacturers also hope that people who play first person shooters will eventually go on to buy the guns that were featured in the game. Though this suggests that the arms industry is partially to blame for any gun violence caused by video games, the relationship between the arms industry and the video game industry is usually omitted from such discussions.

Until the news media becomes less eager to blame video games for gun-related crimes and more willing to explore other possible causes or correlations, the factors that lead to tragic mass shootings and the methods of preventing such incidents will likely remain obscured.

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