Are violent, first-person shooter video games a cause of school attacks? (YES)


Lorelai Slaydon

Illustration by Lorelai Slaydon

With a sudden flash of anger you hurl your game controller down to the floor as the words “you’ve been defeated” repeat on the screen to what seems like the hundredth time.

If you’re a gamer or even casual video game player you’ve done this before. 

I know that most of you have thought that the violent video games we’re playing cannot be linked to our increasing violent society. At first I agreed with you.

I’ve played video games for most of my life and I consider myself to be a non-violent person. But everyone’s brain is different, and the way we react to something is different from how someone else can.

Over time, I found connections between violent video games and violence, especially school shootings.

In April of 1999, the first mass school shooting happened at Columbine High School in Colorado. The two students responsible for the shooting, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, were both fans of “Doom”, a first-person shooter game that was released in 1993, seven years before the Columbine attack, according to ABC News.

“Doom” was notoriously controversial because of it’s graphic, violent  images. It was one of the first games to receive an ‘M’ for mature rating.

While planning the massacre Harris wrote that the shooting will be just “like playing Doom.”  He also wrote,  “It’ll be like the LA riots, the Oklahoma bombing, World War II, Vietnam, Duke Nukem, and ‘Doom’ mixed together,” according to the transcripts of Harris and Klebold’s tapes.

To show how much they liked the game, they also named one of their guns “Arlene” after a character in a novel inspired by the game “Doom”.

The New York Times shared that one cause of the shooting had to do with Harris and Klebold’s losing the privileges to play video games in 1998, and having nothing to help them express their aggression encouraged their attack on classmates.

In another series of attacks,  33-year-old Anders Breivik used a “holographic aiming device,” that had been used in armies for training and the video game “Call of Duty” to help improve his target acquisition and aim before he carried out an attack in Norway in 2011 and an attack on the island of Utøya at a political youth camp, according to the The Guardian.

Not every mass shooting is the result of attackers playing violent video games. But research by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates it is among the many factors that can contribute to or lead to violence.

In their research the APA  found evidence that shows a consistent relationship between violent video games and aggressiveness. Much of their research dealt with meta-analysis research, which was conducted by looking for patterns and correlations in combined results from multiple studies on the topic between 2005 to 2013.

The APA found that playing violent video games leads to aggressive behavior and thoughts, as well as physical traits such as increasing blood pressure.

Their research also found a decrease in social and helpful behavior, and a reduction in empathy and sensitivity to aggression.

Playing violent video games is not the lone reason for school shootings and our increasingly violent society. But they’re a contributing factor by gradually affecting the way some people negatively interact with others and how they show empathy to their fellow human beings.