Violent video games come under fire in wake of Newtown shooting
Published: Friday, January 25, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 15:01
In the aftermath of the Newtown school shooting that left 26 people dead, there has been a renewed debate on violent video games as a possible motivator behind such attacks.
According to The Sun, who interviewed the Adam Lanza’s family plumber, Peter Wlasuk, “The (Lanza) boys were fans of the military,” Wlasuk said. “They had posters all over the wall in the basement. They had one poster of every piece of military equipment the US ever made. It was a huge poster with every tank ever made. The kids could tell you about guns they had never seen from the 40s, 50s and 60s. The kids who play these games know all about them. I’m not blaming the games for what happened. But they see a picture of a historical gun and say ‘I’ve used that on Call of Duty’.”
Classmates of Lanza also describe an awkwardly shy student who was obsessed with games like “Call of Duty” and referenced guns on many occasions.
While violent games may or may not have played a role in the shootings, they have sparked an intense debate over the influence such games have over children and whether they play a role in gun violence.
In his first press conference of his second term, President Obama called for funding to research the potential effects such games have on youth. Obama has detailed a plan that would give $10 million to the Centers of Disease Control that would investigate causes of mass violence, including violent video games as a possible incentive.
However, are violent video games a determining factor in gun violence?
Ashish Billava, CEO of UConn Game Developer’s Club, believes that video games are not to blame.
“There is no definite evidence that shows causation between violence in video games and acts of violence in real-life,” Billava said. “Many flaws and shortcomings were found in the scientific review of previous video game and violence related research that attempted to find a correlation between them. Also, the Supreme Court in 2011 voted 7-2 to overturn California’s proposed ban to sell violent video games to minors stating that the effects of playing video games are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media.”
Billava also believes that video games should not be censored but still advocates researching potential links into gun violence.
“I personally believe that video games as a source of entertainment and art should not be subjected to censorship even in the portrayal of violence,” Billava said. “ESRB’s (Entertainment Software Rating Board) enforcement of the sales of violent video games has been shown to be effective in minimizing their exposure to minors. I am encouraged by President Obama’s decision to invest $10 million in the CDC to research links between violent media and real-life violence. This is preferable to a knee-jerk reaction of subjectively banning certain types of games which can compromise growth across the gaming industry.”
Other critics of correlating violent video games to gun violence argue that violence has existed in society through different mediums including books, comics, radio, TV and various other formats.
“We should be worrying about real world violence, not fantasy violence. Humans have always found ways to express their predilection for violence: books, movies, plays and now video games. The arrival of a new medium didn’t have anything to do with it,” said Aaron Carta, a 6th semester math and physics major. “What we should be concerned with is our people - the culture of keeping to yourself and ignoring the problems of others has had more to do with these acts of violence than anything else.”
Whether or not video games are connected to gun violence, President Obama believes that everything should be looked at in assessing factors that could have triggered the Newtown shooting.
“Congress will fund research into the effects that violent video games have on young minds,” Obama said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.”
*Editor's note: This story was edited on Jan. 25 to remove a statement calling Adam Lanza a video game addict without attribution.